|Wednesday, March 5
Updated: March 6, 10:57 AM ET
The cradle of NFL coaching?
By Greg Garber
"A great, great dog," Fassel said from his office in East Rutherford, N.J. "He died a few years ago, but I have some nice memories."
Like so many of his contemporaries, Fassel sort of stumbled into the USFL. He was the offensive coordinator at Stanford -- after coaching some kid named Elway -- when Dick Coury called about a position with the Boston Breakers. Fassel, who had been a player-coach in the World League, declined. Coury called again the next year after the Breakers moved to New Orleans. Fassel again declined. After that second season, he called a third time. This time, Fassel said yes.
"They made me a hell of an offer," Fassel said. "It was the summer of '84. I was there six months, putting in the playbook, evaluating personnel. And then they moved to Portland.
"That was a problem. I got off the plane in Salt Lake because I took the head job at Utah. We had a great staff of guys, but when they start picking up the copy machines and the uniforms are disappearing, you're thinking, 'Are the bills getting paid? This is a little shaky.' "
The USFL was a crazy quilt of coaches, some young and on the way up, some grizzled and past their prime. The Chicago Blitz, 17-19 in their two seasons, had two Hall of Fame coaches, Marv Levy and George Allen. Chuck Fairbanks and Pepper Rodgers and John Ralston -- USFL coaches all.
And then there was the N.J. Generals staff. Walt Michaels was the head coach, but check out his assistants: Chris Palmer, a future head coach of the Cleveland Browns, was the offensive coordinator. Ted Cotrell, the N.Y. Jets defensive coordinator, and Dale Lindsey, the Chargers defensive coordinator, were on the defensive side of the ball.
The Houston Texans, the NFL's 2002 expansion team, is loaded with USFL coaching talent. Head coach Dom Capers (Stars) is joined by Palmer, the offensive coordinator, defensive coordinator Vic Fangio (Stars), special teams coach Joe Marciano (Stars) and scouts Larry Bryan (Breakers/Invaders) and Joel Patton (Federals).
Next: On the move ... again
Greg Garber is a senior writer at ESPN.com.