TAMPA, Fla. (AP) -- You didn't think New York Giants coach Jim Fassel was through making guarantees, did you?
A day after being humbled by the Baltimore Ravens in the Super Bowl, Fassel guaranteed on Monday that the Giants would return to the NFL championship game, and soon.
Fassel, whose playoff guarantee on Nov. 22 ignited the Giants' run to the Super Bowl, said the nucleus of the team is solid and that, if the players continue to work hard and play with the same unselfish attitude, they can succeed again.
"I'm going to take the same approach as last year," Fassel said. "I want tough guys, hardworking guys, guys who are committed to coming in here and being together. That way we can climb right back up on top and try to get back to this game, because I think we will. We'll get back to this game. We have a better team right now."
When asked if that was a guarantee, Fassel didn't hesitate.
"Yes," he said in a calm, clear voice.
He was just as quick when asked how long it would take the Giants to get back to the Super Bowl?
"It ain't going to take 10 years, like it took last time," Fassel said referring to the decade between the Giants last two Super Bowl appearances.
The Giants never were in this Super Bowl, losing 34-7. They fell behind early and spent the rest of the game watching Kerry Collins struggle against the Ravens' awesome defense. The quarterback was intercepted four times. His right shoulder was partially separated in the third quarter with the game out of reach, but he finished the contest.
"I've always been able to put things behind me," Collins said. "I've faced bigger challenges in my life. I'll just circle the wagons again and come back."
Over the next week, Fassel will meet with his players and coaching staff and finalize an offseason training program. He may lose defensive coordinator John Fox, if he lands a head coaching job.
General manager Ernie Accorsi also will be busy trying to sign at least a half-dozen players who will become free agents, including cornerback Jason Sehorn and halfback Tiki Barber.
Fassel also probably will sign a new three- or four-year contract that will pay him as much as $3 million annually. He earned $1.1 million this season.
Fassel said he would like to get the contract situation off his mind as soon as possible.
"I don't see it as being a big, difficult mess," he said. "They have expressed to me that they want me here, and they want me to stay here, and I'm a New York Giant. I never floated my name or threatened about this or that or played the politics of it. I want to be a New York Giant."
Like most coaches, Fassel spent the early morning hours on Monday replaying the game.
Getting backed up in their own territory early was the worst thing that could happen, Fassel said.
Losing an interception return for a touchdown by linebacker Jessie Armstead because of a questionable holding penalty on defensive tackle Keith Hamilton was huge. It would have tied the game at 7-7.
Having Collins throw an interception late in the first half was crucial, as was the interception return by Duane Starks in the third quarter, Fassel said.
Fassel was like a proud parent talking about Collins, even through the quarterback played his worst game of the season, throwing the four interceptions. The two talked at a team party after the game.
"I told him I was proud as hell of him," Fassel said. "I am proud of everything he has done, the way he has handled himself this year, and I'm darn glad he is our quarterback and that we'll be around here together for a long time."
If there was one topic that made Fassel emotional on the day after, it was the team party. The coach wasn't in the partying mood, and he had to be persuaded by his wife, Kitty, to stop in the tent where it was being held.
When he walked in, everyone gave him a standing ovation.
"It felt very good," Fassel said, his eyes watering as he recounted the story. "That was very nice, probably as good as I felt.
"It's a hard pill to swallow. We had a great year and a bad day. It hurts right now, but I am not going to let that take away from everything that was accomplished this year. We got to the Super Bowl, but I am not going to dwell on the negative of it."
The positive is the Giants are going back, if Fassel new guarantee is as good as his last.
Brainerd Dispatch ©2013. All Rights Reserved.