Jim Fassel won the NFL Coach of the Year Award with the New York Giants 20 years ago, and the longtime head coach and offensive coordinator has run into situations like the one facing current Broncos head coach Vance Joseph — how to coach players in a meaningless game, and how to balance the needs of the organization with that of players that find themselves tantalizingly close to certain statistical milestones.

In an interview with Gil Whiteley and Mark Jackson on Mile High Sports AM 1340 | FM 104.7, Fassel said that while coaches are usually up-to-date on the stats, it’s important to all but block that out; instead focusing on the game at hand and its unique ebb and flow.

“I was appraised of it, but I didn’t even want to concentrate on it. If anybody started to
mention it to me, I said ‘shut up, I don’t want to do it. I am going to do what’s best for
this team and this franchise and that is it,'” Fassel explained. “I remember one time that we were not getting in the playoffs and we’re in the last game of the season and the game is not on the line — doesn’t mean anything — and I went to Michael Strahan, and I said, ‘I just want to see some of these young guys play. And I said, Michael, I don’t want you to play anymore the rest of the game.’ And he said, ‘Coach, I want to play, I do want to play.’ And I said, ‘Michael, the only reason I am telling you this is that I don’t want to get you hurt in a game that doesn’t mean anything.’ And he said, ‘Coach, I still want to play with my team.’ I said, ‘OK, as long as you know that I am giving you the opportunity to come out — and I’m not saying that you wanted to come out — [I’ll say that] I made the decision, if anybody has a gripe about it’, and he said, ‘I want to play.’ So, I said, ‘OK, go ahead and play.’ And he didn’t get hurt, and everything was fine.”

Playing for your teammates is one thing; but Fassel says that playing for your own stats or contract incentives are another thing entirely. “[Playing for stats was the] one thing I would really take exception to, and I didn’t want to know it. And I told [then-general manager] George Young when I took that job, [that] I don’t want to know their incentives, because I never want a player to think I’m playing him for his incentives — or I’m not playing him for his incentives. I don’t want to know any of that, don’t even tell me, I don’t want to hear about it.”

Sorry – this audio content is no longer available. including what he had to say about who’d he’d pick as this year’s NFL Coach of the Year, or listen to the podcast below.

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