The New York Giants hired Jerry Reese as their general manager yesterday, making him only the third African American general manager in NFL history.

Reese, the team's director of player personnel the last four years, was considered the favorite among the in-house candidates to replace Ernie Accorsi, who held the post for nine seasons before retiring.

The other black general managers in the NFL are Baltimore's Ozzie Newsome and Houston's Rick Smith.

Reese, 43, a graduate of Tennessee-Martin, joined the Giants' scouting department in 1994 after working on the coaching staff at his alma mater.

In other Giants news, police in Montclair, N.J., were called to the former house of Michael Strahan after a dispute between the defensive end and his ex-wife.

Police Lt. James Carlucci said police responded to a call at the northern New Jersey home on Sunday that stemmed from a dispute over child custody. No arrests were made.

Steelers. Russ Grimm, Pittsburgh's assistant head coach, has emerged as the front-runner for the job to replace coach Bill Cowher.

The team's search was narrowed to three finalists after offensive coordinator Ken Whisenhunt left Sunday to become the new coach of the Arizona Cardinals.

The Steelers identified Grimm, a Pittsburgh assistant for six years, and defensive coordinators Mike Tomlin of the Minnesota Vikings and Ron Rivera of the Chicago Bears as the finalists. Georgia Tech coach Chan Gailey is no longer being considered, the Steelers said.

Rivera cannot speak to the Steelers again until the Bears are eliminated from the playoffs.

Seahawks. Seattle quarterback Matt Hasselbeck revealed that he played the final eight games of the season with broken fingers on his non-passing hand.

Hasselbeck said he suffered non-displaced fractures of two fingers on his left hand during a win against Green Bay on Nov. 27. That was his first game back after a four-week absence because of a sprained knee.

"It wasn't fun," Hasselbeck said while he and his teammates cleaned out their lockers upon returning from Sunday's overtime loss at Chicago.

"You appreciate what your teammates go through," he said, "because I know there were guys on our team who had the same injury who didn't get the attention or sympathy that I got."

Earlier this month, Seahawks offensive coordinator Gil Haskell acknowledged that Hasselbeck's hand bothered him on snaps and when he was hit.

On Sunday, Hasselbeck was hit from behind after a throw early in the game and held his hand while in obvious pain. On fourth and 1 with Seattle in Chicago territory and two minutes left in regulation time, Hasselbeck bobbled the snap. That ruined the timing on Shaun Alexander's run, resulting in a 2-yard loss.

Hasselbeck finished the season with 18 interceptions in 14 games. He threw just nine in 16 games last season, when the eight-year veteran started in the Super Bowl and Pro Bowl.

In other Seahawks news, former Pro Bowl center Robbie Tobeck retired after 13 NFL seasons.

Dolphins. New York Jets offensive coordinator Brian Schottenheimer withdrew from consideration for Miami's head coaching job.

Former Atlanta Falcons coach Jim Mora visited the Dolphins' complex for a second interview yesterday. The only other candidate known to have met twice with team officials was Georgia Tech coach Chan Gailey.

Saints. A former quarterback himself, New Orleans coach Sean Payton was not about to discount the abilities of the erratic Chicago Bears quarterback Rex Grossman - especially not after some of the throws he saw the embattled signal caller make in ousting Seattle from the playoffs.

"With the weight of a lot of people on his shoulders and playing in his first playoff game this year, I thought he was outstanding," Payton said as the Saints prepared to play Chicago in Sunday's NFC title game. "It's a funny business because you're graded each week on your last performance."

Colts. By keeping opposing offenses out of the end zone and off the field, the once-maligned Indianapolis defense has taken the Colts right into Sunday's AFC championship game against New England.

"We're playing better," coach Tony Dungy said. "We're tackling a little bit better."

The Colts surrendered a league high of 173 yards rushing per game during the regular season, giving up 375 to Jacksonville in December.

In the playoffs, however, they righted their ship. They held Kansas City to 126 total yards in a 23-8 victory. On Saturday, they held the Baltimore Ravens to 83 yards on the ground.

Noteworthy. The Carolina Panthers fired offensive coordinator Dan Henning and two other assistants, two weeks after finishing a disappointing 8-8 season. Offensive-line coach Mike Maser and secondary coach Rod Perry also were let go. . . . Baltimore promoted Rick Neuheisel to offensive coordinator. However, head coach Brian Billick, who fired Jim Fassel from the position on Oct. 17, said he would continue to call the plays next season.