EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. Coach Jim Fassel knew what was coming. He would be fired after a season that began with Super Bowl hopes but turned into an embarrassment.
So, he figured, why wait?
He asked the New York Giants to announce his firing now and allow him to coach the final two games of the season. They agreed.
''It's time. They need a change, I need a change. It's the right thing to do,'' Fassel said Wednesday.
After weeks of speculation about his future, Fassel requested a meeting with the owners Tuesday. That's when he was told his seven-year tenure with the team was over.
Fassel leaves as the third winningest coach (60-54-1) in the Giants' 79-year history behind only Steve Owen and Bill Parcells.
Fassel faces Parcells' new team in Dallas on Sunday, trying to prevent the Cowboys from clinching a playoff berth.
A Super Bowl team three seasons ago, the Giants (4-10) were expected to contend again this year but have dropped six straight games to fall to last place in the NFC East. It's the team's longest losing streak in 10 years.
The low point came Sunday night with a 45-7 loss in New Orleans, the Giants' worst regular-season defeat since 1973.
''We're a franchise in trouble now,'' said John Mara, the Giants' executive vice president and son of owner Wellington. ''We just need to make the right decision.''
General manager Ernie Accorsi said the team has a list of potential replacements, but there is no timetable for hiring a new coach.
Among the possible successors to Fassel are LSU coach Nick Saban, former Jaguars coach Tom Coughlin, and the Patriots' two coordinators: Romeo Crennel and Charlie Weis. Coughlin, Crennel and Weis were Giants assistants under Parcells.
Favre says he'll be back for 2004
GREEN BAY, Wis. Brett Favre is coming back for another year. Favre said Wednesday he will return to the Green Bay Packers next season, putting off any thoughts of retirement.
''I have every intention of coming back,'' Favre said after practice Wednesday.
The words ''I'll be back'' are scrawled across a photo of Favre on the cover of USA Today Sports Weekly, which hit news stands Wednesday.
Favre is quoted as saying, ''Yeah, I'll be back. I see no reason why I shouldn't come back and play. It's a young team with a good future. I still feel I can play with the best of them.''
After leading the Packers to a three-point victory over Minnesota on Nov. 2, Favre hinted strongly in an interview with The Associated Press he wanted to keep playing in 2004 and possibly beyond. He said time he was having fun leading the youthful, revamped offense, and it hadn't yet hit its peak.
Although he's not performing to the level at which he became the NFL's only three-time MVP in the late 1990s in part because of a broken right thumb Favre assured he has a lot to give at age 34.
He also is clearly reinvigorated with the Packers (8-6) tied with Minnesota atop the NFC North and vying for a playoff berth.
''I'm having fun playing as good of football as I feel like I've played in my career,'' Favre said. ''We're still winning. We're still in the playoffs or have a shot for the playoffs.
''Yeah, I have been hurt this year, but I've still played. That's always an issue to me, but I can't complain as I sit here before you today.''
Packers players and coaches welcomed his comments.
''Brett is a champion, and I expect him to come out here and compete,'' said fullback William Henderson, a teammate of Favre's since 1995.
Coach Mike Sherman and offensive coordinator Tom Rossley were equally enthused.
''I never anticipated for him not to be back this season,'' Sherman said. ''There's too much in his blood. He enjoys this too much.''
Added Rossley: ''We're all hoping it's going to be another five or six (years). You can tell the way he's playing, I don't think he's near ready to not play anymore.''
The comments followed accusations over the weekend by Hall of Fame quarterback Terry Bradshaw regarding Favre's performance this season.
Bradshaw suggested that unnamed individuals within the Packers organization have blamed the team's underachieving season on Favre.
''There is some finger-pointing going on up there,'' Bradshaw told Fox viewers.
The Packers fired back Wednesday, with Sherman calling it a ''total fabrication.''
''It is so far from the truth I don't even give it any credibility whatsoever,'' Sherman said. ''Brett Favre this year ... what he has done for our football team, playing with a broken thumb, doing all he can do to help us win football games, I just can't say enough about him.''
The Packers have won five of seven games and caught Minnesota in the division standings since Favre broke his thumb at St. Louis on Oct. 19.
''First of all, I don't believe it,'' Favre said of Bradshaw's claim. ''I'm not saying that one person (in the organization) couldn't have said it. But I don't believe it, and I don't think it's an issue.
''Secondly, I never felt that any time during the year, even personally, I was hurting the team or someone else was hurting the team or anything like that. So, I think it's a non-issue.''
Favre has thrown 20 interceptions, his highest this late in the season since 1999, when he finished with 23. Yet, he's coming off perhaps his best game of 2003, having rallied the Packers to a 38-21 win at San Diego on Sunday. He threw for 278 yards and a season-high four touchdowns, including three in the final 11 1/2 minutes.
Favre has 27 touchdown passes, equaling his total last year. He is 154 yards short of his 12th 3,000-yard season, which would equal John Elway for second place on the league's career list.
Sherman said the Packers and the whole NFL would benefit from Favre staying.
''He brings too much to the game,'' Sherman said. ''He's too valuable, not just to this team but to the National Football League the way he plays the game, the humbleness in which he presents himself with his success.
''We have a Hall of Fame quarterback who acts like he's a free agent out there sometimes. What a lesson that is for these guys today.''
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