Giants News and Notes

Of course, we're a long way away from New York's final decision, but here's TGI's weekly update on Jim Fassel's successor. Tom Coughlin is still the top choice and front-runner, but apparently both New England coordinators – and former Giants assistants – Charlie Weis and Romeo Crennel are gaining on Coughlin. <BR><BR>

As for Fassel, it still appears that he'll land on his feet in Arizona, although Bills sources list him as one of Buffalo's top options.

Hate mail

As bad as the Giants season has gone, no one should have to deal with what approximately 10 members of the organization have had to: hate mail spewing racial hatred and threatening violence.

Among those to receive the mail included Owner Wellington Mara, VP John Mara and Coach Jim Fassel. Jeremy Shockey was also a target, but the star TE never received his letter because someone in the Giants organization intercepted it.

The letters, which were received in the previous couple weeks, were turned over to the FBI for investigation.

Apparently more than just football players have been targeted. Special agent Robert Hawk of the FBI's Cleveland office said more than 30 "racially hateful letters" were sent to "high-profile people in their respective communities – professional athletes, business leaders, civic leaders, community leaders or organizations." Hawk said the contents of the letters "complain about the relationships between black men and white females." Hawk also said the letters direct black males to end relationships with white women "or they're going to be castrated, shot or set on fire."

"It is amazing man, you have some crazy people out there, nobody's immune to it," Michael Strahan said. "So hopefully whoever is doing this gets caught and whatever happens to him happens."

Hatch's big chance

With Luke Petitgout continuing to suffer from a back injury, last year's third-round choice finally got his chance. OT Jeff Hatch was scheduled to start against the Redskins, which would serve as the Penn product's first career NFL playing time.

Hatch missed all of last season after undergoing back surgery, and this year he has been inactive for seven games and did not play in any of the five he suited up for.

"I've been working and I have time in the NFL now," Hatch said. "Last year I didn't get a single meeting under my belt. This has been a learning campaign for me. I feel I've learned a lot in the past 12 weeks. I'm looking forward to getting a chance to apply it."

During training camp last summer, Hatch was a frequent target of Jim Fassel's verbal outbursts. The coach said he was trying to light a fire under Hatch.

"To be quite frank with you, he was on the borderline of getting cut in camp," Fassel said. "Then that is when I went after him and tried to see if I could get a spark out of him and I did. He started to stand up and fight a little bit. Some of the guys rallied around him a little bit and he started to wake up. "I think that he is a good enough athlete. I think he is slow sometimes to recognize and react to some things and I think he needs to be able to finish a block. He just needs to learn what the pace of this game is about. It is a nasty game up front. You get in the water with the sharks; you've got to be ready to swim. He's made progress."

No surrender

Despite New York's season being in the tank, Jim Fassel said he's not planning to play any of the unproven younger players in order to see what they offer. Fassel was adamant in saying he will not play QB Jesse Palmer, RB Ron Dayne, DT William Joseph or any other non-starter just for the sake of seeing what a player can do in a game. His first and only goal is to win as many games as possible.

"I am going to put the best 11 out on both sides of the ball that we can put out," Fassel said. "There is no experimenting.

"I can't fool the guys in the locker room and I am not going to send them any signals that I am doing anything other than doing everything I can to win games. That is the way it will be."

Crowded house

New York's Injured Reserve list continues to grow. Following the Bills debacle, Big Blue lost two more starters for the season – CB Will Allen and LG Wayne Lucier. Allen underwent surgery Dec. 5 to repair his mid-foot injury. His foot will be immobilized for six weeks before he can begin active rehab.

Allen is the third starting defensive back to suffer a season-ending injury. Cornerback Will Peterson (stress fracture in lower back) and safety Shaun Williams (knee) were previously placed on IR.

Lucier, the rookie who started 11 games this season, including the last six at left guard, was placed on injured reserve with a strained knee ligament suffered against Buffalo. To fill out its roster, New York signed C Omar Smith from the practice squad and inked TE Tony McGee.

Offensive lineman Sean O'Connor was added to the practice squad to take Smith's spot. O'Connor spent the final two months of the 2002 season on the practice squad and was with the Giants in training camp last summer until his release on Aug. 25.

Vet TE added

With Jeremy Shockey and Marcellus Rivers ailing, the Giants added 11-year veteran Tony McGee, who was with the Cowboys for one game this season. The 32-year-old McGee has 322 career receptions and 21 touchdowns. The 322 catches place him sixth among active tight ends. McGee, 6-4, 240, played his first nine NFL seasons with Cincinnati, where he caught 299 passes. He had a career-high 55 catches for 754 yards in 1995 and a career-best six touchdown receptions in 1997. McGee joined the Dallas Cowboys on April 28, 2002, three days after his release by Cincinnati. Last year, he finished third on the Cowboys with 23 receptions for 294 yards and a touchdown. McGee was released by Dallas on Aug. 31, signed by Tampa Bay on Sept. 2 and cut again three days later. The Cowboys re-signed him on Oct. 7. McGee was active for Dallas' victory over Philadelphia on Oct. 12, but did not catch a pass. He was released on Oct. 18.

McGee was the Bengals' second-round draft choice (37th overall selection) in the 1993 Draft. As a senior at the University of Michigan in 1992, McGee caught 38 passes for 467 yards and six touchdowns and made the All-Big Ten team and several All-America teams.

Pro Bowl update

A trio of Giants ranks in the top three in Pro Bowl voting at their respective positions, including TE Jeremy Shockey, who still leads all tight ends despite having not played in several weeks. Additionally, RB Tiki Barber stands fifth among NFC running backs with 91,765 votes. Here are the Giants who rank in the top three in their respective positions:

NFC TEs

Jeremy Shockey 441,375

Alge Crumpler 265,823

Bubba Franks 130,492

NFC DEs Simeon Rice 219,632

Michael Strahan 170,219

Mice Rucker 166,089

NFC Inside LBs

Brian Urlacher 152,248

Nick Barnett 151,587

Micheal Barrow 124,090

The voting continues on NFL.com through Dec. 12. The squads will be announced Dec. 18 on the 2004 Pro Bowl Selection Show on ESPN.

Draft winds

As the Giants continue to slip and slide to the 2003 finish line, it's certainly not too early to start looking ahead to the 2004 Draft. Through Week 13, Big Blue had the 10th selection in the upcoming draft. For those wishing to follow New York's draft position down the stretch, check out www.ourlads.com, where the entire first-round draft order will be updated every Tuesday.

Quote of the Week

"They're our customers and when they leave, that's just the same as the guy calling up or writing a letter and saying, 'You're not doing what I want you to do. I'm very dissatisfied.' It's a message that comes through loud and clear. It tells me we've got to improve our product. How we do it is something we'll discuss." – Wellington Mara


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