EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- Coach Jim Fassel was fired by the
New York Giants after a disappointing season that began with hopes
of reaching the Super Bowl.
"It's time. They need a change, I need a change. It's the right
thing to do," a teary Fassel said Wednesday.
After weeks of speculation about his future, Fassel requested a
meeting with the owners Tuesday, saying if he was going to be fired
he wanted to know. He asked to be allowed to coach the last two
regular season games.
Co-owners Wellington Mara and Bob Tisch gave him the OK,
provided Fassel assure them there was no way the team would quit on
him. He did.
Fassel leaves as the third winningest coach (60-54-1) in the
Giants' 79-year history -- behind only Steve Owen and Bill Parcells.
A Super Bowl team three seasons ago, the Giants (4-10) were
expected to contend again this year but have dropped six straight
games to fall to last place in the NFC East. It's the team's
longest losing streak in 10 years.
This decision doesn't surprise me because the Giants had a ton of talent and were expected to possibly go far into the playoffs. But instead of the playoffs, the Giants will finish at or near the bottom of the NFC East. Ultimately the head coach is responsible for those decisions and as the old saying goes: "get good or get gone." Fassel and the Giants' ownership decided he should coach the final two games and I understand the integrity behind Fassel's decision. The Giants hired him to do a job and he wants to complete it. Also since ownership is probably going outside the organization to hire a coach then it doesn't really matter if a coordinator takes the position so they might as well let Fassel coach the final two games.
Mark Schlereth won three Super Bowl rings with the Washington Redskins and Denver Broncos over his 13-year career.
Fassel has a year left on a contract that will pay him $2.7
million next season. He said he wants to coach again, however, and
wouldn't mind being back on the job next year.
"I don't know what's going to happen," Fassel said. "I have
the energy to coach. It all depends on how many jobs open up. I
have been rumored for more than one. I am ready to go."
Before becoming the Giants' head coach, Fassel was the offensive
coordinator with the Arizona Cardinals. He has been thought to be a
candidate for Arizona's head coaching job if it should become
He also was head coach at the University of Utah from 1985-89.
Fassel took the Giants to the playoffs three times, including a
loss to the Baltimore Ravens in the 2001 Super Bowl. Last season,
the Giants made the playoffs at 10-6, then blew a 24-point
third-quarter lead against the San Francisco 49ers and lost their
wild card game 39-38. The game ended on a botched snap and what the
league later acknowledged was bad officiating.
In retrospect, that defeat might have caused some indecision at
key moments this season for Fassel.
This season began with promise as the Giants opened with a 23-13
victory over the St. Louis Rams, a team now tied for the best
record in the NFC at 11-3.
But New York lost a stunner to Dallas in its second game,
kicking what appeared to be a winning field goal with 11 seconds
left, only to have the ensuing kickoff go out of bounds. That
helped Dallas tie the game, then win in overtime.
The Giants were 2-3 going into their first meeting with
Philadelphia. New York dominated but lost on an 84-yard punt return
by Brian Westbrook with just over a minute left.
The season went downhill from there, although New York did hand
Minnesota its first loss after the Vikings started 6-0.
The Giants had plenty of injury problems, including to tight end
Jeremy Shockey, three starting defensive backs and three starters
on an offensive line that wasn't very good to start with.
The line problems led to problems in the passing game and
finally to an injury that knocked out quarterback Kerry Collins,
who had started 67 straight games.
The last two home games have been marked by empty seats in the
second half, something Wellington Mara noted after a loss to
Buffalo. He wasn't worried about money -- the Giants have been sold
out for years -- but about the fans' attitude toward the team.
"The crowd is our customers," Mara said. "When they leave,
it's the same as someone calling up or writing and saying you're
not doing what it is I want you to do.
"I'm very dissatisfied. The message comes across loud and
clear. All it tells me is that we need to improve the product. And
how we go about that is something we will discuss."
The low point came Sunday night with a 45-7 loss in New Orleans,
the Giants' worst regular-season defeat since 1973. They are
minus-13 in turnover margin, second-worst in the league, and star
running Tiki Barber has lost several fumbles.
Among the possible successors to Fassel are LSU coach Nick
Saban, former Jaguars coach Tom Coughlin, and the Patriots' two
coordinators: Romeo Crennel and Charlie Weis. Coughlin, Crennel and
Weis were Giants assistants under Bill Parcells.