The Steve Spagnuolo Question

A new name entered the public discussion about the Eagles’ defensive coordinator opening Thursday when the Saints fired Steve Spagnuolo.

Sean Payton explained that the Saints are moving to a 3-4. Of course, it didn’t help that New Orleans’ defense was terrible last year.

Andy Reid and the Eagles tried to hire Spagnuolo (in some capacity) last offseason, but he decided to go to the Saints. He spent eight seasons as an assistant in Philadelphia from 1999 to 2006 (quality control, defensive backs, linebackers). Spagnuolo was the Giants’ defensive coordinator in 2007 and 2008 before going to St. Louis. The Rams went 10-38 in three seasons under Spagnuolo’s direction.

So, the question is: Should the Eagles give him a serious look as defensive coordinator?

Chip Kelly has not made any official announcements on his staff. The thought this week in Mobile, Ala. was that they were giving consideration to a defensive assistant from the Super Bowl – specifically, 49ers defensive backs coach Ed Donatell. But again, nothing appeared to be set in stone.

Rick Minter and Bill McGovern are expected to be named to the defensive coaching staff. Both were at the Senior Bowl with Eagles credentials. But their roles are undefined.

Here is a look at how Spagnuolo’s defenses have performed in the last six seasons:

 
Team
Title
Scoring Defense Rank
Football Outsiders Rank
2007GiantsDefensive Coordinator1713
2008GiantsDefensive Coordinator58
2009RamsHead Coach3131
2010RamsHead Coach1219
2011RamsHead Coach2621
2012SaintsDefensive Coordinator3132

Spagnuolo did a great job with the Giants, but his defenses have struggled since. Of course, there’s more to it than just these rankings – personnel, injuries, etc.

One anonymous Saints player ripped Spagnuolo in an interview with the New Orleans Times-Picayune.

“He does have that good-guy persona, but he is a control freak and treats people like crap,” the player said. “(Spagnuolo 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.”

“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.

“Don’t even get me started on lack (of) ability to adjust during games. Bad, bad, bad.”

Of course, players have axes to grind with coaches all the time. As recently as last offseason, Spagnuolo was thought of highly within the Eagles’ organization.

But if Kelly wants to go to a 3-4, Spagnuolo wouldn’t fit. And even if he wants to stick with a 4-3, Kelly has to determine whether Spagnuolo would be the best option.

The other possibility is considering Spagnuolo for an advisory role or some other non-coordinator position.

Payton couldn’t make moves until he was re-instated, but given that many teams have already filled out their staffs, Spagnuolo’s options may be somewhat limited.

Follow Sheil Kapadia on Twitter and e-mail him at skapadia@phillymag.com.
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