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Spagnuolo's Staff Hard at Work

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  • Spagnuolo's Staff Hard at Work

    Thursday, February 12, 2009

    By Nick Wagoner
    Senior Writer

    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.

  • #2
    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.”
    Hopefully the Rams never play as poorly on either side of the ball as in years past. That way we won't have to broach the subject of schemes vs. 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.

    Curly ~ Horns


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      Spagnuolo Sees Different Senior Bowl
      by Bralidore(RAMMODE)
      Wednesday, January 27, 2010
      By Nick Wagoner
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      MOBILE, Ala. – Rams coach Steve Spagnuolo has been coaching in the NFL for 11 years. Of the many things that profession entails for the majority of coaches, one is an annual trip here for Senior Bowl week.
      That trip can only be skipped by a select few, those fortunate enough to have helped lead their teams to the final weekend or two of the NFL playoffs. Those are the coaches playing for championships and they gladly miss out on the opportunity to come to Ladd-Peebles Stadium to try to find the guys who could help them someday skip said event.
      Before traveling down here this week, Spagnuolo reflected on this very idea and came to the conclusion that he has been quite blessed in his coaching career.
      “I have been very, very lucky in this league,” Spagnuolo said. “This is year 11 for me and this is only I want to say like the fourth time I have been here because I have been lucky enough to be on teams that were in the playoffs.”
      Obviously, Spagnuolo and the Rams weren’t so fortunate this season but that doesn’t mean he’s upset about coming to Mobile to get acquainted with some of the players in this year’s draft class.
      Last week, Spagnuolo hit the one-year mark of his tenure as the head coach of the Rams. A lot has changed in that time.
      At last year’s Senior Bowl, Spagnuolo was holed up in a room at the Renaissance Battle House Hotel interviewing candidates for various spots on his coaching staff. He attended no practices and got no feel for any of the players in attendance at last year’s game.
      This year, Spagnuolo has had to, in some ways, re-learn the Senior Bowl process.
      In the early days of the week, Spagnuolo sat anonymously with the NFL masses in the stands next to General Manager Billy Devaney. There, Spagnuolo picked Devaney’s brain about the players on the field in an effort to get to know some of them.
      After a couple of days of that, Spagnuolo spent Wednesday morning standing on the sideline with Pittsburgh coach Mike Tomlin and his trusty pencil and notebook in hand.
      “I was picking his brain a little bit about his first couple of years and time as a defensive coordinator so we shared some thoughts there but we both stood there and said ‘You do realize we keep moving with the defensive guys,’” Spagnuolo said, laughing. “We do have our eyes on everyone, though.”
      Although the Spagnuolo and his staff were offered the opportunity to be one of the coaching staffs here this week, the invitation was declined. Detroit is coaching the North team while Miami is coaching the South squad.
      Spagnuolo said he put a lot of thought into the decision but ultimately didn’t feel like the time was right for his staff to take on the task.
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      -01-27-2010, 07:44 PM
    • RamWraith
      Rams coach is learning on the job
      Registered User
      by RamWraith
      By Jim Thomas
      Friday, Feb. 13 2009
      Steve Spagnuolo hit the ground running Jan. 17 when hired as the Rams' coach.
      Nearly four weeks later, he hasn't stopped. If he were a basketball player,
      he'd be referred to as a gym rat, because he hasn't been out in the sun much.

      Quite frankly, his new job has been overwhelming at times.

      "Yeah. But a good overwhelming," Spagnuolo said. "One of those overwhelming
      things you want to have happen to you. … We're just kind of chipping away as we
      go. And there's so many elements.

      "Free agency. College draft picks. Trying to put your schemes together.
      Learning the building. I keep on trying to meet everybody face to face in the
      building, so that's kind of ongoing. And trying to make sure my wife doesn't
      leave me."

      But at least he's got his coaching staff together. It's 20 members strong, if
      you include Spagnuolo. And the process of putting it together, Spagnuolo now
      admits, was tougher than he thought.

