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Giants’ interim coach Steve Spagnuolo prayed Ben McAdoo wouldn’t be fired

Spagnuolo “honored” to take over as head coach

New York Giants v San Francisco 49ers Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images

After conducting his first practice as New York Giants head coach, Steve Spagnuolo admitted it was a day he had thought about previously. If fact, he interviewed for the job when it was given to Ben McAdoo in 2016. Spagnuolo, though, hasn’t fully processed the idea that he is now head coach of the Giants.

“I don’t know that it’s all caught up to me yet. I’m not going to lie, in the past I had thought about this but because of how fast it’s all happened I don’t know that -- I haven’t thought that way,” he said Wednesday after conducting his first practice.

“I prayed Monday morning that it wouldn’t happen. That’s OK. This is where we’re at. I’m honored to do it.”

Spagnuolo said he had a “hard conversation” on Monday with McAdoo.

“The first thing I want to say or convey is how much respect I have for Ben and what he did here as head football coach,” Spagnuolo said. “I feel personally we let him down as a team and part of that failure was me, so it’s really hard for me to stand here in the position I’m in right now.

“I’m honored that ownership asked me to do this. I will give it every ounce of energy that I have.”

Spagnuolo had Frank Sinatra’s ‘That’s Life’ blaring from Quest Diagnostics Training Center speakers when stretching began

“You noticed the Sinatra song? I just wanted to see if the players would know who that was,” he joked. “Some did, some did not.”

After helping the Giants win a Super Bowl and building one of the best defenses in the NFL in 2007 and 2008, Spagnuolo left to become St. Louis Rams head coach.

That didn’t go very well, as Spagnuolo’s team went 10-38 before he was fired after three seasons. Spagnuolo was coordinator of the worst defensive unit in NFL with the New Orleans Saints in 2012. This season has been emblematic of his second tour of duty with the Giants, some really good and some really bad.

Spagnuolo said he had a list he estimated as six typewritten pages that from his tenure in St. Louis showing what he thought he did wrong in St. Louis or would change if he ever got another head-coaching opportunity.

“Sometimes you learn more from failure than you do from success, I think everybody understands that,” Spagnuolo said. “This is a little different. It’s “boom.” It’s not have OTAs and training camp, so we’re going to improvise and adjust as we go, but I’m hoping all of that will help.”

Spagnuolo’s message to the team? Focus on winning games.

“one of the main focuses was asking the guys that when they come into the building, when they come to work, come to work expecting to win,” Spagnuolo said. “That’s how they should function. Forget about what has happened prior. Let’s just go forward coming in the building ready to work every day and expecting to win.

Spagnuolo said that he will manage as much of the defense as he can, and that secondary coach Dave Merritt will handle whatever duties he is unable to. That may included calling defensive plays on Sunday vs. the Cowboys. That’s a decision Spagnuolo said has yet to made.

Asked about the difficulty of calling the defense and running the team, Spagnuolo issued an answer that could have applied to McAdoo’s tenure as well anything he learned from his time in St. Louis.

“Any time you do something for the first time there’s bumps along the way,” he said. “There are certain things I could have done better and I think I will learn from that.”

Spagnuolo said Wednesday he is “not focused at all” on whether he will be able to keep the job long-term.

“I leave that in God’s hands,” he said. “I’ll be where he wants me to be, and right now he wants me to be here for this game and that’s how I’ll function. That’s as honest as I can be.”