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We Meet Again: Spags vs. McDaniels
We meet again: Spags vs. McDaniels
BY JIM THOMAS
Friday, November 26, 2010
Josh McDaniels and Steve Spagnuolo have competed against each other a few times on the football field. There was a time, just 23 months ago, when it looked like they would be competing against each other for the Rams' head-coaching job.
In early January 2009, the Rams received permission from New England to interview McDaniels, then the Patriots' "boy wonder" offensive coordinator at age 32. He was scheduled to have a preliminary interview with Rams general manager Billy Devaney on Friday Jan. 9 of '09.
But McDaniels got tied up with a second interview with Denver, and never made it to St. Louis for the interview. That same weekend he agreed to become the next head coach of the Broncos, a deal that became finalized a couple of days later.
As for the Rams?
"It never progressed," McDaniels said Wednesday in a conference call with St. Louis reporters. "There was an initial conversation with my representative, but the Denver _ the situation here was really far along by that point. And I'm happy to be a Bronco."
That same weekend, Spagnuolo's New York Giants, the defending Super Bowl champs, were upset by Philadelphia 23-11 in the divisional round of the NFC playoffs. That made Spagnuolo officially available to be interviewed and hired. Just a week after McDaniels agreed to take the Broncos job, replacing Mike Shanahan, Spagnuolo agreed to the Rams' job in St. Louis, replacing Scott Linehan (and interim head coach Jim Haslett).
On Sunday in Denver, McDaniels and Spagnuolo meet for the first time as head coaches, when the Rams take on the Broncos at Invesco Field at Mile High. Kickoff is 3:15 p.m. (St. Louis time).
Sunday's matchup has forced McDaniels to take part in an unpleasant task _ pulling out tape of Super Bowl XLII where the Giants pulled off one of the biggest upsets in Super Bowl history, defeating previously unbeaten New England, 17-14
At the time, Spagnuolo was defensive coordinator of the Giants; McDaniels was offensive coordinator of a Patriots team that set NFL records for touchdowns (75) and points scored (589) in that 2007 regular season.
"We have watched both of the games from 2007 because, again, he had some success doing some things against our scheme that we may see again," McDaniels told Denver reporters this week.
(The Giants and Patriots also played in the regular-season finale that season, with New England winning 38-35.)
"The players are obviously different on both sides of the ball, but the scheme itself is very much the same for them and for us," McDaniels said. "Just trying to make sure you cover your basics and don't let something happen two or three times this week that may have hurt us then."
In that Super Bowl, the Giants limited New England's record-setting offense to 274 yards, sacking Tom Brady five times.
"Yeah, we've had our share of tussles," Spagnuolo said. "It's worked both ways, trust me. It's worked both ways."
But most coaches would trade a lot of regular-season victories for one Lombardi Trophy, and Spagnuolo's game plan against the Patriots that day helped get him a head-coaching job a year later with St. Louis.
Only reluctantly, the modest Spagnuolo talked about that Super Bowl game. But yes, he too, has gone back and looked at the tape of the game _ and more _ in preparation for Sunday's game with McDaniels and the Broncos.
"I grabbed some notes," Spagnuolo said. "I grabbed the game plan out of it, the reason we did certain things _ took a peak at some plays. Didn't watch the whole thing. I looked at a lot of different games to be honest with you, but I did pick some of that out."
Spagnuolo's Rams may not have a Michael Strahan, Osi Umenyiori, Justin Tuck, or other defensive stalwarts of that Super Bowl championship Giants team. But preparing for a Spagnuolo defense is still a headache.
"Getting ready for Steve's defense is not fun," McDaniels said. "It is a huge challenge. And I think in that regard, you embrace the opportunity to try and go against somebody who I consider if not the best _ one of the very best game planners, strategists and defensive-scheme coaches that there are in the league. I have a great deal of respect for him."
The feeling is mutual.
"He's a good football coach," Spagnuolo said. "Up in New England, they do things right and they have done it for a long time, and Josh was a part of that. I've got a lot of respect for him."
Despite their 3-7 record, the Broncos have one of the league's most productive passing games, ranking fourth in the NFL in passing yards behind underrated quarterback Kyle Orton. The last time the Broncos played at Mile High, they put up 49 points on Kansas City two weeks ago. It was such a thorough beatdown that Chiefs coach Todd Haley declined to shake McDaniels' hand after the game.
"Certainly, Josh has been running a good offense for a long time," Spagnuolo said. "He hasn't changed too much. Now, he has adjusted a little bit by personnel, but there's some similarities (to New England). It's like anything else. A defense is a defense, but the players make the offense and they make the defense. I'm sure Josh feels the same way. They're going to do what they're going to do this Sunday, and hopefully we can do it a little bit better than them."
Re: We Meet Again: Spags vs. McDaniels
Heh, I've lurked around the Broncos forums and it's all a mess around there with all the fans criticizing on McDaniels and his ego problem as well as Orton's inability to handle pressure-some situations. Kind of makes me glad we picked the right coach to give us the right character and locker room environment.
Re: We Meet Again: Spags vs. McDanielsLA RAMMER
It's Jim not Chris
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