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RIP Jim Fassel

Syndication: USA TODAY Robert Deutsch via Imagn Content Services, LLC

For those Cardinals’ fans who followed the team in 1996 when Jim Fassel was Vince Tobin’s offensive coordinator, you likely have some fond memories of him and his offense. Fassel, who was closely tied to Bill Parcells and Mike Holmgren, showed superb versatility as a play-caller as evidenced by springing RB LeShon Johnson for a team record 241 yards in a 28-14 win over the Saints and then weeks later unleashing QB Boomer Esiason for 522 yards passing and 3 TDs in a thrilling 37-34 win over the Redskins, after Fass threatened to bench Esiason after he threw two early interceptions in the game!

I can remember watching this game at the Allston Sports Depot (Boston) and going absolutely out of my mind with all of the twists and turns in this game —- check it out!

If you saw the Cardinals’ games in 1996 you likely were as enamored and fascinated with Jim Fassel as I was. At the time, I made the argument that in order to keep Fassel on the staff, the Cardinals should promote him to be a co-head coach with Vince Tobin. Man it was tough seeing him get whooshed away —- let alone to an NFC East rival.

Jim Fassel in his one season as the Cardinals’ OC, did enough to whet the imaginations of the New York Giants, who hired him as their new head coach in 1997. During his seven years as the HC of the Giants, Jim Fassel will always be remembered for taking the Giants from worst to first in the NFC East as a rookie HC. Fassel was named the 1997 NFL Coach of the Year. Then in 2000 he infamously guaranteed that the Giants would make the playoffs —- and delivered like Dominos, taking the Giants all the way to Super Bowl xxxv where they lost to the Ravens 34-7.

One of the best 21 second sound bites ever: must see TV!

But for native New Yorkers, Jim Fassel may be remembered most fondly for how he helped to lift the city’s morale after 9-11 by honoring the brave heroes of the NYPD and NYFD.

When the Giants moved on from Jim Fassel in 2003, a number of Cardinals’ fans (including myself) were hoping that he would fill the Cardinals’ head coaching vacancy. The Cardinals were very interested in Jim Fassel, but it appeared that the toll of being the head coach of the Giants through a very difficult and emotional stretch of years had weighed so heavily on him that he was wondering whether he should take a year off, at least from head coaching.

The Cardinals wound up hiring Dennis Green and Jim Fassel signed on to be a senior offensive consultant for the Ravens. Fassel’s last two years of coaching in the NFL were as the Ravens’ offensive coordinator in 2005 and 2006.

Funny how fate is —- had the Cardinals hired Jim Fassel in 2004 instead of Dennis Green, chances are pretty strong that the Cardinals would have drafted QB Philip Rivers and not WR Larry Fitzgerald. And therefore, perhaps the Cardinals, not the Giants, would have swapped Rivers for Eli Manning as the Giants did with Fassel as the new HC. Who know how that would have changed the fortunes of both franchises.

In 2009 and 2010, Jim Fassell led to Las Vegas Locomotives to back-to-back UFL (United Football League) Championships.

Jim Fassel passed away yesterday in Las Vegas at the age of 71. Deepest condolences to to his Jim’s wife Kitty and their five children, one of whom is John Fassel, the special teams coordinator of the Cowboys (formerly with the Rams). John issued the following tribute to his beloved dad:

“It is with a very heavy heart to announce that we lost our Dad yesterday. Thank you for all your thoughts and prayers during this difficult time. While our Dad will be remembered as a longtime fan and face of the football world, his legacy will live forever in our hearts as the greatest Dad and Grandpa of all time. He leaves behind his wife Kitty, their 5 kids and spouses, as well as 16 happy and healthy grandkids. We love you Dad.”