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Spagnuolo Sees Different Senior Bowl

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  • Spagnuolo Sees Different Senior Bowl

    Wednesday, January 27, 2010
    By Nick Wagoner
    Senior Writer
    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.
    “I just felt like this year it was more advantageous for us not to do that,” Spagnuolo said. “That does not mean I am against doing it because there’s some advantages and disadvantages. I just kind of weighed it out and went that way. I think all in all, it was the right thing to do this year. I mean, you don’t always want to be getting asked because that’s not a good sign but certainly I think there are advantages and some disadvantages.”
    While a coaching staff does get an up close look at some of the players on the teams, learning how they work, their strengths, weaknesses and personalities, there are also some pratfalls to it.
    For one, if you coach one team, that means you don’t get any kind of feel for the other 53 players in attendance because you are constantly in meetings or practicing with the players on your team.
    Beyond that, it can also skew your thinking when it comes time to draft.
    “When you coach guys you tend to gravitate to those guys because you feel like you know more about them and yet you really have to see the whole volume of all of these players and evaluate them kind of at the same level,” Spagnuolo said. “That’s just one example. There are advantages too so it works both ways.”
    Of course, this week at the Senior Bowl hasn’t been all about getting his first taste of the college players in attendance.
    The Rams do have a couple of coaching staff openings though it’s nothing that will keep Spagnuolo cooped up in a hotel room this time around. Receivers coach Charlie Baggett left for a job with the University of Tennessee and assistant offensive line coach Art Valero left for the same position with the Seahawks.
    Although it’s not the most pressing need, Spagnuolo said he has talked to a couple of potential candidates for the receivers job and that one will take precedence in the search.
    “I am not going to do anything real sudden,” Spagnuolo said. “I want to make sure we do it right, get the right person for that position. There’s a 50/50 chance that we will actually replace Art’s spot. We are going to weigh that out right now and see where we go from there.”
    As for the possibility of bringing Rams legend and fan favorite Isaac Bruce on as receivers coach, Spagnuolo said it’s an idea he’s certainly open to though no contact has been made yet with the still yet to retire Bruce.
    “I have not talked to Isaac,” Spagnuolo said. “I don’t know him that well but I have heard so many great things about him as a person and I certainly know what he was like as a player. At some point, I will try to give him a call.”
    The offensive line could potentially be filled from within or at least the duties of helping line coach Steve Loney could be assigned to someone already on the staff should Spagnuolo, who wished Valero luck in his new job, opt not to make another hire

    Spagnuolo returned to St. Louis on Wednesday evening after watching the bulk of the South team’s afternoon workout. He will spend the next week or so chopping up the film from the Senior Bowl and continuing to look at potential free agents.
    “I do like coming down here,” Spagnuolo said. “Even today, I decided to do it on the field. I wanted to get down there. I like being on the field. I like being here because I get to be around these guys. It’s football.”
    For Spagnuolo, that beats sitting in a hotel room all day every time.

Related Topics


  • RamWraith
    Spagnuolo's Staff Hard at Work
    by RamWraith
    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...
    -02-13-2009, 04:23 AM
  • r8rh8rmike
    Spagnuolo In No Hurry To Hire QB Coach
    by r8rh8rmike
    Spagnuolo in no hurry to hire QB coach

    Thursday, January 27, 2011 12:20 am

    MOBILE, ALA. — Although it's still possible that new offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels could end up serving the dual role of quarterback coach, it sounds like Steve Spagnuolo is leaning toward adding a new QB coach to replace the retired Richard Curl.

    Spagnuolo said no quarterback coach candidates have been interviewed, but added, "I have some names. We'll probably start having to bring some people into St. Louis. But we're in no real rush. We want to get the right guy, and I want Josh to feel good about him, too, and the rest of the staff."

    Spagnuolo spoke Wednesday in the corner of an end zone at Ladd-Peebles Stadium after the North squad's Senior Bowl practice. Spagnuolo left later in the day for St. Louis and will meet with McDaniels on the QB coach topic today. He hasn't seen a lot of McDaniels since hiring him last week.

    "He was only in last Friday (at Rams Park) and I was letting him get settled," Spagnuolo said.

    McDaniels then went back to Denver for the weekend, returning to St. Louis on Sunday. But while Spagnuolo headed for Mobile early Monday morning, McDaniels stayed back in St. Louis getting organized.

    "I want to get back there and sit down with Josh," Spagnuolo said. "We've got to hone in on (the quarterback coach). Josh has done it both ways as a coordinator. Josh has had a quarterback coach, and has not had one. He'll still have a lot to do with the quarterback even if we do have a quarterback coach."

    As he prepares for his third season as Rams head coach, Spagnuolo made attending the Senior Bowl optional for his staff this year. Those who felt they might get more work down looking at tape and working on other projects stayed back in St. Louis. But several coaches made the trek to Mobile, including offensive line coach Steve Loney, defensive line coach Brendan Daly and linebackers coach Paul Ferraro.

    In addition, general manager Billy Devaney, vice president of player personnel Mike Williams, executive vice president of football operations Kevin Demoff, and the Rams' scouting department have been here in force.

    Most scouts and coaches watch Senior Bowl practices from the stands, but Spagnuolo is down on the field and eavesdrops.

    "I always try to size up the guys and see what they look like because we won't get to physically see them again until the (scouting) combine," Spagnuolo said. "And sometimes you don't get to everybody there. I like being here. I like being outside. I like being around football. You know how that is."

