Former Broncos offensive coordinator Jim Fassel has passed away, according to a Los Angeles Times report.
He was 71.
Fassel, a 16-year NFL coaching veteran, spent the 1993 and 1994 seasons as the Broncos' offensive coordinator and guided the team to a pair of top-10 scoring offenses. Those two years were just his second and third seasons, respectively, as an NFL offensive coordinator. He would go on to serve as the head coach of the New York Giants from 1997 to 2003.
"It was terrible news that we heard today about what happened, and obviously my prayers and condolences go out to the whole family, who have been great friends," said John Elway, who played for Fassel at Stanford and in Denver. "Their kids were in our wedding. It's terrible news."
In 1993, the Broncos' offense ranked third in the NFL as the unit averaged 23.3 points a game under Fassel's guidance. Elway earned a Pro Bowl nod, while Shannon Sharpe was named to the Pro Bowl and as a first-team All-Pro.
Sharpe had been named to the Pro Bowl in 1992, but he once told then-Denver Post writer Woody Paige that he credited Fassel for jump-starting his career.
"[Fassel] definitely gave me my start," Sharpe told Paige. "He was the first guy to showcase what I do."
The Broncos ranked in the top 10 in scoring again in 1994, and Elway and Sharpe both earned another Pro Bowl selection.
"We created that bond that you want to have as a football player with a coach," Elway said. "I think that's one of the most important things you can have, and I was fortunate to have that with Jim."
Under Fassel, Elway made the Pro Bowl in back-to-back seasons for the second time in his career, and his 1993 season was perhaps the best of his career. He threw for a career-high 25 touchdowns, which he would later best, and his 63.2 completion percentage and 4,030 passing yards remain the high-water marks of his career. Elway's 62.1 completion percentage in 1994 is the second-best performance of his career.
Elway also tied his career low with 10 interceptions in each of Fassel's two seasons in Denver.
"When you had tough games, he was there to support you and was also there and he was very tough," Elway said. "He was tough when I didn't play well and gave me the reasons why I didn't play well. Jim was a guy that had a lot of responsibility for the success I had in this league as a football coach and also as a friend and as a guy. He was a tremendous guy and a tremendous football coach. I wouldn't have gotten where I got without Jim Fassel."
Fassel's working relationship with Elway dated back to their days at Stanford. Fassel served as Elway's offensive coordinator in Palo Alto during the final two seasons of Elway's college career, and he was on staff as the wide receivers/running backs coach in 1979 and 1980.
"Jim was such a great offensive mind, and I think that I had so much trust in him and the basics that he gave me at Stanford and the techniques of the quarterback position, drops and throwing the football and reads," Elway said. "[He] was just such a tremendous mind. And then was fortunate enough to play for him four years at Stanford and then we had two great years when I was here offensively. Like I said, just a great offensive mind, and a guy that I trusted. With his knowledge of the game as a play-caller and as an offensive coordinator, [he was] somebody who had a great feel for the game."
Fassel, who spent five total seasons at Stanford, would go on to serve as Utah's head coach for five seasons. According to a 2001 column by Paige, Elway invited Fassel and his family to a Broncos home game while the coach was with Utah. Paige also reported that Elway recommended Fassel for the offensive coordinator position in Denver.
After his stint with the Giants, Fassel ended his career with stints as the Ravens' offensive coordinator (2005-06) and as the head coach of the UFL's Las Vegas Locomotives (2009-12).