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Former NY Giants give Steve Spagnuolo endorsement on potential return to Big Blue


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The Giants had spent the 2007 season turning their defense into a work of art, building it from scratch and riding it to Super Bowl XLII. It worked at times to perfection.

So of course, early in that game against the New England Patriots, Steve Spagnuolo changed it all up.


All it took was one drive in one quarter for “Spags” — then the defensive coordinator — to see what he designed wasn’t going to work. So after a season of calling for blitzes from the strong side with Aaron Ross and Antonio Pierce, he flipped it and called them from the weak side with linebacker Kawika Mitchell and a safety.

The Patriots, almost immediately, found themselves overwhelmed.


“That takes a lot of balls for a coordinator to do — especially in the Super Bowl,” Pierce recalled to the Daily News. “And especially when we hadn’t practiced it at all.”

That, though, was part of the genius of perhaps the best and certainly the most popular defensive coordinator the Giants have had since the Bill Belichick era. And it’s why Pierce calls it “a no-brainer” for Tom Coughlin to bring Spagnuolo back to his old job as Perry Fewell’s replacement — and why many of his former teammates agree.


“I never have really met anyone quite like him in regards to what he was able to do and the things he would do on the fly,” defensive end Osi Umenyiora told The News. “It was crazy. You’d come in with a game plan and something wouldn’t be going right or something we were doing was getting shredded, and he’d literally — right there on the sideline — come up with something different.”


“He’s perfect for a lot of reasons,” Pierce added. “When I think about what the Giants need, they need a pulse. You need someone that when they talk, guys respond.”

Far too often the Giants didn’t seem to respond in their five years under Fewell. And even though players seemed to genuinely like him and were fine with his scheme, they often hinted a frustration that he was unwilling to adjust. More often than not — especially this season — Fewell would call defenses, coverages or blitzes that simply didn’t work, but he would stubbornly stick with them even as opposing teams were mounting comebacks.


Spagnuolo, now the defensive backs coach with the Baltimore Ravens and a candidate for the Giants job, could change all that with his creative, aggressive approach to teaching defense. And it’s not just about his in-game adjustments. It’s about how he knew how to get the best out of his players, and when things were going wrong, he knew just what to do to turn everything around.


“You’d see him on the sidelines just sitting there, thinking,” Umenyiora said. “Then he’d just come up with something and he’d bring us all together, pull out that board, draw something up and say ‘Here’s what we’re going to do.’ He is brilliant.”


“It was also about what he did throughout those years with matchups,” Pierce said. “As great a year as (Justin) Tuck had (in 2007), a lot of it was created by matchups. He knew how to put our best players on their worst, instead of just saying ‘right’ (side) or ‘left’.


“And Spags brought energy. Today’s a different game. Guys are not motivated for the same reason. You’ve got to have a coach that will get guys going. And when you’re getting your (butt) kicked, sometimes you need to do something different.”


Those were the things Spagnuolo was known for in New York, although he never was able to continue that success elsewhere. He was a failure as head coach of the St. Louis Rams from 2009-11. And his one year as the New Orleans Saints defensive coordinator (2012) was a disaster, in which his defense set an NFL record by giving up 440.1 yards per game.


Then, when he was fired after that season, several anonymous players ripped him and his scheme on his way out the door.

Of course, that was also the BountyGate year during which Saints head coach Sean Payton was suspended for the season, along with defensive end Will Smith (four games) and linebacker Jonathan Vilma (full season).


“You can’t go by that,” Pierce said. “He got dealt a bad hand in New Orleans.

“He had a lot of things going on. And when they looked like a mess the first few weeks, they never had a guy (in the lineup) to get it going.”

With the Giants, Pierce said, “The young pass rushers are there, the pieces are there” for them to bounce back from being the NFL’s 29th-ranked defense. What they need, Pierce said, is “a jolt.” They need a coach who can make the players truly believe in what he’s teaching.


“I remember things weren’t going well (in 2007),” Umenyiora recalled. “He said ‘This is what I do. This is what I’ve done. This system works. We just have to stay together.’


He didn’t yell, he didn’t scream, even when (the media) was calling us the worst defense in the NFL, he just kept saying ‘It’ll work.’ ”

It certainly did. And his former players believe it can work again.

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So who am I to believe. I distinctly remember members of the 2007-2008 Giants defenses tell the media that Spags would be a great listener and change stuff on the fly because that is what the players on the field were seeing.


Also, Spags had some awesome talent on the defensive line in 2007 and practically a coach on the field in Pierce but his secondary was dogshit. He was able to win a playoff game against the Cowboys with R.W. McQuarters, Corey Webster and a dude named Geoff Pope at corner. But stop the crap where he had some "great talent" to work with in 2008. He didn't have Osi, Strahan. He did have a career year out of Justin Tuck and one of the most underrated Giants ever in Fred Robbins. Pierce was on the decline athletically at that point and I think Chase Blackburn and Danny Clark were the guys flanking him.


He did have some great secondary play, especially from Webster who was a shutdown corner that year.


Spags took personnel from a Tim Lewis defense that was used improperly and fixed it. What's to say he can't do it again?

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Please no more back to the future... when we resurrect Strahan and Osi in their prime then Spags can come back.

:laugh: I never had a problem with Spags......but we had some damn good players in those days. then again, he's better that what we had.

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I'm telling you if he comes back we are going to have a top 10 defense. And, after a season or two, perennial top 5 defenses. I really believe he is one of the best coaches in the NFL. He has 5 times the fire in bis belly than PF.


I don't know about all that, but I'd definitely take him over every coordinator we've had since he left.

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Seems he's coming in for an interview...curious as to the timeframe for the Giants to come to a decision. Between Morris, Johnson, and Spagnuolo...I think you have a decent pool to choose from. Not sure they want to wait for any of the active coordinators/coaches/assistants before making a decision. Then again, the line of teams looking at Morris, Johnson and Spags doesn't appear to be all that long.

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Please no more back to the future... when we resurrect Strahan and Osi in their prime then Spags can come back.

Spags had neither in 2008 and our D was sick that year. Spags doesn't try to pound a square piece into a round hole. He uses what he has to its greatest potential. Back in 2007 look at what he had to work with in the secondary. The guy is s great D coordinator. I have no idea why anyone would not want him back.

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