Flashback Friday: Panthers dominate Giants to end Jim Fassel’s tenure

·2 min read

The Jim Fassel era in New York Giants history is littered with highs and lows. Fassel, who took the Giants to the playoff three times and the Super Bowl once, was so revered by the team that when they fired him in mid-December of 2003, they let him coach the team for the remaining two games of the season.

The final game that year was against the surging Carolina Panthers, coached by Fassel’s former defensive coordinator, John Fox. The Panthers came into Giants Stadium on the Sunday after Christmas with a 10-5 record and headed towards the Super Bowl.

Fassel’s team was 4-11 and had lost seven straight games. His team wanted him to go out with win. They sure didn’t show it.

The Panthers took an early 20-0 lead on Steve Smith’s 53-yard punt return, a 27-yards interception return for a touchdown by Ricky Manning Jr. and field goals of 42, 33 and 34 yards from John Kasay. The Giants could not recover and lost miserably, 37-24, in Jesse Palmer’s third and final start as their quarterback.

The loss wasn’t the story, however. That belonged to Fassel and his weird, but sad, farewell. Fox felt for his friend and the two hugged on the field after the game.

“I spent the very first moment with him when he was hired and the very last,” said Fox. “I feel proud to have been associated with him. He has a lot to be proud of, as I told him.”

After the game, Fassel was greeted by throng of about 200 of the Giant faithful in the end zone to wish him well. The players all hugged and praised him after the game as well.

“It’s definitely a sad feeling,” said Giants receiver Amani Toomer. “I wish we could have given him a win. A lot of things happened this year. It’s kind of a relief to have it over. We wish it didn’t happen the way it did.”

Unfortunately, winning is what counts. Fassel’s 58-53-1 record over seven years wasn’t bad but the eight-game losing streak to kill another season was too much for ownership to bear. It was the first Giants team to finish the season with eight consecutive defeats since 1966, the worst season in franchise history (1-12-1).

“I feel maybe it is a better place than when I came in,” Fassel said. ” I know a lot of the older players have said that to me and that has stuck with me a lot.”

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Story originally appeared on Giants Wire