- The Washington Times - Saturday, February 9, 2008

When the Redskins announced two weeks ago that Gregg Williams — assistant head coach-defense and presumptive successor to retired coach Joe Gibbs — was not only not getting Washington’s top job but was fired, many Redskins fans went nuts.

A group of fans started firejimfassel.com as a dig at Redskins owner Dan Snyder’s apparent next coach.

Others held a rally to proclaim their disgust with Snyder, whom they said “has completely disregarded the collective voice of his players and the fan base that fills his pockets. The lies and fantasy football mentality that are trademarks of his management have gone on long enough. There has never been a more shameful time to be a fan of the Washington Redskins.”

Certainly, Williams, the consensus pick of the players and staff to succeed Gibbs, was qualified to coach the Redskins.

Certainly, Williams and dismissed associate head coach Al Saunders were treated shabbily by Snyder, not knowing their fates for almost three weeks after Gibbs’ retirement.

And certainly, Snyder’s history would make anyone skeptical about the franchise’s future under his direction and that of executive vice president Vinny Cerrato without Hall of Famer Gibbs as a counterweight.

However, Fassel is a reasonable choice as the next coach.

In the six seasons before his arrival in New York, the Giants were 46-51 and made the playoffs once. In his seven seasons with the Giants, they were 58-53-1, with three playoff appearances and one Super Bowl. And before the Giants’ fantastic run through the 2007 playoffs, they were 35-29 in four seasons under Fassel’s successor Tom Coughlin.

Fassel isn’t Vince Lombardi, but he’s not Vince Tobin either.

Fassel has a career winning record. The only coach who left Redskin Park with one was Gibbs when he retired the first time in 1993.

Richie Petitbon, Norv Turner, Terry Robiskie, Marty Schottenheimer, Steve Spurrier and Gibbs the second time around all failed to top .500.

While it’s lousy for quarterback Jason Campbell that he has to learn a third offense in four seasons, Fassel is a quarterback specialist.

Denver’s John Elway and Arizona’s Boomer Esiason thrived under Fassel the assistant. Campbell is certainly not at that level yet, but he’s as good as Kerry Collins, a reclamation project who led the Giants to Super Bowl XXXV in his second season with Fassel. And Campbell is certainly better than Danny Kanell, from whom Fassel somehow coaxed an NFC East title in 1997.

After being fired by the Giants, Fassel did bomb as Baltimore’s offensive coordinator, but how much control of the Ravens’ attack he had is questionable with “Brilliant” Brian Billick as the coach.

And look at recent NFL history. Nine of the last 11 Super Bowls have been won by coaches in their second jobs.

Three-time champion Bill Belichick of New England was fired by Cleveland with a career losing record. Coughlin was fired by Jacksonville with a record (68-60) that resembled Fassel’s in New York. Tony Dungy was fired by Tampa Bay.

Dick Vermeil burned out in Philadelphia before resurfacing 14 years later in St. Louis. Jon Gruden was traded from Oakland to Tampa Bay after feuding with Raiders owner Al Davis. And Mike Shanahan was just 8-12 with the Raiders before becoming a genius with the Broncos.

The only exceptions to this are Bill Cowher, who needed 14 years to win the Super Bowl in Pittsburgh, and Billick, whose ferocious defense beat buddy Fassel’s offense for the title but who never developed a solid attack himself in nine seasons.

As for those who would like Steve Mariucci as the coach instead of Fassel, his 72-67 record is Fassel-like, and he was fired by both San Francisco and Detroit. Mariucci, a glib quarterback specialist like Fassel, never reached a Super Bowl in nine seasons and didn’t make the NFC Championship game after his 1997 debut.

The third remaining candidate, Indianapolis defensive coordinator Ron Meeks, has been an NFL assistant for 17 years. He would have been a finalist for a head coaching job before now if he was so special.

The favorite for the job is Fassel when Snyder finally announces his pick next week. As it should be.

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