- The Washington Times - Saturday, December 7, 2002

There's no disputing the fact that New York Giants coach Jim Fassel has an impressive resume.
Over the past five years, no NFL coach topped his two division titles. Only one other NFC coach has led his current team to the Super Bowl while also owning a career winning record with that team. And his players have publicly voiced their support.
Yet all of that might not be enough to save Fassel's job.
Giants co-owner Robert Tisch, who said in May that Fassel was under no pressure to deliver a third playoff spot this year after a 7-9 finish in 2001, is now saying the coach's future will be discussed after the season.
Insiders believe that Fassel might have to win three of his final four games to remain one of the NFC's senior coaches along with Atlanta's Dan Reeves and San Francisco's Steve Mariucci, both of whom have beaten him this season. The Giants' remaining opponents are struggling Washington and Dallas and division leaders Indianapolis and Philadelphia.
"This is New York," Fassel explained. "I was on the hot seat the day I [became] the head coach [in 1997]. I saw how difficult it is to coach here as an assistant [in 1991 and 1992]. I had my eyes wide open about this town and the expectations. I don't want a vote of confidence [from the owners]. I don't need that. My communication with the ownership has been very good.
"Bob called me this week and asked how I was doing. He said, 'Hang in there. I know it's rough.' He has been very supportive. You can't put enough articles in the papers that say I'm on the hot seat and make me nervous. Two years ago, I was on the hot seat more than I am now, and we went to the Super Bowl."
But that was a healthy, veteran team that had started 7-2 before Fassel issued his famous playoff guarantee following consecutive home losses to St. Louis and Detroit. New York won its next seven games, culminating in a 41-0 rout of Minnesota to win the NFC championship.
However, the Giants are a mediocre 13-16 since after following three straight November victories with a shocking 16-14 loss to the expansion Houston Texans and then blowing a late 29-21 lead and losing in overtime to visiting Tennessee 32-29. The Titans' 476 yards were the most the Giants had allowed in more than 14 years.
"We've lost two very tight games, ones that you feel you should win," Fassel said. "Two games ago, they were reporting that I had the same record after 90 games as [Giants coaching legend] Bill Parcells. Both of us had been to the Super Bowl once. I had won two division titles, and he had won one. And [Parcells] was an era [1983-88] when you could keep building a team. Now teams go up and down based on the salary cap. You lose a couple of games, and you're on the hot seat. You win a couple of games, and you're back in good graces."
As Fassel noted, New York was a consensus choice for the NFC East cellar because it lost seven starters during the offseason without signing a veteran free agent. And four of the 6-6 Giants' defeats have come by a combined 17 points. What's more, three starters will miss more than half the season with injuries, five others have been sidelined for at least one game and three more will likely be out for tomorrow's game in Washington.
"No one thought we would be any good 8-8 at best," Fassel said. "We had cap problems and had to unload guys and now with all the injuries Our games are all tight and we're 6-6. Is that what I want? Absolutely not. Does it rip my guts out to lose some of those tight games? Yes. We're 6-6. We've been up and down. It's very disappointing, but that's the way the league is. You can have success one year and then be very mediocre."
Nonetheless, New York's Super Bowl trip seems increasingly like an accident. The Giants haven't finished over .500 in any other year since Fassel's NFC East-winning debut in 1997.
"We've showed signs of playing well the last two years, but we haven't been able to put it all together,"said quarterback Kerry Collins, one of just seven healthy starters left from 2000. "We're angry with the way we've played [the last two weeks], but we're not throwing in the towel Anything's possible.
"I don't sense that anyone is playing with the mindset that if we don't win the last four games Jim will lose his job, although we certainly don't want to see him go. Guys like him and respect him."

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