Coaches Q&A, Part I: Fazio Talks Defense

Recently hired defensive consultant Foge Fazio talks about coming in to assist the Vikings, what he sees in their defense and his philosophies.

Foge Fazio recently joined the Vikings as a defensive consultant on a part-time basis last week. Fazio still works for CBS radio.

Fazio is a graduate of the University of Pittsburgh, where he played linebacker. Fazio and his wife, Norma, have one daughter, Kristen Anne and one son, Vince.

Most recently, Fazio was a special assistant in the Washington Redskins' front office. Before that he was the defensive coordinator for the Cleveland Browns in the 2001 and 2002 seasons. Prior to that, he was a linebackers coach for the Washington Redskins in 2000. He was the Vikings defensive coordinator from 1995-99. He also has been an assistant for the New York Jets, Atlanta Falcons, the University of Notre Dame, the University of Pittsburgh, the University of Cincinnati, Harvard University and Boston University.

Q: Your full name is Serafino Dante Fazio. Serafino means "Little Angel" in Italian. Is that an accurate name for you?

I don't know about that part. My mother gave me that name. Dante is my middle name and Dante wrote about the people in Hades, and Hades means Hell so we'll just say I'm a helluva angel.

Q: Where were you and what were you doing when you got the call from Mike Tice?

It was a Sunday night and he left a message on my recorder. I got it on Monday and I had just done a game for CBS on the radio and I was exhausted and tired. When Mike called I was kind of surprised. I didn't know exactly what happened down in Atlanta. But after I read the paper Monday I saw how they got beat. I called Mike a lot in the past to wish him good luck the last two or three years he's been coaching.

Q: What has been your primary objective since you arrived at Winter Park last week?

My primary objective is to reassure Ted (Cottrell) and the defensive staff. My past experience is not that I know it all or anything like that. But being in the league for 16 years and being in this division for five and playing against the teams in the division I have a little knowledge of what's going on. The only thing I suggested when I first got here was to make sure that if I saw something that was puzzling, I'd ask why are they doing this or what happened here. The main thing I'm trying to do is reassure them that they're on the right track, or that I think we might try this technique or help them install the game plan. They do all that stuff already, but I'm here to reassure them and give them confidence. If I have something to say, I'm going to say it.

Q: You have plenty of experience as a defensive coordinator. How does Ted Cottrell handle the hiring of a consultant?

What's nice is I've known Ted a long time and I wouldn't be here if Ted would have objected to it. I'm not looking over his shoulder, I have no agenda, I just want the Vikings to win because I like Mike and Mike and I have been friends for a long time. … I don't want to be a defensive coordinator. I don't want to be a linebackers coach. I wish we'd win the next six or seven games in a row and they'd say, ‘Coach, we don't need you here anymore.'

Q: At 1-4, is the hiring of consultants an act of desperation? Have you ever seen a team bring in offensive and defensive consultants in the middle of a season?

I know the Redskins brought in (someone) to help them out one year and I think that Alex Gibbs went down there to help out one time, but I'm not sure if he was there before or not.

Q: What's your philosophy of a 3-4 vs. a 4-3?

It's all predicated on what your strengths are. I can understand Ted and Mike being worried that when (Kenechi) Udeze got hurt, (Lance) Johnstone got hurt and you're down to six defensive linemen and one's a rookie, and you have all these good linebackers, some who've played the 3-4. Pat Williams has proven he can play pretty good and that was the reason for that. The covers are the same. Basically you're rushing four guys in those situations anyhow. But it's based on your personnel. I think they were very smart going to the 3-4 because of the injury factor. If (Spencer) Johnson wasn't injured (against Chicago), they would have stuck with the 4-3.

Q: Darren Sharper, Fred Smoot, Sam Cowart, Napoleon Harris, and Pat Williams — all starters — are in their first season with the Vikings. How much time does it take a defense to mesh when nearly half of its starters are new to this system?

It depends where they came from and what system they came from. That is a lot of players coming from other systems. You have a lot of time to teach it, but still there are communication deals that happen out there that they might revert back to what they did with their other teams. So you're susceptible to mental errors and things like that.

Q: Watching film from the first five games, what are your first impressions from this team?

I was very impressed with the way they played against Tampa Bay. Naturally the Cincinnati game was very, very disappointing. Against a good team, if you line up in the wrong spot or make a mistake, they can't give you help. I was disappointed in the Atlanta game, but I was very impressed with the way they practiced in the (bye) week. I was very impressed with the way they prepared for Chicago, especially with all the outside distractions.

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