Jim Fassel, 64, coached the New York Giants to a Super Bowl appearance and the Las Vegas Locomotives to two UFL championships.
Needless to say, he knows his way around a football field – not to mention an organization and a locker room.
When it comes to Michael Sam, Fassel feels – and believes – that the Missouri defensive end, who announced this week that he is gay, will get a fair evaluation by the vast majority of NFL teams.
“You’re never going to find 100 percent of people who feel the same way, and the NFL (is no different),” Fassel said on The Morning Show. “But I do think a majority – a high majority – will evaluate him on his ability to help their team: his skill set, how he’s played, what he can mean (to the team).
“The interesting about all this,” Fassel continued, “is as we’ve moved through generations, everybody gets a lot more tolerant, which is better. I don’t care if there’s prejudices (about race), religion or sexual preference – at some point in time, generations have to die off to get rid of a lot of prejudice. And I think that this group – the locker rooms are mostly in their 20s – they’re more tolerant of all that, which is correct. It should be that way. As long as (Sam) comes in (and works hard), he should be evaluated on his ability to play the game and help the team.”
That being said, the goal of any NFL team is to limit or avoid distractions. Drafting Sam, from an outsider’s perspective, could be a distraction. So how does a coach deal with the added media attention?
Fassel compared Sam to the Giants signing Kerry Collins, who was supposedly an alcoholic and a racist.
“I said, ‘Kerry, here’s the deal,’” Fassel recalled. “‘You don’t have to come in here and explain yourself. You don’t have to apologize for anything. You don’t have to do anything. Your actions will (determine)) whether the team respects you or not.’ That’s exactly what he did. So I wouldn’t make a big deal about it.
“He did a great thing,” Fassel said of Sam, “by coming out and saying it now – because you know what? It wasn’t a secret. It wasn’t a secret. NFL teams knew that already. He told his old teammates (and coaches) at Missouri a year ago. You don’t think that the NFL scouts are going to find that out?
“So you’re better off to put it out there right now (because) you’re going to (have) people defending you – rather than (keeping) it quiet and then all of a sudden (coming) in and (having) it explode and everyone’s going, ‘What’s going on here?’”
While some NFL teams have supported Sam, Brandon Tierney thinks the message might be completely different behind closed doors. In other words, some teams may want to seem open and accepting in public, even though they know full well this is a distraction they don’t want to deal with.
“I can’t totally disagree with you,” Fassel said. “You could be right, but I don’t think that’ll happen. You’re not going to get 100 percent of people to buy into anything. You’re not. I think, yeah, there will be some teams who will quietly go about it, and there’ll be other teams that don’t care. I don’t care.
“Listen, I’d rather have a guy (who is homosexual) than a thug (who had behavioral and legal issues all through college).”
Aaron Hernandez, anyone?
“Everybody knew that he had problems – I mean, everybody,” Fassel said. “New England took a chance on him because why? He was a great player and (they thought he could) help them win.”