The day many of you have been waiting for has arrived, New York Giants fans. Steve Spagnuolo is expected to interview Wednesday for the Giants vacant defensive coordinator position, per multiple media reports.
Spagnuolo served as Giants defensive coordinator in 2007 and 2008 and is a fan favorite after helping the Giants win the 2007 Super Bowl while holding the previously unbeaten New England Patriots to 14 points. Many in the media have anointed Spagnuolo as the front-runner for the job.
That may be so. At the very least, Spagnuolo is a perfectly logical candidate for the Giants' current opening. Still, Spagnuolo has questions to answer before Tom Coughlin decides to bring him back for a return engagement.
When Coughlin plucked Spagnuolo from the Philadelphia Eagles in 2007 he was a little-known linebackers coach. He quickly established himself as a rising star ticketed for a head-coaching job.
Things are different this time around. Spagnuolo is no longer a rising star. Six seasons removed from his days with the Giants Spagnuolo is now a coaching retread with black marks on his resume that have to be satisfactorily explained before the Giants and Coughlin, facing a "win or else" season, hand over the defense to him.
Spagnuolo got the head-coaching job he seemed destined for in 2009, taking the reins of the St. Louis Rams. He went 10-38 in three seasons, however, and was criticized by some for "devoting too much time to the cosmetics of the job" and for not being able to build a functioning offense.
Spagnuolo, 55, became defensive coordinator of the New Orleans Saints in 2012, a position in which he may have been destined to fail from the beginning. That, of course, because 2012 was the season of Bounty-Gate, with head coach Sean Payton suspended and Spagnuolo having to replace popular coordinator Gregg Williams, whose actions were at the center of the controversy.
Spagnuolo's defense in New Orleans was historically bad, giving up an NFL record 7,042 yards. Worse, Spagnuolo left the Saints under a barrage of disturbing criticism, with a Saints player saying Spagnuolo was a "control freak" who treated players like "crap."
"Players have no say in anything," the player said. "It was (a) complete opposite from before where it was a simple D that players had lot of control and say. We couldn't suggest (expletive). ... Nothing ever changed. It was his way only." ...
"He does have that good-guy persona, but he is a control freak and treats people like crap," the player said. "(He) has no patience and zero personality.
"(He) has a way of pissing players and our defensive coaches off with how he says and does things. (I) think it's even harder after having (former defensive coordinator) Gregg (Williams), who guys enjoyed."
That's not the same guy ex-Giants who played for Spagnuolo in New York have openly campaigned for. Spagnuolo will likely have to satisfactorily answer for what went wrong in St. Louis and New Orleans, and show he has learned from the things he was criticized for, before earning a return engagement with the Giants.
Spagnuolo worked as a consultant with the Ravens in 2013 and was defensive backs coach in 2014. Baltimore coach John Harbaugh said Tuesday that Spagnuolo "deserves an opportunity" to interview with the Giants.
"Steve is a great coach. He's done a great job with the guys throughout the course of the season," Harbaugh said. "Obviously, a tremendously experienced coach. He's been a head coach, he's been a coordinator and that's not something that we would want to hold him back from as an opportunity. I don't know what's going to happen with that, but that's something he deserves an opportunity to look at."
Spagnuolo undoubtedly deserves the interview he will get with the Giants on Wednesday, and hiring him makes sense in many ways. Just because he succeeded once with the Giants does not, however, mean he would succeed again. The circumstances are different. The players are different. Spagnuolo himself may be different, his reputation having taken a lot of hits since he left the Giants.
ESPN's Dan Graziano wrote Tuesday that Spagnuolo is "clearly overqualified for his current job and clearly qualified for this job."
Both of those things are true. So, as mentioned earlier, is the notion that he is the fan's choice for the job. None of those things, however, mean he is the right choice for the job. He has to convince Coughlin and the Giants of that today.