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Dave Merritt, Steve Spagnuolo are on quite the ride

Sunday, the former Giants coaches and friends will be in their third Super Bowl together

Super Bowl 2020 - 49ers VS. Chiefs
Dave Merritt, far right, celebrating after Kansas City’s Super Bowl victory last season.
Tammy Ljungblad/Kansas City Star/Tribune News Service via Getty Images

The day after the Kansas City Chiefs defeated the Buffalo Bills to reach the Super Bowl for a second straight season, Dave Merritt meandered into defensive coordinator Steve Spagnuolo’s office and shut the door.

“I said Spags here we are again. We’re going back to another Super Bowl together and he he just started chuckling. It’s just so thrilling,” Merritt said via Zoom on Tuesday. “You stop and you think about the friends that you have in this business, which we all have associates, but those people that you can call your true friends I can probably put up one hand and start dropping fingers. Spags is one of those guys that I call a true friend and to be able to be here and to go through another experience with a Super Bowl with Spags has been unbelievable.”

Merritt, the Kansas City defensive backs coach, and Spagnuolo are riding a journey that begin with the Giants in 2007. Merritt was already the defensive backs coach on Tom Coughlin’s staff when Spagnuolo, whom he had known for about a half-dozen years, was named the team’s defensive coordinator.

The Giants won a Super Bowl in that first season he and Merritt were together. Merritt was still Giants’ defensive backs coach when Spagnuolo returned in 2015 for what would be a three-year stint.

It’s a vagabond business, though, and when Pat Shurmur became Giants’ head coach in 2018 the 49-year-old Merritt and Spagnuolo went their separate coaching ways.

When Spagnuolo became Chiefs’ defensive coordinator in 2019, he wanted Merritt on his staff. Only, Merritt had just taken the defensive backs coach job for Doug Marrone with the Jacksonville Jaguars.

“Spags and Andy Reid basically called to get me out of that contract to come here to Kansas City. I knew we had a special relationship before, but when he pulled that off I just knew then that Spags is a helluva man,” Merritt said.

“For him to be able to look at me as one of his guys that he needed here in Kansas City to help put this defense together I’m honored and I’m grateful for that.”

The offense gets most (well, really all) of the credit in Kansas City. Still, Spagnuolo’s defense has helped bring the Chiefs to the brink of back-to-back Super Bowl titles.

“Spags is a unique man. He doesn’t sleep much. He’s up late and he’s up early. They say you can’t burn it on both ends, but this man somehow he does it. He and Andy Reid. Special man.”

“I love him dearly, he and his wife, Maria, for what they’ve done for the Merritt family.”

Spagnuolo, Merritt and former Giants cornerback Sam Madison, an assistant to Merritt, bring a distinct New York flavor to the Kansas City defensive coaching staff.

“Being in a war room with him I know how he thinks, I know exactly how to approach him. I know what buttons to push and I know what buttons not to push, and he does the same for me,” Merritt said.

“The journey has been a wonderful journey for both of us in our career and I look forward to many, many years going forward.”