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Thread: Spagnuolo's Staff Hard at Work
Spagnuolo's Staff Hard at Work
Thursday, February 12, 2009
By Nick Wagoner
In the whirlwind days that followed his hiring as Rams head coach on Jan. 19, Steve Spagnuolo and daylight became strangers.
Even in Mobile, Ala., site of the annual Senior Bowl, Spagnuolo rarely ventured outside of his room at the Renaissance Battle House. When he did, it was to travel the few steps upstairs to meet with general manager Billy Devaney or a quick meeting with a friend in the lobby.
But the opportunity to go out and study college prospects never came close to fruition, never mind the chance to get a breath of fresh air or step out for lunch.
“The only time I walked out of the room was either to walk down to Billy’s room, which was on the next floor up, and the last night I walked down to the lobby to see somebody,” Spagnuolo said. “That was it. That was an interesting, wonderful experience. But I like to go down there and see guys I haven’t seen all year. I didn’t get a chance to do that.”
Instead, Spagnuolo holed up in his room and began piecing together a coaching staff. Over the next three and a half weeks, Spagnuolo rarely came up for air as the search for coaches continued.
Finally, on Monday, Spagnuolo announced the hiring of the final three coaches on his staff, bringing the total to 19 assistants and completing the long and arduous process of putting a staff together.
Thursday afternoon, Spagnuolo finally emerged from his Russell Training Center office with offensive coordinator Pat Shurmur, defensive coordinator Ken Flajole and special teams coordinator Tom McMahon in tow.
Needless to say, the completion of the staff is a weight off the shoulders of Spagnuolo, who throughout the process made it a point to be deliberate with his hires so as to do all possible diligence on potential candidates.
“What month are we in? It’s February, right?” Spagnuolo said, laughing.
For a first time head coach, the business of finding 19 coaches who fit the bill of what you are looking for is difficult enough without the added pressure to come in terms of building a 53-man roster.
Spagnuolo was quick to acknowledge the relief he had in completing his first major task as a head coach.
“It’s been a good overwhelming,” Spagnuolo said. “One of those overwhelmings you want to have happen to you.”
When Spagnuolo set out to put a staff in place, he did so with a few ideas for how he wanted it done.
At the top of the list was finding coaches who fit into the ethos of what Spagnuolo is installing in St. Louis. That included finding coaches he believed could relate to the players and teach them on a daily basis as well as guys with strong character.
“The whole model was to get great teachers with high character and the only way to really know how somebody teaches is to see them in action,” Spagnuolo said.
As with most head coaches, Spagnuolo wanted to hire coaches with whom he was already familiar.
That led him to the idea of hiring coaches with whom he’s either worked or coaches that are one coach removed from him. In other words, if Spagnuolo didn’t know the coach, that coach would have to have a relationship with someone close to Spagnuolo. That way, the telephone game wouldn’t lead to hiring someone who didn’t fit in with what Spagnuolo was trying to do.
“If you get into the so and so told me to recommend so and so I think you get into a little bit of trouble,” Spagnuolo said. “As I look around the staff, that pretty much held true that someone on the staff had worked with that person.”
When all was said and done, Spagnuolo estimates that about 40 percent of the coaches are guys he has worked with before with the other 60 being one coach removed.
Of course, when it came time to hire Shurmur, Flajole and McMahon as his coordinators, Spagnuolo went straight for guys with whom he’s had a long term relationship.
While none of the three coordinators have ever been in that position before, Spagnuolo didn’t view that as any kind of a detriment. In fact, Spagnuolo knows as well as anyone that sometimes all a coach needs is a chance to move up and make his own mark.
“I just looked at those guys as good coaches,” Spagnuolo said. “I guess when you think somebody is ready, at some point you have got to go do it. I was fortunate enough that Tom Coughlin decided two years ago that it’s time for me so hopefully it will be their time too.”
Because of Spagnuolo’s defensive background, Shurmur will have plenty of eyes on how he develops his offensive system. Coming from Philadelphia where he worked with Spagnuolo and under Andy Reid, many assume Shurmur will just throw out the “West Coast” offense as the basic offensive scheme.
But Spagnuolo and the other coordinators are quick to point out that there is no set scheme yet because the coaches are still evaluating players and the roster is far from set.
Once that is complete, the coaches can go about setting their playbooks in motion. In the meantime, the entire staff is going through a discovery process of idea sharing that could lead to anything.
In a more general sense, though, Shurmur says he and Spagnuolo are quite similar in terms of how they view what the Rams offense should become.
“The Rams offense is going to be a team that can run the football, make an effort to run the football and protect the quarterback when you throw it,” Shurmur said. “It’s very rare that a quarterback on his ***** can do anything good with the ball so those are two things that are important. Then you can’t turn it over.”
Defensively, Spagnuolo expects to have a lot of input in the interim as things sort themselves out but that doesn’t mean Flajole won’t have plenty of say in what happens.
And, like Shurmur, Flajole has a long relationship with Spagnuolo that has had them bouncing ideas off each other for a long time.
“Philosophically, what Steve likes to do defensively and where I see us going, it was a good match,” Flajole said. “I wouldn’t be very smart unless I leaned on him for his expertise. We will all rely heavily on Steve. He’s had success with what they’ve done and getting his input will be important.”
As for McMahon, Spagnuolo says his young special teams coach comes from a line of talented special teams coaches that have experienced great success, especially Baltimore head coach John Harbaugh.
McMahon worked under Jerry Rosburg in Atlanta in 2007. Rosburg worked with Harbaugh in Baltimore last season and Harbaugh worked with Spagnuolo in Philadelphia.
“He comes from the John Harbaugh family of special teams coaches,” Spagnuolo said. “Tom Worked with Jerry Rosburg down in Atlanta. Jerry and John Harbaugh were two of the best in the league.”
The rest of the coaching staff includes plenty of bright young minds combined with experienced veterans. Spagnuolo retained three coaches (offensive line coach Steve Loney, assistant line coach Art Valero and assistant strength and conditioning coach Chuck Faucette) but went outside the organization for the rest of the staff.
On the offensive side, most of the staff has plenty of experience including running backs coach Sylvester Croom and receivers coach Charlie Baggett. The defensive side has a little less experience.
But Spagnuolo says that’s just how it worked out and wasn’t necessarily by design.
“It probably more or less fell that way,” Spagnuolo said. “The model was good teachers with high character. I do think the game is still about teaching. I don’t think it’s about schemes. I think it’s about players.”
With the coaching staff in place, it now really is all about the players. Free agency is set to begin on Feb. 27 with the scouting combine for college prospects set to begin next week.
That’s why the Rams coaches and scouts are spending every waking moment now studying the players on the roster, their own free agents and everyone else’s. And oh by the way, they are piecing together playbooks and scheme ideas to try to have something in place for the March 16 beginning of offseason workouts.
“There haven’t been any concrete decisions made on our personnel, Spagnuolo said. We are digging into that now.”
In other words, there’s no rest for the weary for an already busy group of football coaches.
Re: Spagnuolo's Staff Hard at Work“It probably more or less fell that way,” Spagnuolo said. “The model was good teachers with high character. I do think the game is still about teaching. I don’t think it’s about schemes. I think it’s about players.”
But, it's nice to hear that the Rams new head coach thinks that the game is about players and not schemes. Seems we think a bit alike in that regard.
I think I will save this quote just in case the numerous clanram mods and members return to their scheme screaming days of the past. I'm fairly certain this quote was well on the way of being completely overlooked by those who have so vehemently scheme screamed in the past.
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