By Jim Thomas
ST. LOUIS POST-DISPATCH
Tuesday, Jan. 20 2009
Faith. Character. Core values. Team first.
"Those will be the four pillars that we will hang our hat on," said Steve
Spagnuolo, the new Rams head coach.
On his first full day in St. Louis, Spagnuolo laid out his general football
philosophy Monday. He said he's not about predictions or bold statements. But
he's not lacking in confidence, either.
"As head coach, I will be committed to doing everything possible to bring
success to this franchise," he said.
He just wouldn't say when.
"I'm not going to go there," Spagnuolo said. "One of the things I've learned
from one of the best coaches I've ever worked for — Andy Reid — is it's a
"We're going to have to start at the beginning here, take it one step at a
time, and build on it. ... We get the 'team first' together, and then we'll
Somehow, you get the impression "Team First" will be emblazoned on T-shirts
once the 2009 Rams reconvene for the offseason conditioning program in a couple
"It will always be about 'team,'" Spagnuolo said. "It's not about egos. The
teams that function the best, I believe in any industry, are those where nobody
cares who gets the credit. Everybody just cares about the team. ... It begins
and starts there."
As defensive coordinator of the New York Giants the past two seasons, Spagnuolo
ran an aggressive, blitzing defense. He was tutored in such a scheme for eight
seasons under defensive guru Jim Johnson in Philadelphia before joining the
"Jim was mentor, and is a mentor for me, because of who he is and how he
coaches defensive football," Spagnuolo said. "I wouldn't be the coach that I
am, I wouldn't have had even a chance to have any kind of success as a
defensive coordinator, had I not worked for Jim. Just his passion for the game,
the way he goes about it, his aggressive style, certainly is something that I'd
like to adopt."
Besides Johnson, the two head coaches he has worked for in the NFL — Reid of
Philadelphia and Tom Coughlin of the Giants — have been major influences on
Spagnuolo's coaching style.
"You take bits and pieces from each," he said. "Really, at the core, they're
both the same person in the way they go about things, the goals they've set,
and where they're headed. Personalities might be different, but you pick out
bits and pieces — hopefully mold what you have — and you hope to come out with
a good product."
With his wife, Maria, watching, Spagnuolo made his comments in the Rams Park
auditorium before one of the largest media gatherings in years. Also among
those listening were players Tye Hill, Todd Johnson and Antonio Pittman. Hill
didn't even know Spagnuolo's news conference was taking place when he wandered
in Monday to get in some rehab work from a season-ending knee injury.
"I think it was a great hire," Hill said. "Especially me being a defensive guy
and seeing what his defense has done. It speaks for itself. ... He's a winner."
Hill said his business partner is Giants strong safety James Butler. As soon as
Hill learned Saturday that Spagnuolo had been hired, he called Butler to get a
"He told me he's a great coach," Hill said. "He said we're lucky to have him."
Spagnuolo confessed Monday that he has very little knowledge of the Rams'
roster. Before his finalist interview Thursday in Los Angeles, Spagnuolo said
he threw on the Giants' tape of their game against the Rams in Week 2 of this
season. And he looked at a Rams tape from later in the season.
"But you're going through it pretty fast," Spagnuolo said. "And you've got to
remember now, I was still working for the Giants."
Following the Giants' season-ending playoff loss to Philadelphia, Spagnuolo was
working on season-ending player evaluations and rankings for the team. He
wasn't going to shirk those obligations to the Giants even though his Rams
interview was looming.
Spagnuolo spoke in very general, complimentary terms when asked later about the
cornerstones of the St. Louis offense — running back Steven Jackson and
quarterback Marc Bulger.
As for his offensive philosophy, Spagnuolo said, "You've got to be able to run
the football and protect the quarterback. That doesn't mean you run the
football every snap, but I do believe you've got do those two things. We'll
build from there, and we won't have a fancy name for it. We'll just try to be
successful at it."
Long before he installs that offense — or the defense and special teams, for
that matter — Spagnuolo must put together his staff.
One of the first names to surface as a potential offensive coordinator was Pat
Shurmur, quarterbacks coach of the Eagles. Wide receivers coach David Culley,
secondary coach Sean McDermott and offensive assistant Mark Whipple — all of
the Eagles — also have been mentioned as possible staff additions. So has
Giants quarterbacks coach Chris Palmer.
Carolina linebackers coach Ken Flajole has been mentioned as a possible
candidate for defensive coordinator.