Spagnuolo ready to 'beg, borrow and steal' to turn Rams around
ST. LOUIS (AP) — During the whirlwind since being hired as the St. Louis Rams' head coach, two days shy of a month, Steve Spagnuolo has quickly learned to delegate authority.
Spagnuolo said Thursday he'll lean on his coordinators and general manager Billy Devaney while evaluating team personnel, assembling a playbook and preparing for free agency and the draft. The key potential free agents from a team that went 2-14 last season are cornerback Ron Bartell and safety Oshiomoghe Atogwe.
"We're still chipping away at a lot of things," Spagnuolo said. "There's so many elements — free agency, the college draft, schemes, learning the building, trying to meet everybody. And making sure my wife doesn't leave me."
Spagnuolo built his reputation as the Giants' defensive coordinator who spoiled the Patriots' perfect season in the 2008 Super Bowl. Thus far he rates the experience as daunting yet enjoyable.
One example: The coach left for the Senior Bowl the day after his introductory news conference on Jan. 19, but not to assess talent. He rarely left his hotel room while interviewing potential assistant coaches.
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"I'm good overwhelmed," Spagnuolo said. "It's one of those overwhelming things you want to have happen to you."
On the field, Spagnuolo said he might be a bit hands-on at first. But before long he promises to free defensive coordinator Ken Flajole and offensive coordinator Pat Shurmur to do their jobs.
"I'm finding out quickly that there's a lot involved in being a head coach," Spagnuolo said. "To do it right, you've got to be in there all the time. They're all good coaches, they know football, they'll run with it."
One of the good things about having his own staff, Spagnuolo said, is the exchange of ideas that takes place.
"I certainly don't think we had all the answers in New York," Spagnuolo said. "You beg, borrow and steal. That's all you do in the league, you steal good ideas from other people."
Neither coordinator has held the position in the NFL previously. But Spagnuolo pointed out his position is also a first and he has long associations with both.
Flajole and Spagnuolo have never been on the same staff, but have been friends since Flajole was a defensive assistant at Texas-El Paso from 1986-88. Both have worked under Eagles coach Andy Reid and share the same philosophy.
"We've got a good history and I just thought this would be a good fit for me," Flajole said. "Either you have a feel for the game or you don't," Flajole said.
"It still comes back to players and believing in what you do."
Spagnuolo and Shurmur have been fellow assistants on eight staffs. Shurmur was Eagles quarterbacks coach the previous seven years.
"When I left I told coach (Reid) I didn't want to go anywhere unless it was somebody I trusted," Shurmur said. "I believe in his leadership, I know him as a person and I know he's going to do a terrific job providing a vision for this organization."
Shurmur's uncle, the late Fritz Shurmur, was a top defensive coordinator for more than two decades in the NFL. He coached with the Rams from 1982-90 and helped the Packers go to consecutive Super Bowls while in Green Bay from 1994-98.
"Uncle Fritz had a great way of simplifying things," Shurmur said. "A lot of what happens out there may look very complicated but you have to boil them down to the very simplest of tasks."
Shurmur was an influence for Spagnuolo, too. He borrowed Fritz Shurmur's book, Coaching Team Defense, from Pat Shurmur and read it several times. He doesn't recall whether he ever gave it back.
"It has basic fundamental statements that still hold true," Spagnuolo said. "It's not necessarily schemes, it's like tackling, defeating blocks and the things Fritz would say, little trigger terms he would use. I'd steal those."