Clarence E. Hill Jr.: It's time for Cowboys to rein in special teams coach John Fassel

Clarence E. Hill Jr., Fort Worth Star-Telegram on

Published in Football

What happened on Sunday was an unnecessary risk and it nearly cost the Cowboys the game.

Fassel refuses to apologize for being aggressive and competitive.

That was his explanation for the Cowboys giving up a 41-yard kickoff return in the 31-29 loss to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in the season opener.

After a 35-yard field goal gave the Cowboys a 16-14 lead late in the second quarter, instead of instructing kicker Greg Zuerlein to kick the ball out of the end zone for a touchback, Fassel admitted he told him to kick it in play inside the 5-yard line.

Apparently Fassel wanted to give his inexperienced coverage team that had no time together in the preseason a little quality time. Oops.

Two plays after the 41-yard return, Buccaneers quarterback Tom Brady connected with Antonio Brown on a 47-yard touchdown pass for a 21-16 halftime lead.

“I think we just ran out of steam, to be honest with you,” Fassel said of the kickoff coverage. “We had a lot of guys on kickoff who were playing quite a few snaps on defense, and the competitiveness probably got the better of me where they got out to about the 40. Probably should have kicked a touchback, just knowing that the guys were starting to get pretty tired at that point. But the competitiveness got the better of my judgment.

“I put a guy in a bad position that kind of cost us. I told the team and said, ‘I screwed that one up. But I’m not going to apologize for competing’.”


Now, by all accounts Fassel is a good special teams coach. The Cowboys improved on special last year, going from 30th to seventh.

But what’s also true is that it’s not about you, Coach.

You are not out there competing.

The players are.

And it’s not OK for you to put the team in bad situations based on your competitiveness, rather than sound football decisions.

The Cowboys can smile about it now, as McCarthy did with a sign of relief while running off the field at halftime and after the game against the Chargers, one that was won by the special teams, thanks to a 56-yard field goal from Zuerlein.

But if he doesn’t get Fassel under control and rein him in, those recklessly-competitive decisions could cost him and the team big.

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