By Bill Coats
St. Louis Post-Dispatch

In 1999, Andy Reid was hired to resurrect a Philadelphia Eagles outfit that was coming off a 3-13 season. Included on Reid’s staff was defensive assistant Steve Spagnuolo.

Ten years later, Spagnuolo faces a similar challenge with the Rams, who went 5-27 the last two seasons with Scott Linehan and then Jim Haslett in charge. The Rams’ new head coach wasn’t necessarily looking for a rebuilding opportunity, but he isn’t deterred by it, either.

“I like this challenge I’m involved with; it’s very similar,” Spagnuolo said after his introductory press conference at Rams Park. “There’s some excitement about the fact that I’ve gone through it already one time. And because I went through it with a guy that I have a great deal of respect for and thought did it exactly right, I’m hoping I can draw on that experience here.”

Turning around a floundering team doesn’t happen overnight, though — the Eagles were 5-11 in Reid’s first season, failing to get out of the NFC East cellar. Then, however, they strung together seasons of 11-5, 11-5, 12-4, 12-4 and finally 13-3 in 2004, when they went to the Super Bowl.

“One thing I learned from Andy Reid is, it’s a process,” Spagnuolo said. “And we’re going to have to start at the beginning here, take it one step at a time and build on it. . . . It’s not about predictions and bold promises; it’s about building. Get the team-first (approach) together and then we’ll move on. . . .

“It’s not about one person. It’s about people, a lot of people. You get all the people heading in the same direction and you’ve got a fighting chance.”


Here are some things you might not know about the Rams’ new head coach:

*Techincally, his last name should be pronounced span-YO-low. “The ‘g’ is silent in Italian. But I always just say it’s spag-NO-low, because it’s easy to say,” he said. “As long as there’s not a swear word in front of it, then I’m OK with it.”

*His grandfather emigrated from Italy and worked as a janitor for more than 30 years at Rindge and Latin High School in Cambridge, Mass., which perhaps is best known as the alma mater of former Georgetown U. and NBA star Patrick Ewing.

*His father, a Boston College grad, was a hospital administrator.

*Though just 5-7, he was a pesky, hard-hitting center on his high school hockey team in Grafton, Mass.

*His mother was a teacher, which he surmises might’ve played a role in his decision to get into coaching. “I think coaching is teaching,” he said. “So maybe the combination of my experience with sports when I was kid growing up in Boston and the fact that my mother had teaching blood in her.”

*He and his wife, Maria, are devout Roman Catholics who were married in the Vatican.

*Though he’s an East Coast guy, he isn’t apprehensive about living in the Midwest. “Not a problem. My wife cooks for me, so I don’t have to worry about where to go to eat,” he said. “The football’s the same, the field’s the same. I think we’ll be OK.”

*He said this of Steven Jackson: “Quality running back. I remember vividly when we played here (in the second game of the season), that if somebody doesn’t just trip him up, he’s gone for a long touchdown.”

*He said this of Marc Bulger: “Quality quarterback . . . high-character person . . . very solid.”

*He rarely wears his Super Bowl ring. “It’s not about what’s happened in the past. To me, it’s what we do going this way,” he said. “I didn’t wear it much this year, because it wasn’t about that (season) now; that was over. It was about trying to get another one. You can’t look back; you’ve got to look forward.”

*He’d never heard of toasted ravioli before Monday.

All for now . . .