St. Louis Rams' coach Steve Spagnuolo makes transition
11/06/2009



Catching his breath during the bye week, Rams coach Steve Spagnuolo talks about the transition from NFL assistant to NFL head coach with Post-Dispatch football writer Jim Thomas.


Q: Once you arrive at work, how hands-on have you been with the defense?

A: "I'm in all of the meetings. (Defensive coordinator) Ken Flajole and I, toward the end of the week, we'll sit down by ourselves. We'll come up with what we want to do. And then, when we're on the 'phones' during the game, it's kind of a natural flow. I let him run with it most of the time. I usually chime in a lot on third down. So it's kind of a constant back and forth."

Q: Often, when the Rams have the ball and there's a timeout, you're not involved in the sideline huddle with offensive coordinator Pat Shurmur, quarterbacks coach Dick Curl, and the quarterback. Why is that?

A: "Sometimes, I don't (participate) purposely because it's another voice in there. At that time, the less voices the better. Now, I'll step in there when I want something done a certain way. But when it's just a decision of what play to select — Pat, Dick and Marc (Bulger), that's their venue. I try not to step on their toes that way. That's why I physically step out, so that they don't feel like that."

Q: During the week, how involved are you in the offense?

A: "Pat and I visit every morning, so that if I haven't been in an offensive meeting, he updates me on what's going on and what they're doing. I trust those guys over there. So there'll be a suggestion here and there ... but never to throw it out of whack."

Q: You have an inflatable bed in your office here at Rams Park. Are you putting it to use much by staying overnight?

A: "Usually Monday and Tuesday. Every once in a while Wednesday, but I try not to do that because I like seeing my wife. I try every week to get home on Monday. Tuesday's a given that I'm sleeping here."

Q: How long is the commute from your home in the Lafayette Square area?

A: "It's 25 minutes. It's not bad. But you go 25 here, 25 back. And when I go home, I can't go right to bed, so that's another 30 minutes. So it ends up being an hour-and-a-half of lost sleep, whereas if I can just stay here (at Rams Park) — bang. You get an extra hour-and-a-half (sleep). Toward the end of the week, it adds up."

Q: From Day One you've stressed togetherness with this team. Has it been tough to get that message across with so many personnel changes?

A: "Because we're preaching 'team' and 'staying together,' it doesn't mean that we're talking out of two sides of our mouth. Some of the moves were forced because of injuries, and I think players understand that. With a couple of trades or roster decisions, I guess you'd have to ask the players. But I do think the guys that have been around long enough understand that's just part of it. They understand the reality of the league is that there are changes, and we are trying to get better."

Q: Coming in, did you anticipate fielding such a young roster?

A: "Not really. It wasn't a focus. It wasn't a goal or an objective. It just kind of worked out that way. And sometimes that's not a bad thing. The mixture is the best thing, I think. You have some youth but you have some sprinkled in vets. ... I think we have enough of a sprinkle. For the most part there's somebody there for those (younger) guys to look at as an example. And that's important."

Q: After some of these losses, fans and media are almost hoping that you go nuts — go off on the team, a unit, a player, or even the media. Have you been tempted to do so?

A: "Not really. During the course of the game I might get heated because somebody makes a mistake. But I don't believe during the course of a game or immediately afterward that you should let emotions get the best of you. I don't think that's the right way to do it. Because we had a bad game, it's not the media's fault. I get more upset at myself than I would at somebody else. Maybe there's a breaking point, but I hope not. When you feel like that as a coach — disappointed, upset, angry, or whatever — and you lash out, what you've done is you've made yourself feel better because you've got it off your chest. But you just made 53 other people feel bad. So why would you do that?"

Q: What is your philosophy on playing draft picks? You haven't really rushed them into action.

A: "I don't think anybody should walk into this league as a starter. I think it's disrespectful to the vets that are here to have a rookie walk in here and all of a sudden be handed over something. Now James Laurinaitis excelled a little bit quicker, to his credit. ... It didn't work that way with Jason Smith. It didn't work that way with Bradley Fletcher. They had to earn it; they had a ways to go; they had to develop in certain areas before they were good enough to do it. That's what they both have done."

Q: You're a first-time NFL head coach, with first-time NFL offensive, defensive, and special team coordinators. Do you think that has led to some hiccups in the form of game management issues?

A: "There's been a few of those. There has. I've been with some experienced coordinators and head coaches and that same thing's happened. Twelve or 10 men on the field and a timeout that you don't want to take. There's some bullets flying all the time in these games. Sometimes that's going to happen. Don't want it to happen. The point you're making about the youth in those particular spots, they're there. And there's been some growing pains. No question. But I think when it's all said and done, we're growing together, and all three of those people that you mention to me are tremendous people. There's no egos there. Those guys aren't here trying to get their next job. They've got the right mentality. The right personality for me. They're great that way. So I think as we grow in this thing together, I know those three guys are really effective."

Q: What would you like to accomplish or see happen over the second half of the season?

A: "My hope is that when we finish the season, whenever that is, that the feeling will be that we did build something. That it stayed together. That it didn't fall apart. And that it will push us into the offseason and into next season. Now whether that means eight wins, seven wins, it could mean no wins, I'm not going to put a number on it. But there's visible evidence of us being a really good, solid team going forward. We've got some tough teams still to play, but we're a better team that has a little bit of confidence. Let's face it, winning a game does help. It does help. If our guys can clamp on to that, build on that, grow a little bit with that, who knows?"