      "In your mind, you think things are going to fall a certain way," he said. "We
      all do it as coaches — you always dream of the day you're in this position. You
      hope to hire this person, that person. There's just a lot more to it. I learned
      that quickly and kind of tried to dance my way around. I'm sure I didn't do
      everything right. But I tried to limit the mistakes, I guess."

      Spagnuolo, hired by the Rams after two highly successful seasons as defensive
      coordinator for the New York Giants, has assembled a staff he knows. He makes
      no apologies for it. It was by design.

      "What I tried to do as a model, and I think we kept to it pretty much, was if I
      hadn't known somebody personally or worked with them, what I tried to do was
      have it just be one person removed," Spagnuolo said.

      So if Spagnulo didn't know a coaching candidate personally, he had somebody
      already on his staff who did.

      "As I look around the staff, that pretty much held true," he said. "That either
      somebody on the staff had worked with that person, or I had worked with them.
      What we were looking for — the whole model for all of the staff — was to get
      great teachers, high-character (people). And the only way to really know how
      somebody teaches is to see 'em in action."

      On Thursday, Spagnuolo formally introduced his three coordinators: Pat Shurmur
      (offense), Ken Flajole (defense) and Tom McMahon (special teams).

      Spagnuolo also clarified the job descriptions of three coaches who when hired
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      -02-13-2009, 05:23 AM
    • RamWraith
      Spagnuolo brings intensity to the job
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      by RamWraith
      By Jeff Gordon
      Monday, Jan. 19 2009
      As head coach of the Rams, former Dolphins offensive coordinator Scott Linehan
      was in well over his head.

      That became evident almost immediately. Linehan’s introductory news conference
      was a vanilla presentation. His regime started out vanilla . . . and then went
      sour as the losses mounted. He lacked the wherewithal to lead the whole group.

      Naturally, some fans were worried that Giants defensive coordinator Steve
      Spagnuolo could have similar issues making the transition to head coaching.

      Spagnuolo, though, harbors no such concerns and projects no such weakness.

      For 27 years he prepared for this opportunity. He has turned down other
      head-coaching opportunities and he only took this one because he believed it
      would work.

      From the look of things, Spagnuolo seems more than ready to take on this
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      “You just feel down deep, as a confident person, that this is the next step,”
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      Spagnuolo has coached groups of players at a position. He has coached an entire
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      “To me, only because I have a lot of confidence in myself, I believe it is a
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      Spagnuolo is not an imposing figure. He and Rams general manager Billy Devaney
      traded short jokes during their initial media session together. They go way
      back together, from their time with the Washington Redskins.

      Their mutual comfort makes them a natural football team. (This is more than
      they can say from their days as a basketball tandem, getting handled in pick-up
      games by their Redskin colleagues.)

      But Spagnuolo’s intensity is obvious. The man speaks directly. He has a quality
      glare. He didn’t offer elaborate thoughts about his plans for the team, but he
      spelled out his priorities clearly.

      “Quite simply stated, team first,” he said. "It will always be about the team.
      Nobody cares who gets the credit. It begins and starts there.”

      If you’ve watched the Giants play, you’ve seen his defense. He brought the
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      He won’t have the talent he had in Philly and New York, at least not initially,
      but he will bring the principles that worked elsewhere.

      The offense won’t be anything fancy.

      “Offenses get tagged,” Spagnuolo said. “You have the West Coast, you have this
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      -01-19-2009, 04:29 PM
    • RamWraith
      Spagnuolo Sets the Course
      Registered User
      by RamWraith
      Monday, January 19, 2009

      By Nick Wagoner
      Senior Writer

      Steve and Maria Spagnuolo call it divine intervention, some might say it was a simple twist of fate but through no intent of their own, the Spagnuolos were married at the world’s most famous Catholic destination four years ago.

      The trip to Italy for a wedding had come as planned. When the pair had decided to get married, they had decided they didn’t want a big, fancy wedding. In fact, they wanted to get away to the country of their respective heritages.

      So with much careful thought and planning, the couple opted to have the wedding in Italy. They wanted a simple ceremony in a Catholic church in Rome.

      For their marriage to be acknowledged in the United States, there were plenty of obstacles including enough paperwork to put Mead out of business.

