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Fassel Fired


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Associated Press

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.



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 vacant.



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.

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