Rams hire Spagnuolo/PD--Updated
from New York Giants as head coach
By Jim Thomas
ST. LOUIS POST-DISPATCH
Sunday, Jan. 18 2009
Nearly three weeks ago, at the start of this process, Steve Spagnuolo didn't
look like a realistic option for the Rams. He was the hot coordinator among
this year's head-coaching prospects and, according to league sources, out of
the Rams' price range.
But owner Chip Rosenbloom took immediate exception to the notion that the Rams
were trying to hire a coach on the cheap. And general manager Billy Devaney
kept his fingers crossed and kept working on a candidate list that included
Spagnuolo — a longtime friend in the business.
"We were monitoring his situation the whole time," Devaney said Saturday night.
"If somebody jumped up and grabbed him, I would've been crushed. I figured if
we hung around long enough we had a chance."
On Saturday it all came together, and Spagnuolo was hired as Rams coach. League
sources confirmed Saturday that it's a four-year deal averaging just under $3
million a year.
Spagnuolo, 49, has spent the past two seasons as defensive coordinator of the
New York Giants. He's known as a players' coach, but a coach who doesn't coddle
players, either. Intense and energetic, he all but lived at the Giants'
facility during the season, grinding film to find a weakness in the opponent,
any nuance that might help.
The Giants' stunning 17-14 upset of New England in last year's Super Bowl, a
game in which quarterback Tom Brady looked mortal and the record-setting
Patriots offense was held to 274 yards, catapulted Spagnuolo into up-and-comer
This season, Spagnuolo showed he wasn't a one-hit wonder. Despite the
retirement of defensive end Michael Strahan, the season-long loss of elite pass
rusher Osi Umenyiora to injury and the defection of several defenders in free
agency, the Giants were better statistically in '08 than they were in '07.
"I'm very happy for Steve," Giants coach Tom Coughlin said. "He did a great job
in his two years with the Giants. We've been very, very aggressive on defense
and we've been able to have two very successful years back-to-back. Steve has
made an outstanding contribution to our team."
So how did Spagnuolo, who turned down an offer to become the Washington
Redskins' coach a year ago, end up with the Rams? Ownership's willingness to
pay what it took to get him helped. So did Devaney's friendship with Spagnuolo.
They worked in Washington in 1983 and San Diego in 1993. But when Spagnuolo
interviewed Thursday in Los Angeles, he basically was a stranger to everyone
else with the Rams.
"Everything just clicked," Devaney said. "Ownership was really impressed with
his plans and how he was going to put his plans in place."
Devaney was sincere, too, in his request to find a coach — and coach's wife —
who would help be the face of the franchise and be active in community
relations. And apparently that's the case with the Spagnuolos.
"That's a big part of it," Devaney said. "The wife (Maria) is huge. It just
enhances your chance for success."
The Rams didn't take advantage of the Giants' playoff bye week to interview
Spagnuolo, feeding the impression that he wasn't in the mix in St. Louis.
Privately, Devaney didn't seem very optimistic at times about the Rams'
chances. But once the Giants lost to Philadelphia last Sunday, things began
accelerating quickly. The Rams received permission Monday to interview
Spagnuolo. Because of his long relationship with Devaney, no preliminary
interview was necessary. Spagnuolo advanced straight to the finals Thursday in
Despite the strange arrival Friday of Dallas offensive coordinator Jason
Garrett in St. Louis, sources told the Post-Dispatch that at least two of the
five people who conducted the finalist interviews in Los Angeles were impressed
most with Spagnuolo and Minnesota defensive coordinator Leslie Frazier.
Sources said Rosenbloom actually liked Frazier a little better, but was very
impressed with Spagnuolo. And all along, Rosenbloom said this was Devaney's job
search and that he would honor Devaney's recommendation as long as it was
So what was the Garrett visit about?
During his finalist interview Wednesday in Los Angeles, Garrett insisted on
visiting St. Louis with his wife to get a look at the city and the facility at
Rams Park. So how could the Rams say no to Garrett's visit request —
particularly because at that time they had yet to interview Spagnuolo? So
Garrett got his "tour" of St. Louis and by late Saturday morning he was headed
back to Dallas.
Until the Spagnuolo interview, the Rams never were quite sure how interested
he was in St. Louis. Sources close to Spagnuolo said he had legitimate
questions about the Rams — their ownership, their commitment to spending money,
the potential sale of the team.
"He had great, great questions," Devaney said. "He was prepared. This wasn't a
money-driven thing. 'Spags' isn't the type of person who was going to sign with
whoever threw a boatload of money his way. Relationships and the right fit are
huge for him."
After the interview, Spagnuolo told Devaney he thought the Rams were extremely
well prepared, totally professional, and that he felt very relaxed at the end
of the session. So Spagnuolo heard what he wanted to hear. The money was right.
And here he is in St. Louis.
"We're very excited that Steve will be our head coach, and are looking forward
to an exciting season," Rosenbloom said in a statement.
Spagnuolo also is known to have interviewed with Denver and the New York Jets
this offseason. All along, there was concern about the Jets. Despite rampant
speculation that Baltimore defensive coordinator Rex Ryan is the Jets' top
choice, Spagnuolo did get a second interview Tuesday with the Jets.
"We stayed worried through the whole thing," Devaney said.
The surprise firing of Jon Gruden in Tampa Bay, plus speculation that Kansas
City might oust Herm Edwards, only added to that worry.
"Even (Saturday) morning, I was nervous," Devaney said. "It's musical chairs.
You don't want to be left standing."
That no longer is a concern. The deal was wrapped up Saturday afternoon, and a
news conference is scheduled for 11 a.m. Monday at Rams Park.
In New York, news of Spagnuolo's depart was met with regret.
"It's a Rams Shame ... for Giants as Spags Bolts for St. Loo"
That was a headline on the back page in a Sunday edition of the New York Post.
Spagnuolo was pictured with huge Rams horns superimposed on his head.
"Obviously, it's a great opportunity for him," Giants defensive end Justin Tuck
said. "We are happy for him. He has done a lot for this organization in his
short time here. Winning a Super Bowl in your first year as a defensive
coordinator is pretty impressive.
"I really think he has the skills necessary to be a successful head coach. He's
a hard worker and he quickly gained the respect of all his players. We wish him
all the best."