Thinking it inevitable, Fassel asked for the ax in a meeting he called with executive vice president John Mara, who claims to have required some persuading on the matter. Indeed, Giants co-owner Wellington Mara managed to sound like a cuckold in describing Fassel's departure as "an unwelcome divorce." Still, the owner obliged, sealing the divorce, strangely, with a "pink slip"—a term evocative of lingerie, which would seem better suited to honeymooners.
Only Dick Jauron, who was under contract to coach the Chicago Bears through the 2004 season, appears to have received a good old-fashioned, Dagwood Bumstead-style firing. It's an apt word, the flammable firing, hellish but hardening, like the process used to finish pottery. Ask any earthen jug: Firing makes you stronger.
Over the holidays, while vacationing on Florida's Gulf Coast, I was bewitched by the story of two other vacationers, 15-year-old girls from Springfield, Mass., near my home. The two were parasailing in a tandem harness when their rope broke, leaving them to drift, 600 feet in the air, across Bradenton Beach, over the Beach House restaurant, along Gulf Drive and into live power lines, on which their parachute, emblazoned with a smiley face, snagged and burst into flames, dropping the dangling girls—miraculously without major injury—20 feet to the pavement.
I thought of those girls on my flight home, while reading how the New Orleans Saints had just "severed ties" with two assistant coaches, cutting them adrift—untethered in a tandem harness—to whatever fate awaits them.
Two lessons should occur to those Saints assistants, and to the three assistants with whom the Cleveland Browns recently severed ties: You can never count on a golden parachute. But you can alight safely, and maybe even land on your feet.