The New York Giants have reportedly denied permission for the Philadelphia Eagles to speak with Steve Spagnuolo about their vacant defensive coordinator position. Another report indicated Spagnuolo is "not likely" to leave the Giants. Thus, while the Giants have not officially made an announcement, it would seem almost certain that Spagnuolo will be back for a second season in charge of the Giants' defense in 2016.
Why did new Eagles' coach Doug Pederson apparently want to pry Spagnuolo away from Ben McAdoo and the Giants in the first place? The @BigBlueView Twitter timeline and the comments here are Big Blue View are filled with questions about that, and with plenty of "he stinks, let him go" sentiment as well.
Let's talk about that.
After leaving the Giants following the 2008 season, Spagnuolo compiled a miserable 10-38 record as head coach of the St. Louis Rams. No one should hold that against him. The Rams had gone 5-27 the two seasons prior to Spagnuolo's tenure and haven't had a winning season in the four years since he was fired. So, no one else is having any success with them, either. Besides, lots of outstanding coordinators never cut it as head coaches.
Of more importance are Spagnuolo's last two tenures as a defensive coordinator. In 2012, Spagnuolo coordinated the worst defense in league history as his New Orleans Saints set the league record for most yardage allowed in a season. He left there in disgrace with some bitter players sniping at him about the way he treated them. Last season, Spagnuolo's Giants' defense didn't reach that level of ineptitude, but it was ranked as the worst in the league.
So, why are teams fighting over his services? Are McAdoo and Pederson, both with offensive backgrounds, clueless about defense? Of course not.
The biggest part of the answer is that NFL evaluators, and specifically those currently making decisions for the Giants and Eagles, likely see Spagnuolo as a really good coach who has been placed -- or maybe more accurately placed himself -- in some really horrible situations.
In New Orleans, Spagnuolo was there trying to pick up the pieces from Bounty-Gate. New Orleans head coach Sean Payton was suspended for the season. Spags was replacing the popular Gregg Williams, who had also been suspended for his leading role in the bounty-Gate mess. Let's see. No head coach. Trying to replace a coordinator players loved, and trying to run a different system on top of that. Hmmm. A recipe for disaster. And it was indeed a disaster.
Tom Coughlin brought Spagnuolo to New York last season hoping he could do something, anything, with a defense that was ineffective under the direction of Perry Fewell. Spagnuolo made it clear right away that he wasn't a miracle worker, that he didn't have the same player he had in 2007 and 2008 with the Giants, that he couldn't just snap his fingers and turn back the clock to the days of Giants' defensive dominance.
And he was right.
The Giants were awful on defense. They couldn't rush the passer. They couldn't cover tight ends or running backs. They couldn't stop the run. They couldn't tackle consistently. In short, they couldn't do anything well. Does that also mean that Spagnuolo was awful? Maybe, maybe not.
Jason Pierre-Paul missed half the year and played the other half with one hand. The team's best defensive tackle, Johnathan Hankins, missed half the season. Starting corner Prince Amukamara missed a bunch of games. Jon Beason played four games. Devon Kennard played nine. Because of those things the Giants linebackers were a vagabond, inadequate crew. Landon Collins played all season next to safeties who probably should no longer have been in the league. There was no depth at corner.
Spagnuolo never really had a chance. My hunch is no defensive coordinator could have done significantly better with the players Spagnuolo had to work with. Although it was a long time ago, Spagnuolo showed in his first tenure with the Giants that if you give him the talent he knows what to do with it. The Eagles and Giants apparently still believe that to be the case.
I tend to agree that Spags deserves one more shot to get things right with the Giants. Get him a more capable roster and give him a real chance. I believe the Giants would like young guys like Collins, Kennard, Odighizuwa, Bromley and others to grow without having to learn a new system right away. If it doesn't work, move on.
Your thoughts, Giants fans?