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St. Louis Rams eye New York Giants defensive coordinator Steve Spagnuolo
By Jim Thomas
ST. LOUIS POST-DISPATCH
Whether it's this year or not, Steve Spagnuolo probably will be an NFL head coach.
"When you get in the business, you have two dreams as a football coach," Spagnuolo said last year at the Super Bowl. "One is to win a Super Bowl."
And the other?
"Be a head coach at the highest level," he said.
Spagnuolo got the Super Bowl title last season as New York Giants defensive coordinator, helping mastermind a colossal 17-14 upset over the most prolific scoring team in NFL history — the New England Patriots.
Making quarterback Tom Brady look mortal and limiting the Patriots' offense to 274 yards can do wonders for a résumé. So after his first year as an NFL defensive coordinator, Spagnuolo became a red-hot coaching candidate.
Take it from Washington owner Dan Snyder.
"To see what I consider the most explosive offense I've seen in years and years to just be slowed down like that was quite impressive," Snyder told The Associated Press at the time.
Snyder tried to hire Spagnuolo to coach the Redskins, but Spagnuolo opted to stay with the Giants for at least another year as defensive coordinator.
After another highly successful regular season, the Giants were upset by rival Philadelphia last Sunday in the NFC playoffs, but Spagnuolo's name keeps coming up in head-coaching searches.
He interviewed with Denver, but the Broncos hired Josh McDaniels. He also met with the New York Jets, although some media reports indicated that his session didn't dazzle them. And on Thursday, he was interviewed in Los Angeles as a Rams head coaching finalist.
No overnight sensation, Spagnuolo, 49, has climbed steadily up the coaching ranks since his days as a wide receiver at Springfield (Mass.) College. Beginning with a graduate assistant stint at Massachusetts in 1982-83, Spagnuolo was an assistant at six colleges before he broke into NFL coaching.
During that time, Spagnuolo also worked for two NFL Europe squads as an assistant, and had a couple of stints working in personnel in the NFL. In 1983, Spagnuolo was a player personnel intern with the Redskins. A decade later, he was a scout for the San Diego Chargers. Rams general manager Billy Devaney worked with the Redskins in '83 and the Chargers in '93, so he knows Spagnuolo well.
A year ago, during the first-round playoff bye "window" to interview head-coaching candidates, Atlanta requested permission to interview Spagnuolo but was turned down. (The Giants later relented after the Super Bowl, letting Washington interview him.)
Devaney worked for Atlanta a year ago. So by all accounts, the friendship between Devaney and Spagnuolo is real and could factor into the Rams' coaching search.
Those close to Spagnuolo say he believes strongly in the importance of a good relationship with the personnel department. League sources also say Spagnuolo's presence in Los Angeles isn't just a courtesy visit, or a favor to a good friend; he wouldn't have traveled to the West Coast if he wasn't interested in the job.
But while the Rams are asking him questions, Spagnuolo has some questions of his own: questions concerning ownership and the potential sale of the team; questions about salaries for assistant coaches, and the amount of money that might be spent on free agents. He even has questions about whether the team will be run from Los Angeles or from St. Louis.
Will Devaney have relative autonomy in St. Louis? Or will owner Chip Rosenbloom and John Shaw be pulling strings from the West Coast?
Initial indications were that Spagnuolo — who's believed to be making $2.2 million a year — might be too expensive for the Rams to pursue. Apparently, that's not the case. But if Spagnuolo doesn't get the answers he likes from the Rams, or any other suitor, he might just stay with the Giants.
His first NFL coaching job came in 1999 with Philadelphia, where he was tutored in the aggressive blitzing schemes of Eagles defensive guru Jim Johnson. After eight seasons there he left for the Giants and a coordinator's job in '07.
In that 2007 season, Spagnuolo helped transform a Giants defense that had finished 25th in total defense the year before into the league's seventh-ranked unit. The Giants posted a league-best 53 sacks. Even with the retirement of Michael Strahan, a season-ending injury to Osi Umenyiora, and the free-agent defections of several defenders, Spagnuolo's unit was fifth in total defense this season.
"He has everything to do with this," Umenyiora told the Philadelphia Inquirer during the Giants' Super Bowl run a year ago. "He's a great defensive coordinator, and the best thing we could have done is hire that guy. We knew that in the preseason just by the way he talks and the way he carries himself."
Re: St. Louis Rams eye New York Giants defensive coordinator Steve Spagnuolo
After reading this article I'm expecting the announcement that Leslie Frazier is our new Headcoach. Maybe today? The sooner the better.
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