On January 15, 1997, a new chapter in the New York Giants history began when Jim Fassel was named the 15th head coach. In the first season under Fassel’s leadership, the New York Giants captured the NFC East Championship with a 10-5-1 record. The New York Giants finished the 1997 season with a 7-0-1 Division record to become the first team ever to go undefeated in NFC East Division play. The New York Giants fell short of a playoff berth in 1998 after overcoming a 3-7 start to finish with an 8-8 record. The Giants were 7-9 in 2000.
In 2000, the New York Giants returned to the upper echelon of the NFL. They won the NFC East title and earned home field advantage throughout the playoffs with a 12-4 regular season record. The New York Giants then beat Philadelphia in the divisional playoffs and routed Minnesota, 41-0, in the NFC Championship Game to advance to the Super Bowl for the third time. But they failed to win the game for the first time, falling to the Baltimore Ravens.
The New York Giants slipped to 7-9 in 2001, losing their last two games to fall out of playoff contention. In 2002, the New York Giants won their final four regular season games, including an overtime thriller in the regular season finale against Philadelphia, to clinch a wild card playoff berth. In the third period of the postseason game in San Francisco, the New York Giants led the 49ers, 38-14. But San Francisco rallied for a 39-38 victory.
Because of their impressive stretch run, the New York Giants began the 2003 season with high hopes. At midseason, they were in the thick of the playoff race with a 4-4 record. But a second-half collapse against Atlanta set the tone for an eight-game, season-ending losing streak. With two games remaining, the New York Giants announced that Fassel would not return. On Jan. 6, 2004, Tom Coughlin, a highly-successful head coach at Boston College and with the Jacksonville Jaguars, and a former New York Giants assistant, was hired as the 16th head coach in Giants history