Jim Fassel, the former head coach of the New York Giants, has died at the age of 71 of a heart attack while under sedation while being taken to a Las Vegas hospital Monday with chest pains.
His son, John Fassel, confirmed reports with the Los Angeles Times.
Fassel spent seven years as the head coach of the Giants, making three postseason appearances, including an NFC Championship in January of 2001 that earned the franchise its first Super Bowl appearance since 1991. The Giants would lose Super Bowl XXXV to the Baltimore Ravens, 34-7.
Earning 1997 NFL Coach of the Year honors, Fassel is in the upper echelon of coaches in Giants history. He ranks fourth with 58 wins behind only the legendary Steve Owen, Tom Coughlin, and Bill Parcells.
It was during that 2000 season, however, that Fassel cemented his place in Giants lore. After losing a Week 12 decision to the underdog Detroit Lions, dropping them to 7-4, Fassel brashly exclaimed that his team would be going to the playoffs despite having lost two straight.
“This is a poker game, and I’m shoving my chips to the middle of the table,” Fassel said nearly 21 years ago. “I’m raising the ante, and anybody who wants in, get in. Anybody who wants out can get out. This team is going to the playoffs, OK? This team is going to the playoffs.”
They proceeded to win five straight games to close out the regular season before taking down the Philadelphia Eagles in the Divisional Round and dismantling the Minnesota Vikings in the NFC title game, 41-0. It was the sixth-largest blowout in NFL postseason history.
Fassel began his coaching career in the collegiate ranks at Utah before joining the Giants in 1992 as an offensive coordinator. After stops with the Denver Broncos and Arizona Cardinals at the same position, the Giants named him head coach in 1997. Following his departure after the 2003 season, he joined the Ravens as offensive coordinator where he remained until 2005.