      “Believe it or not, if you try to get married in another country, you talk about paperwork,” Spagnuolo said. “This paperwork around here is nothing.”

      Indeed, the task of getting married in Rome proved too difficult and the Spagnuolos had to call an off the field audible.

      As it turned out, that audible was as successful as any defensive call the Rams’ new head coach made in his two years as the wildly successful defensive coordinator of the New York Giants.

      In his research of the various wedding opportunities in Italy, Spagnuolo recalled a rule that allowed for people to skip some of the inane paperwork and be married. Of course, to do this, the couple had to go through the easy task of getting married at the Vatican.

      Sure, Vatican City is a country unto itself and was governed by its own rules but for most couples hoping to wed there, the nuptials were planned at least two years in advance.

      “We are talking about the Vatican but this is my simple mind,” Spagnuolo said. “If you walk in the main basilica is right there but there are eight chapels, four on one side and four on the other. I’m saying to myself well how hard can it be? Just throw us in one of those chapels.”

      Easier said than done. The Vatican only allows for two marriages a day, one at 10:30 a.m. and the other at 4 p.m. every day except Sunday.

      Fortunately for the Spagnuolos, a priest who had worked with Steve with the Eagles in Philadelphia had relocated and had connections at the Vatican.

      After forking over $200 for a best man and maid of honor to serve as witnesses, the Spagnuolos tied the knot.

      “That was an act of God, divine intervention,” Spagnuolo said.


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      -01-20-2009, 05:30 AM
    • eldfan
      Spagnuolo is ready to 'beg, borrow, steal'
      Registered User
      by eldfan
      Spagnuolo is ready to 'beg, borrow, steal'
      By Jim Thomas

      Coach Steve Spagnuolo hadn't even reached his seat at Thursday's greet-and-meet with the media when he issued a cautionary note about the status of his first Rams playbook.

      "We're still working on the scheme," he said. " I know there's going to be thoughts: 'What are we going to do? What are we going to do on offense? What are we going to do on defense?'"

      For now, Spagnuolo has more pressing things on his plate, most notably the start of the free-agency period in less than two weeks, and the NFL Scouting Combine next week in Indianapolis.

      The Rams also must make some tough decisions on their own personnel.

      Who to keep? Who to cut? Who to restructure? That process started Friday with the release of veteran strong safety Corey Chavous.

      Even so, most Rams fans and media already have an idea of what Spagnuolo stands for defensively. As defensive coordinator for the New York Giants the past two seasons, Spagnuolo orchestrated aggressive, hard-nosed units. He wasn't afraid to take chances, and he certainly wasn't afraid to blitz.

      "You'll see that in the defense," Spagnuolo said. "But one of the good things about hiring a new staff is there's a lot of other ideas that come into play. So I certainly don't think that we had all the answers in New York."

      It just looked that way much of the time, particularly in last year's Super Bowl, in which the Giants stymied the potent New England offense for a stunning upset.

      Nonetheless, Spagnuolo added, "You beg, borrow and steal. Now we can just beg, borrow and steal, and do it officially (from the members of his newly assembled coaching staff). That's all you do in the league is you steal good ideas from other people. That's what we're doing."

      For example, new Rams defensive coordinator Ken Flajole was part of the highly successful Carolina defense before coming to St. Louis. Spagnuolo is an unabashed admirer of Carolina's defensive-oriented head coach, John Fox. So it wouldn't be surprising to see the Rams add a few wrinkles from the Panthers' defensive playbook.

      On the other side of the ball, new offensive coordinator Pat Shurmur comes from the "West Coast" scheme of the Philadelphia Eagles. When the casual fan thinks of the West Coast offense, it's easy to fall into the trap of thinking: pass first, then run.

      And that doesn't seem to mesh exactly with Spagnuolo's stated desire for an aggressive running game.

      "Philosophically, Coach Spagnuolo and myself, we're very similar," Shurmur said. "The Rams' offense is going to be a team that can run the football. We're going to make an effort to run the football, and protect the quarterback when...
      -02-16-2009, 12:46 PM