Q: Fifteen games later, are these teams similar to what they were when you guys met in early September?
Fassel: I think so. I think there has been certain changes, in terms of personnel changes. It seems like forever ago that we played.
Q: Your quarterback, Kerry Collins, was saying that your offense is quite a bit different from that opening game. Is that accurate?
Fassel: We are being a lot more productive. Obviously, I have my own philosophy on how to set a game plan and make calls. We have improved. Before you can really be good, you have to be fundamentally sound. You have to execute properly and eliminate the downside…the turnovers, sacks, hits on the quarterbacks, and the sloppiness of play. You just have to. I don't want our team to play sloppy and think we are going to win ball games on offense.
Q: Was it important for you to take accountability for your own offense?
Fassel: It was. I'm the head coach. If any area is not functioning, then I'm going to take control of it. That is what they pay me to do. Sometimes you can walk away and put the finger on somebody else and dissolve yourself of the blame, but that is not my personality and I don't that is what this organization pays me to do. The organization pays me to fix problems.
Q: What changes did you make in play calling when you took over a few weeks ago?
Fassel: Subtle changes. I thought we were trying to be a little too cute with all of the motion and shifting and things like that. It wasn't helping us that much and I wanted to set up some tempo. I wanted to streamline some things for Kerry. I always believe that the quarterback and the offensive guys have to take ownership in playing the game. I always feel like as coaches sometimes, we install the plays and give them the finer points of the detail of the plays and their assignment. When they are out there playing the game, we have to all talk about adjustments. You just can't be, ‘you missed this or you missed that.' If we say something, I want them to come to the sidelines so we can talk about it. They have to take ownership in how the game is played. I've really tried to transfer a lot of that to the quarterback. I don't want to make him robotic. I want him to have some spontaneity to him. I want him to be able to think and react and be spontaneous on the field within the framework of what we asked him to do.
Q: How much has Jeremy Shockey contributed to the development of the offense?
Fassel: I can't tell you how much. He not only brings a personality with him, but he brings athleticism and competitiveness. He's one of those rare breed type of guys. You see guys with talent, but they just don't seem like they have a motor and competitiveness and you just have to push them along. There are other guys, who are the ‘Rudys' of the world. They love to play the game. They have heart and competitiveness, but don't have the talent. He has combined both of them. If you have him as a tight end, he's the guy you can do a lot with. You can put him outside, inside, or the extra tight end. We can put him anywhere we want and he could play the position.
Q: Is there any linebacker out there that could handle him one on one?
Fassel: I'm sure there are and I'm sure he'll have some days. A lot of times he's too quick and agile for some of the linebackers. A lot of times, he is just too big and physical for the defensive backs. There are guys in this league that can do it, but he makes it much more hard because he is so talented.
Q: Who did Shockey see in that first game? More Peterson or Winborn?
Fassel: They had different people on him and I don't think Jeremy was that much of a factor at that time.
Q: What did you think of the way Julian Peterson played Tony Gonzales?
Fassel: I thought he played him very well. He's an athlete now. You are talking about an athlete, who has got the size, speed, quickness, and athleticism. He's a guy that can do that.
Q: Is there any concern about the fumbles Tiki Barber had and should there be any concern by the 49ers with the fumbles Hearst had?
Fassel: No, I don't think so. Those guys pack the ball. If they are going to carry it enough, they are going to fumble it. Nobody plays a perfect game all the time. They will have their games in which they fumble. Neither one of those guys are what you would call fumblers. They hang on to the ball well.
Q: In the first game, Winborn was all over the field. If he's unable to go, do you think that hurts the 49ers defense?
Fassel: It's hard to take any guy like that out. If he can't go, it hurts you. Guys are going to have to step up. We have a number of guys on our team that are filling in for somebody. My attitude has always been that if you have a uniform on then you are worthy of being in the league. At this in time, we're through with the regular season and we're in the playoffs. We have to have our guys play at a starting playoff level. I have to tell my guys that they have to prove themselves and show me that they are willing to be starters.
Q: How much resemblance do you see between this team and the 2000 team that went to the Super Bowl?
Fassel: I think both teams have tremendous fight and competitiveness in them. The one that went to the Super Bowl was an older veteran squad that was pretty healthy. This current team is a younger team that has been banged up. A lot of guys have missed time and have been out for the season.
Q: Are you surprised Mariucci's job is tenuous and he could get fired?
Fassel: Have you read the New York papers this season? Heck, I was considered out of here. You have to be kidding me. It is just the way it is. Halfway through the season, the media asked how could my job be in jeopardy when after 90 games, I've won more games than Bill Parcells. It is just the way the league is today. If you can't accept it or work under those conditions, then don't aspire be a head coach. It is just the way it is. It has always been that way.
Q: Is it attributed to impatient owners or the media?
Fassel: One, I think that is the way the world is nowadays. You email, fax, and use your cell phones. Everything has to happen right now. People are very quick to criticize and I think people gravitate to that. I think we are so heavily scrutinized with so many things, in terms of talk shows, media, and pre game shows. That really magnifies it, but more than that, the people who are paid to do those shows, they aren't paid to be in the middle of the road. They are paid to be controversial, get on the guys, and stir the fans up. That is what they are paid for and that is what they are doing. After awhile, it's pretty hard to survive it because everyone is going to go through some tough times. That is the way it is. I'm not feeling sorry for myself. That is just the way it is.
Q: Can you talk about the breakthrough year Amani Toomer has had?
Fassel: I'm really proud of him. His first year was under Dan Reeves and there were a lot of problems there. He had a slow start, but after that, he kept on working. I'm so proud of him. I love having him around here. He's playing well. He's a positive guy. He works hard. There are just so many things that he does well. His development has been phenomenal. When we started this season, we had four receivers. Three of those guys are out and he's the only one left. We picked up one guy off the street and the other guy was on our inactive list. When he is the target receiver, he's playing at the top of his game.