Giants Caught Off Guard by Fassel Firing

AP Sports Writer

Doing the unexpected has been one of the trademarks of Jim Fassel's coaching career. Realizing that he would be fired after the season, Fassel asked the New York Giants to announce his firing now and allow him to coach the final two games of the season. They agreed.

Even on his way out the door, Fassel surprised.

"Jim is not someone who is going to sit back and let things happen around him," halfback Tiki Barber said Wednesday. "He's going to take action, and I think that was the case here. You have to give him a lot of credit for taking the pressure off this organization."

Fassel's move also positioned him for one of the many NFL head coaching jobs expected to open up after this season, and it gave the Giants (4-10) a two-week head start on their own coaching search.

"This has been a bad season. It's been a very disappointing season and I feel that deeply," said Fassel, who got teary-eyed discussing a tenure that saw him lead the team to the playoffs three times. "I think it's time for them. They need a change. I need a change. I think it's the right thing to do."

General manager Ernie Accorsi said a list of potential replacements has been prepared, but there is no timetable for choosing a successor for a team now in last place in the NFC East and riding its longest losing streak in 10 years.

"We're a franchise in trouble now," said John Mara, the Giants executive vice president. "We just need to make the right decision."

The firing comes one week after the Atlanta Falcons dismissed coach Dan Reeves, who, unlike Fassel, decided not to finish the season.

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."

The firing did not catch Giants players off guard. The timing did.

"We all expected it the day after the season," quarterback Kerry Collins said. "It just might have gotten to a point of critical mass. "He just said: `Let's end it all, and end the distractions.'"

Fassel's future has been a focal point for almost two months with the Giants out of the playoff race and the season turning into a disaster.

New York has lost its last six games in a season marked by injuries, turnovers, penalties and a couple of early heartbreaking losses. It has been outscored 89-21 in the last three games, including a 45-7 loss to New Orleans on Sunday, the worst regular-season loss in 30 years.

Fassel leaves as the third winningest coach (60-54-1) in the Giants' 79-year history -- behind only Steve Owen and Bill Parcells.

Fassel faces Parcells' new team in Dallas on Sunday, and will try to prevent the Cowboys from clinching a playoff berth.

"This isn't a tragedy," said veteran Keith Hamilton, who is mulling retirement after 12 seasons. "He's going to find another job. Someone will want him. It's sad to see him go. Everyone wants to be here forever, but it doesn't work that way."

Fassel decided on Tuesday morning to confront management about his future, knowing it would be good for all involved.

"There are certain regrets," Fassel said. "Obviously my goal when I came here was to deliver a Super Bowl win. We got there and fell short. I wanted to get back."

Failing to do that in a year where it was expected forced Fassel to do the unexpected again.

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