    Spagnuolo studies the body language of players. How do they interact with their teammates? How do they take to coaching? How do they react after a bad play?

    -01-27-2011, 05:55 PM
  • RamWraith
    Spagnuolo Sets the Course
    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.


    Growing up in Whitinsville, Mass., just outside of Boston, Spagnuolo was one of five children to mother Carol.

    From an early age, Spagnuolo was pretty much the All American kid. He loved sports, playing quarterback on the football team, second base...
    -01-20-2009, 04:30 AM
  • RamDez
    Spagnuolo Set for First Draft as Head Coach
    by RamDez
    Tuesday, April 21, 2009

    By Nick Wagoner
    Senior Writer

    Only days before his first NFL Draft as a head coach, Steve Spagnuolo has been doing a lot of the same thing he has done for most of the time since he was named the leader of the Rams.
    That means, much like when he was interviewing potential coaches for his staff or looking at free agents, Spagnuolo has been neck deep in meetings. Position by position, Spagnuolo has sat in on every pre-draft meeting with scouts, assistant coaches and general manager Billy Devaney.
    Like the rest of the offseason, it’s been something of an exercise in tedium.
    “It’s been a grind but it’s been a wonderful grind,” Spagnuolo said. “That’s the best way to describe it. It is a grind. I have been used to it. I have seen guys go through it and with Andy (Reid) and Tom (Coughlin) they have gone through it. I know how they have done it, the ways they have done it. I have tried to do the same thing because you learn from people who you work with. I am enjoying it. Every day is filled. I can guarantee you that. My poor wife has had to do all of the unpacking of boxes. I haven’t done any of that yet. God bless her, I tell you.”
    The Rams’ increased emphasis on getting as much input as possible from the scouting staff as well as the coaching staff has made Spagnuolo’s presence as important as anyone’s.
    Soon after his being named head coach in January, Spagnuolo met with the scouts at the Senior Bowl in Mobile, Ala. Part of that process was intended to help give them an idea of what type of players will fit in to his vision for what the team would be like going forward.
    General manager Billy Devaney said that process was relatively pain free and the scouting staff was able to adapt quickly to figuring out what type of players would fit the mold of what Spagnuolo was looking for.
    In truth, there wasn’t a big difference between Spagnuolo’s ideas and what Devaney had already instilled.
    “It’s been tweaked a little bit, position specifics have been changed a little bit, but again the scouts have done a great job adjusting on the fly,” Devaney said. “Remember, they were out in August, September and October looking at players and evaluating players geared for a certain scheme and different coaches. So, they’ve had to, kind of in their mind when we came in for these meetings go back and when we got into the meetings and started talking about these players, we had to kind of preface by saying, not all the time, but in certain cases. You know what, I liked this guy a couple months ago, but for what we’re talking about right now, this guy’s going to play, we acknowledge that, but he’s not exactly what we’re looking for. So, it’s been a little bit of an adjustment, but again, I think the scouts have done a tremendous job of adjusting it on the fly.”
    The events of the past few months have also helped Spagnuolo get used to looking at the big picture...
    -04-22-2009, 12:30 AM
  • RamWraith
    Rams minicamp with a plan
    by RamWraith
    BY Jim Thomas
    Thursday, Apr. 02 2009
    For Steve Spagnuolo, it's never too early to look for leaders. His first
    minicamp as Rams head coach is as good a time to start as any.

    "We'll try to identify those leaders on our team, and hopefully, they'll step
    to the forefront in those tough times that you know you're going to have — no
    matter what team — in a 16-game season," Spagnuolo said. "I remember vividly
    going through it in Philadelphia. And I remember Brian Dawkins and Jeremiah
    Trotter, Donovan McNabb at a certain point in the season deciding that, 'Hey
    guys.' ... They did little things with the other players. Very unseen things,
    but it made a big difference."

    There certainly is a leadership void to be filled with the 2009 Rams. Veterans
    Torry Holt, Orlando Pace, Corey Chavous and Trent Green have been released.
    Other veterans, such as La'Roi Glover and Dane Looker, are free agents who have
    not been re-signed by the club. (The Rams may revisit signing Looker after the

    "I believe that the underlying leaders surface once there's no leadership in
    front of them," Spagnuolo said. "Hopefully, there's some undiscovered secret
    leaders on this roster right now."

    Perhaps it's newly re-signed cornerback Ron Bartell. New center Jason Brown. Or
    safety Oshiomogho Atogwe.

    But over the course of five minicamp practices over the next three days at Rams
    Park, Spagnuolo will be looking for leaders. (The Rams practice twice today,
    twice Friday, and once Saturday.)

    "You'll look to see which guys jump in front (of the lines), which guys are
    encouraging other people," Spagnuolo said. "When I'm sitting in the back of the
    meetings, I'm going to be looking for who's taking notes — actually sitting and
    writing notes. The best players that I've worked with are great note-takers."

    During his decade of coaching in the NFL, Spagnuolo has observed that the
    players who are meticulous in their preparation are the ones who last the
    longest in the league.

    "Because they've figured it out — that it's as much from the chin to the
    hairline as it is anything that they do with their body," Spagnuolo said.

    In trying to foster an atmosphere of togetherness and teamwork, Spagnuolo said
    leadership has to come from several sources.

    "No matter what, it's never going to be about one person," Spagnuolo said.
    "It's always going to be about the makeup of the whole team. Sometimes I think
    we all make mistakes when we focus on one position. We know the glory position
    and the one that's out in the forefront is the quarterback position, but...
    -04-02-2009, 04:12 AM