New York Giants linebacker Jonathan Casillas, the team’s defensive captain last year, was with Steve Spagnuolo in 2012 when Spagnuolo was coordinator of a historically awful New Orleans Saints’ defense. He was with Spags in 2015, when Spags was the coordinator and the Giants’ defense was atrocious.
Spagnuolo is still the coordinator, and the Giants’ defense is no longer awful. In fact, it is one of the best in the league. Largely, that’s because the Giants have far superior players than the ones Spagnuolo was handed in first year back with the Giants.
It was interesting then to listen to Casillas, who knows Spagnuolo as well as any member of the Giants’ defense, talk about the changes in the 57-year-old Spagnuolo. Basically, Casillas believes Spagnuolo has become a better listener.
“Spags, I think since his first year to now, I think he’s let his guard down a little bit. He’s let us, as the players, kind of dictate to him in what we like to do and what we’re comfortable with. I think the first year, I don’t know if that happened too much,” Casillas said. “In this offseason, I’ve seen it happen more times than not. Especially in training camp. Spags is definitely a guy that, he’s willing to listen to players and even the coaches underneath him to get certain things ironed out.
“There’s a lot of great offenses out there and all these offenses, they have certain plays to beat out defenses. And sometimes, it’s like even though we’re running it a certain way, if this play can expose us or expose or defense, we may have to manipulate it just a little bit. And Spags, he may not have been so open to it two years ago, but this year he’s definitely listening and prepared to make some differences, some changes, or what have you.”
Casillas said that’s about trust.
“I think it’s just trust. Just like any relationship that you have, over time you allow more things to happen because the trust factor’s there,” he said.
The last time media spoke to Spagnuolo was in the spring during mandatory mini-camp. He wasn’t asked directly about trusting players, but he did touch on the issue of knowing more about both his players and his position coaches.
“The first year in 2015 was a whole half-year process and then the people were changing with the interviews and everything. Last year we had a lot of new guys come in,” Spagnuolo said. “This is the first time in three years where the personnel has stayed somewhat the same and the scheme obviously is 90 percent the same, so there is some definite value to that.”