Jim Fassel passed away Monday. Let’s take a look at the top-five games of his tenure as the leader of the New York Giants.
Jim Fassel, who coached the Giants from 1997-2003, passed away Monday due to a heart attack. The Las Vegas resident was transported to the hospital while dealing with chest pains and died under sedation. His son, John, confirmed the news to the Los Angeles Times.
Fassel’s head-coaching tenure with Big Blue certainly wasn’t linear — it was an up-and-down period of time that included horrifically low moments but also sensational memories that will forever reside in the heads of Giants fans.
The lowest moment? Potentially the January 2003 Wild Card playoff loss to the 49ers, in which the Giants gave up a 24-point lead and botched a field-goal attempt to win the game at the end of regulation.
I’m only 24 years old — I don’t remember much of that game at all considering I was five when it occurred. But what I do remember is my father, a once-longtime season-ticket holder, going absolutely nuts to the point where he had to go watch the game in his bedroom with the door closed instead of in the living room.
It was not an ideal day in the history of the franchise, to say the least.
But that doesn’t overshadow the incredible moments, such as the trip to Super Bowl 35 following Fassel’s infamous “chips to the middle of the table” speech.
Rest In Peace, Jim Fassel. pic.twitter.com/O2cbMY63yZ
— Giants Daily (@NYGDaily) June 8, 2021
Let’s look at the top-five games during Fassel’s time as New York’s head coach.
5. Giants 20, Broncos 16 (Dec. 13, 1998)
A 5-8 Giants team going up against an undefeated 13-0 Broncos squad?
No, this Big Blue team didn’t make the playoffs amid an average 1998 season. But in front of the Giants Stadium crowd, it did the unthinkable, defeating a John Elway-led Denver team by a score of 20-16.
Former Giants quarterback Kent Graham connected with legendary receiver Amani Toomer on a 37-yard touchdown pass with under a minute left in regulation. The Giants ultimately won the game in the midst of a four-game winning streak to conclude the 8-8 campaign.
4. Giants 20, Cowboys 7 (Dec. 21, 1997)
The Giants’ Week 17 win over the division-rival Cowboys was obviously significant because it concluded a successful regular season in the first year of Fassel’s tenure.
New York completed its first 10-win season since the 1993 campaign; the Giants additionally made the postseason that year for the first time since ’93.
The win capped off a regular season that was productive enough to earn Fassel the NFL Coach of the Year Award — a noteworthy honor.
3. Giants 20, Eagles 10 (Jan. 7, 2001, Divisional Round)
Leading up to their Super Bowl 35 berth, the Giants commenced their playoff run with a Divisional Round matchup against the Eagles at Giants Stadium.
The matchup started off with a bang — Giants return specialist Ron Dixon recorded a 97-yard kickoff return for a touchdown (back then, they kicked off from the 30-yard line instead of the 35, so a play like this actually occurred).
Following that, Giants cornerback Jason Sehorn returned a Donovan McNabb interception 32 yards to the end zone. It’s one of the more sensational plays I’ve ever seen — I’m sure many Giants fans are still scratching their heads as to how it happened.
New York emerged victorious 20-10 for its first postseason win since Jan. 1994.
2. Giants 13, Chiefs 3 (Sept. 23, 2001)
It was the Giants’ first game since the tragic 9/11 terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center after the Week 2 matchups were postponed.
Despite struggles from quarterback Kerry Collins (who threw three interceptions) and issues within the running game (just 84 combined rushing yards between running backs Tiki Barber and Ron Dayne), the defense held Kansas City to just a field goal and 266 total yards (including 178 net passing yards).
1. Giants 41, Vikings 0 (Jan. 14, 2001, NFC Championship)
What an absolute blowout at the old Giants Stadium.
In a battle to advance to Super Bowl 35, the Vikings were absolutely no match for Big Blue.
Amid the peak of Jim Fassel’s head-coaching tenure with the Giants, quarterback Kerry Collins completed 28 of his 39 throws for 381 yards and five touchdowns. With a 120.8 quarterback rating, Collins led his team to its third Super Bowl title and first since 1991.