Steve Spagnuolo: Was His Hiring Right Move For New York Giants?


With the recent hiring of Steve Spagnuolo as defensive coordinator, New York Giants fans are very happy. They seem to appreciate Spags for his work in 2007-08, marked by the victory against the undefeated New England Patriots in SuperBowl XLII. Yet they don’t seem to care about what he did from 2009 up until now. To refresh your memory, Spags went 10-38 with the St. Louis Rams as head coach and led a historically bad New Orleans Saints defense in 2012.

Are we supposed to just “forget” all of this and be happy with the hiring of Spagnuolo? Or do we need to take the hiring with a grain of salt?

More from Empire Writes Back

The highlights of Spagnuolo’s first stint as defensive coordinator of the Giants included the fear and dominance that the defense exerted against opponents. They led the league in sacks prior to the SuperBowl victory, and were a force to be reckoned with. But how much of this was Spags’s doing? It surely helped that Michael Strahan and Osi Umenyiora were on the team, but to be fair, we still have to give Spags credit for coaching them up and creating good game plans.

While his value was high following the 12-4 record one season after the Super Bowl, he left to become the head coach of the Rams. He got off to a rough start, going 1-15 in his first season, and finished with a four year record of 10-38. His record may not have shown, but Spags was still a good defensive mind.

After choosing to become the defensive coordinator of the New Orleans Saints over the Philadelphia Eagles, the Saints subsequently went on to be the worst defense of all time. They allowed 7,042 yards, surpassing the 1981 Baltimore Colts for the most yards allowed in a season.  From this, it looked like Spagnuolo had lost his touch with the defense, and needed to build up his rep again.  He went on to join the Ravens and worked with their defense, until the Giants called.

But now, what makes Spagnuolo so loved by Giants fans yet former DC Perry Fewell so disliked by fans?

A large part of this has to do with the way the defense played before each of them “left”. Spagnuolo had gone out on a high note, with the Giants winning the Super Bowl and following that up with a 12-4 season. Fewell, though he had also won a Super Bowl, was on the decline. Ever since 2011, the Giants defense had been getting worse every year.

Fewell’s decline was largely influenced by the baffling amount of injuries the Giants were hit with. Every NFL team deals with injuries, but the 2014 Giants seemed to be extremely unlucky. Their offseason was highlighted by bolstering their secondary, signing shutdown corner Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie and slot corner Walter Thurmond.

DRC was hurt for most of the season, and his production suffered as a result. His performance was not on par with his work with the Denver Broncos in 2013, but gutted through injuries as he was the only remaining cornerback the Giants had in their top four when the season started. Thurmond, a top slot corner, was placed on IR after suffering a torn pectoral muscle. His replacement, Trumaine McBride also suffered a season ending injury. The rising stud Prince Amukamara suffered a torn biceps and was also done for the season; Amukamara was having the best season of his career prior to the injury.

With their entire secondary being depleted, the Giants had a tough time covering opposing receivers. In today’s NFL, it is nearly impossible to win in a passing heavy league without a decent secondary. Their front seven was not able to apply much pressure to opposing quarterbacks, and the loss of leader Jon Beason at linebacker also hurt. As the defensive coordinator, Fewell was taking major heat from the New York fans, which may have eventually led to his firing.

Dec 14, 2014; East Rutherford, NJ, USA; New York Giants head coach Tom Coughlin (left) and defensive coordinator Perry Fewell (right) coach against the Washington Redskins during the second quarter of a game at MetLife Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports

There may have been things Fewell could have done better, such as in-game adjustments, but he was still loved and respected by the Giants players. A year earlier, owner John Mara had publicly declared the Giants offense “broken”, and this year it seemed like he would do the same to the defense. However, he publicly stated that any changes in staff would be at head coach Tom Coughlin’s discretion. Coughlin went on to let go of Fewell (probably at the suggestion of Mara) and hired Spagnuolo. The hiring of Spags so quickly shocked me a little.

They interviewed Raheem Morris, Dennis Allen, Pepper Johnson, along with fan-favorite Spagnuolo. However, I was surprised that they had not interviewed ex-Buffalo Bill defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz. Agreed, he may not have done Giant-like things while he was with the Bills (like asking his players to carry him off the field against his fromer team, the Detroit Lions) but he was still a sharp defensive mind; the Bills had the fourth best defense in the league under Schwartz’s watch.

More from New York Giants

Yes, the Bills have a fearsome defensive line, but we have to remember that they were playing without their top linebacker Kiko Alonso, who had a breakout season the year before. If I were in charge, I would have at least given Schwartz an interview before rushing to hire Spags.

Riddled by the injury bug, 2014 marked the end of Fewell’s run with the Giants, and 2015 marked the (new) beginning of Spagnuolo’s. Though we have no idea if Spagnuolo’s previous success with the Giants will translate to this coming season, we do know that he has the overwhelming support of the fan base. If Spagnuolo constructs a formidable defense next season, it will be interesting to see whether he or McAdoo would have the leg up on the Giants head coaching job shall Coughlin decide to retire.

Next: Who Were the Top 25 Athletes in New York Last Year