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December 3, 2003 -- AT the end of a losing 1996 season, the Giants made the controversial move of signing Christian Peter, a defensive tackle from Nebraska with a troubled past. The coach at the time, Dan Reeves, was annoyed that he was never included in the decision-making process.

Reeves, it seemed, had a legitimate gripe, as he did have to coach the player, didn't he?

"When?" countered George Young, then the general manager.

Young knew Reeves, days from getting fired, would never coach Peter and indeed, he never did.

So it goes seven years later. A rather odd and uncomfortable dynamic is at work with the Giants. Jim Fassel increasingly has fielded questions about taking a look at younger or inexperienced players now that the season is in ruin and the playoffs are no longer a consideration. What certainly could be running through Fassel's mind is this: Why the heck should I help develop these guys for some other coach to reap the benefits?

Four games remain in Fassel's New York stay and he's intent on squeezing another win or two out of this miserable year. Fassel has too much integrity to cash his check without regard to the good of the franchise, but he has to think about his own future as well.

Another suitor, possibly Arizona's Bill Bidwill, will look to see how Fassel handles his demise. Unlike the pettiness that sullied Reeves' departure, the high road is likely the path that will be traveled by both Fassel and Giants management.

Given how battered this team is physically and spiritually, Fassel could end up 4-12, losing his last eight games. It's likely, however, any former employer will look at Fassel's body of work and not condemn him for this dismal half season.

If Fassel enjoyed the job security of the Herm Edwards, the coach of the other non-playoff contender in town, no one would dare question his motives down the stretch. In a last-gasp attempt to save himself, Fassel might have rushed Jeremy Shockey back on the field in Tampa, but wisely, Fassel did not risk further damage to Shockey's left knee, a move that should have prompted thanks and not complaints from the impetuous tight end.

It gets dicey, though, when Fassel adamantly rejects the notion of playing rookie defensive tackle William Joseph or pariah running back Ron Dayne.

For the past two weeks, a healthy Joseph has been deactivated.

"I can't fool the guys in the locker room and I am not going to send them any signals that I am doing anything other than doing everything I can to win games," Fassel said.

Dayne is a different case. There has to be a few carries available for the former Heisman Trophy winner, who hasn't worn a uniform on game day all season, but Fassel offered a harsh "No" when asked if he'd consider playing Dayne in the last four games. If anything, wouldn't a few choice highlights make Dayne more attractive as trade bait?

"I think it is absolutely the wrong approach," Fassel said, "because you expect the rest of your team to go out and play and work hard and try to win and you're saying 'No, men, it's over, I am just going to experiment with these guys.' I have never done it, I never will."

Fassel gets to run the Giants his way, for another month, anyway.

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