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Former USC Quarterback Jim Fassel, Who Was NFL Coach Of The Year In 1997, Dies At 71

Jun 8, 2021

Jim Fassel, a backup quarterback on USC's Rose Bowl champion team in 1969 who later was named the 1997 NFL Coach of the Year with the New York Giants, died on Monday (June 7) in Las Vegas, Nev., of a heart attack. He was 71.

Fassel, who came to USC from Anaheim (Calif.) High via Fullerton (Calif.) Junior College, completed 7 passes with 2 touchdowns as the backup to Jimmy Jones in 1969 when the Trojans went 10-0-1 and beat Michigan in the Rose Bowl.

He then transferred to Long Beach State, where he threw 6 TDs in 1971 and was drafted in the sixth round of the 1972 NFL Draft by the Chicago Bears. He split time in 1972 with the Bears, San Diego Chargers and Houston Oilers, then was with the Toronto Argonauts in 1973.

He spent part of the 1974 season with the Hawaiians of the World Football League before beginning his coaching career with the Hawaiians later that year as well as with Fullerton JC. He returned to the Hawaiians as a quarterback in 1975.

He became the quarterbacks and receivers coach at Utah in 1976, then was the offensive coordinator at Weber State in 1977 and 1978. He spent 5 seasons (1979-83) at Stanford, the first 2 as the wide receivers/running backs coach and the last 3 as the offensive coordinator.

After spending 1984 as the offensive coordinator of the New Orleans Breakers of the USFL, Fassel was named Utah's head coach. He compiled a 25-33 record in 5 seasons (1985-89) with the Utes.

He then moved into the NFL coaching ranks, starting with 2 years (1991-92)as the offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach of the Giants. He then was the offensive coordinator with the Denver Broncos (1993-94), quarterbacks coach of the Oakland Raiders (1995) and offensive coordinator with the Arizona Cardinals (1996).

He spent the next 7 seasons (1997-2003) as the Giants' head coach, guiding them to a 58-53-1 overall mark and a pair of NFC East titles (1997 and 2000). His 2000 team played in Super Bowl XXXV, where it lost to the Baltimore Ravens.

He then spent 3 seasons (2004-06) with the Ravens, the first as a senior offensive consultant and the last 2 as the offensive coordinator.

In 2007 and 2008, he was a color commentator for Westwood One's radio coverage of NFL games.

He was the head coach of the Las Vegas Locomotives of the United Football League for 4 seasons (2009-12), winning the UFL Championship the first 2 seasons and finishing as runner-up in 2011. He posted a 16-6 record before the league folded in 2012.

He is survived by his wife, Kitty. They have 4 children, including John, who is a longtime college and NFL assistant coach, including currently as the special teams coordinator for the Dallas Cowboys.