The difference between last year’s special teams coach for the Chargers and this year’s is told in their selection of agents.
Joe Madden, last year’s special teams coach, was in need of a travel agent at season’s end to get him out of town.
Larry Pasquale, this year’s special teams coach, has a publicity agent who has been hired to make him an NFL head coach.
“We’ve got a plan for Larry,” said agent Stephen Austin, who is based in Alexandria, Va. “We have publicity kits that will go out to 120 members of the media in the next few weeks to introduce him to the football world at large. And we will be sending videotapes to a select group of 30 or so.”
The work of last year’s special teams coach also was captured on videotape, and copies of “Football Follies” may be obtained by contacting NFL Films.
Last year and this year. It’s like comparing Steve Ortmayer with Bobby Beathard. Mickey Mouse with Mickey Mantle or the San Diego Padres with the Oakland A’s.
It was so bad last year, that when it came to this year, the Chargers were willing to make Pasquale, who just had been fired by the lowly Jets, the highest paid special teams coach in the league.
“If there’s a better paid special teams coach,” Austin said, “I don’t know who it is.”
Pay him more. Give the miracle man whatever he wants. If he wants to be a head coach . . .
Pasquale’s special teams presently rank fourth in the NFL in covering kickoffs. That’s fourth, and mighty special in comparison to last year’s slapstick 27th-place showing.
They also rank fourth in returning kickoffs, and that’s without using Anthony Miller, who was pressed into action last year when the team slipped to 28th.
Last season they went through two punters, twice as many punt returners, and opted not to rehire their place kicker.
“They had a few problems last season,” Pasquale said.
Sure, and the Titanic just had this little hole down under.
“I didn’t really know the situation until we started practicing,” Pasquale said. “I can tell you some of the players initially were very reluctant to be on these special teams. They were afraid to fail, and we had to get them over that hump.”
That hump, however, was Rocky Mountain tall.
“The first thing we had to do was work to make sure we didn’t lose games because of special teams,” Pasquale said. “And then we began to make a strong effort to get us to the point where we can help win some games.”
It took three weeks. Elvis had a better chance of being spotted than that happening, but Sunday in Cleveland the miracle man’s kickoff coverage team figured prominently in the Chargers’ success.
Eric Metcalf began Sunday as the NFL’s leading kick returner with a 34.3-yard average. He had run back the opening kickoff 98 yards a week earlier for a touchdown, but against the Chargers, he would have been better off letting the officials bring it out to the 20.
“Logically, you’d say, you wouldn’t kick off to that guy,” Pasquale said, “but we had no fear.”
Five times Metcalf accepted Fuad Reveiz’s kickoff, and five times he was treated like a horse thief run down by the posse. He averaged 12.8 yards a return, and thanks for the grand memories, he went from No. 1 in the NFL to No. 5.
“On his last kickoff, he physically just stopped at the 10-yard line,” Pasquale said. “He was totally confused because guys were coming from areas they should not have been coming from. You’re talking about a great athlete who didn’t know what the hell to do.
“When I stepped into that huddle on that last kickoff, I had 22 eyes looking right at me. ‘Make the call, coach, and we’ll kill him.’ Those were the exact words, and that was the confidence they had at that point.”
Why aim to be a head coach when there’s a chance to be president in two years?
“He really knows his business,” Beathard said. “I mean guys who work in this business as long as Larry has develop a reputation. It’s good or bad, and his is terrific.”
Coach Dan Henning has given Pasquale the opportunity and the freedom to build on that reputation, and armed with more ideas than you would expect a football coach to think of, he’s come on strong.
“It’s what we do,” Pasquale said. “It works.”
In addition to being one of the few assistant coaches in the NFL with his own agent, Pasquale has the title of coordinator, has his own full-time assistant coach in LeCharls McDaniel, and three times a practice he has the Chargers working on special teams.
If he asked, he could probably also get his own parking place downtown.
“Anybody who wants to succeed has got to put themselves out front and produce,” Austin said. “Larry took a throw-away position 10 years ago, and has made it into a science.”
So far he’s been a regular Wizard of Oz, but as he or his agent will tell you, Larry Pasquale is in search of so much more.
“There are so many parallels to special teams and being a head coach,” Pasquale said. “I was a position coach, a receivers coach with the Jets before taking on special teams, and I coached six people. I had minimum input, and no contact with the total squad.
“I’m learning. As special teams coach, I’m preparing myself to be that guy some day--a head coach.”
He’s one step ahead of some people already. If he ever takes on Dallas, and has a four-point lead in the fourth quarter, you can bet he won’t call for a fake punt.