A Conversation with Jim Fassel Part III

"There's nothing else in my life. A lot of coaching associates and friends ask me and are worried about how I'm doing. I'm doing fine."-Jim Fassel <BR><BR>

This the last of a three-part series.

A seven-year run coaching a professional team is impressive. A seven-year stint in the Big Apple? Very impressive. That's what Jim Fassel will leave behind as he wraps up his Giants career and heads elsewhere. He'll walk out of Giants Stadium head held high, statistically one of the best coaches in Giants history. Fassel recently took some time out to sit down with TGI for this exclusive question-and-answer session.

Q: In your worst nightmare before the year could you have envisioned this unfolding?

A: No, never. You're always susceptible to not having a good year, and there isn't a guy coaching that hasn't had it. But I never thought that we'd get to this point, especially right now. I always held out hope that we'd keep fighting and close the gap down the wire and that we could do it. Early on, turnovers and losing some games. Now we're just so darn banged up that it makes it difficult.

Q: What the heck went wrong this year?

A: First of all, it's been very frustrating and very disappointing. I think more than anything else, what really drives me is that Wellington Mara and Bob Tisch mean a lot to me. I've had a long relationship with them and I don't want to see them go through this. I knew what the Giants were when I first came here. There were a lot of problems going on, and I thought I could do some things. But we're struggling right now. Maybe I've never got the point across to them, and I've had to battle the media, which in this town is large. Before the season, everyone was talking about how good we were going to be. But we had holes like everybody else and concerns like everybody else. What I tried to tell them is that we were no better off or worse off than about 25 teams in this league, and that we have to play a certain level of ball to be there. We started off well, played a solid game to beat the Rams. But that Dallas loss really took the wind out of our sails; really shook the core. Then we tried to fight our way back, not really playing as well. Then after the Philadelphia game – we had them too. Two teams in our division that are going to the playoffs, we had them down and out. From then on, we never, ever, ever were able to get our momentum back. And where we are now, we're so banged up it's difficult.

Q: How do you feel when you hear Mr. Mara so distraught with how the season's gone?

A: I'm ultimately responsible for it. Everyone knows it's always been me; I'm out there. When things are going well, there are a lot of people that want to step up. When things aren't going well, everyone wants to scatter. I'm the one responsible and it makes me feel bad. But there's nothing I can do about it. I work as hard as I can and do everything I can. If you're going to have a downturn season, you're going to have it. You just have to be braced for it. I have an unbelievable amount of respect for Mr. Mara. He's a very prideful man. This is his life. When it's not going well, he feels bad. I feel even worse that he feels bad.

Q: Looking back, what could you have done differently to prevent this?

A: I knew the offensive line was a problem area, but I didn't want to say that publicly. Then all the guys on the offensive line think that we have no confidence in them. You can only react to what the circumstances were a year ago. At the end of last year, we had lost some games because we couldn't hold up defensively up front. We had had some injuries and we were really thin. It cost us the Tennessee game when we were ahead of them but couldn't put any pressure on (Steve) McNair. It cost us the San Francisco (playoff) game, because we couldn't put any pressure on them. That was the first area. The second area was that we obviously needed some special teams help. We needed a snapper, we needed a punter; we needed some things. So we went after those two areas. We didn't have enough money to go after defensive line, special teams and offensive line. What would have been good would have been if we could have signed (Jason) Whittle back and (Mike) Rosenthal back. Then we wouldn't have had to go searching. I really thought we'd get those guys back, so when we didn't, yeah, we have created another hole. But there wasn't a whole lot we could have done about it. You have to have some money to get some guys.

Q: What can you take from this season?

A: First of all, a bad year. It's the worst year I've had. There are certain things you do to prevent losing. The starting point for me was turnover ratio. Going into this year, in six years, we were a plus-23. Right now, we're a minus-12. You're not going to win that way. There's really nobody in this league that has a superior enough team to be able to survive that. Philadelphia started the year with eight turnovers in the first two games. In the next 10 or 11, they had only nine, averaging less than one a game. You can see it in their won/loss record. You just see things we could have done that would have prevented it. You wonder why we fell into that trap. Sometimes you just don't know. We had a kick that if it had stayed in bounds we would have won (Dallas). We have a kick that if it would have gone out of bounds we would have won (Philadelphia).

Q: Can you find any positives in this mess?

A: You really have to reach for that. Honestly, one positive thing is that I like our guys' attitude. They will fight. They will come. They work hard. There's been no quit in them. I have guys down there right now that are hurt. I'm thinking I'm going to have to put them on IR and they're begging me not to. They want to play. People just look at the 4-9 and figure that they must not be trying. That is not the case. Not at all. That means a lot to me.

Q: Finally, what's the state of Jim Fassel right now? How are you holding up?

A: I'm a little more worn out than usual. I don't sleep as well. This is my life. This is all-consuming to me. All I do is go home, go to sleep and come back in here. There's nothing else in my life. A lot of coaching associates and friends ask me and are worried about how I'm doing. I'm doing fine. I'm doing fine. I'm just trying to keep my focus on doing my job.

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