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:

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
Become a fan of Birds 24/7 on Facebook.

Around The Web

Be respectful of our online community and contribute to an engaging conversation. We reserve the right to ban impersonators and remove comments that contain personal attacks, threats, or profanity, or are flat-out offensive. By posting here, you are permitting Philadelphia magazine and Metro Corp. to edit and republish your comment in all media.

  • borntosuffer


  • Frank

    I don’t understand the hype this guy gets. He had one good year with the Giants in 2008, with a team stacked with good pass rushers. Every other season he’s had his defense has been mediocre to awful.

    With that record, I think it’s fair to say that the players in 2008 made him look like a better coach than he actually is.


    • I pointed out these same observations when the buzz was created under Andy for a Defensive Coordinator. But, there are some Eagles fans that love this guy.

  • Really, what has Spagnuolo accomplished in his last two positions that warrants any consideration for the new direction the Eagles have decided to undertake with the hiring of a college coach?

    Spagnuolo has not been impressive as a coordinator in his career, relative to the talent he inherited with the Giants. The truth of the matter is he benefited from that association more than the players who made that defense click. It’s obvious as coach of the Rams and Saints his defenses were underachieving. Let’s not start this ground swell again for Spagnuolo, there’s nothing in his recent resume to justify him being a serious candidate in Philly if we’re committed to a new direction.

    It seems to me with the hiring of the defensive coaches there is a D Coordinator firmly in place, all that remains is the naming.

    • Stephen Stempo

      I have to disagree with the idea that you need a DC in place to hire assistants. I think we as eagles fans have a bad taste in our mouth because of the washburn castillo paradigm. I believe that for the most part your D-assistants are generally just there to coach up the players not install a scheme. It’s not like when teams fire DC’s that they let the new DC bring in a whole new staff under him. Do we know how much input JJ had in the D- staff? I’m sure Chip has a DC in mind but im not sure it’s set in stone.

  • theycallmerob


  • PaoliBulldog

    Sean Payton’s first move after being reinstated was to fire Spagnuolo. ‘Nuff said.

  • metaReign

    He lost that Coach-Player connection, to controlling things he has no business instigating. He doesn’t seem to touch on how to relate to the personnel trust, there’s a difference between controlling and teaching.

    Eagles have a solid locker room, I’ll not have that ripped apart by a coach who can’t teach and expect to control by expecting personnel to respect him, whether than the other way around.

    “No personality”? My goodness, that has got to hurt his credibilities. Just hope he doesn’t have a wife and kids, what translates at work, can affect his private life. I am not saying that it is, but when a person falls deep into some low self-esteem, it tends to affect their private life more and lose the necessity to achieve specific work relationships and goals.

    Hope Howie can steer Chip away from Spag, he does not have anything attractive to bring to Kelly’s assistants. He’d be good to run his style of defense at the college level or his football coaching is behind him, either way he’s not a bad coach but it’s just not meant for him, at the moment. Maybe it be good to get some time away from it all and reflects on what his future holds for him.

    Sorry Spag, I think somewhere along the line you’ve become greedy, believing you could outdo your coaching abilities, among the rest. I really hope I’m very wrong, because you’ve been around AR long enough to understand what it takes to be at the helm of being an HC.

    • Gobirds1

      ‘Eagles have a solid locker room’. REALLY??? What Eagles team have you been following? It’s room full of delusional check cashers led astray by yours truely Mr. Andy Reid. All they have done is point fingers and say(words are cheap) they need leadership. Then step up and lead, somebody, anybody. The only player showing any kind of leadership was Foles, and that is saying a lot being a rookie backup QB.

      • metaReign

        Sorry you took it that way, I actually meant should Spag come in, I don’t want him to rip the locker room up, the way he did at N.O. Eagles locker room would be better off not having Spag there. So, yeah Eagles locker room are solid, makes me wonder which Eagles team you’ve been watching, perhaps a high school team that had no direction what’s so ever. Your suggestions seems to say that you’d want Spag back in Eagles camp, that’s your opinion and I’m cool with that.

        • GoBirds1

          I said nothing about wanting Spags, He has shown what he can do and it is not much. As for the Eagles, they are a disaster. Did you not watch our 4-12 team lose 11 out of the last 12 and were dominated in most of those games. This is after a weak 8-8 effort the year before. The FO is questionable at best, the talent is limited to a handful of players and the veteran leadership is non-existent. So what do we have – we are young with a promising but rookie NFL coach, and too many holes in our roster to count. We are going to need more than one good draft to be competitive again, that is just the reality after years of horrible drafts and otherwise questionable personnel decisions.

          • ICDogg

            The Eagles are not as big of a rebuilding project as you think. They have to dump some bad apples and bring in some fresh talent, but they aren’t bad across the board.

          • Gobirds1

            I tend to disagree. Where do you think the will get all this fresh talent. This isn’t college and you can recruit 100 players and field the best 22. Where are the eagles good. Running back and that is about it. Tell me what other positions are not surrounded by ifs, needs an upgrade or complete overhaul.

          • UKEagle99

            Errrr… Place kicker…

          • Graham

            You don’t think there’s a lot of talent? I shall disagree with you, sir.
            Let’s look at some position groups:
            Evan Mathis is the only Olineman that started all season, he’s been rated one of the top (ProFootballFocus) (some analysts I’ve heard call him the best) LG in the league.
            Jason Peters, last year had one of the best years of his career and again, many have said he is the best LT in the game. His performance proved that.
            WRs, Desean and Maclin are no doubt a lethal duo. Say what you want about their size, they have great speed, Maclin makes up for his less speed with great route running, the big garcon-like or Vjax-like WR isn’t there sure, but there’s tons of speed. Riley Cooper has played pretty well too… I don’t know where you don’t see talent in the WRs. Even rookie Demaris Johnson showed flashes of being a good elusive WR with good hands. Give them a solid QB who can play 16 games and consistently get them the ball (Like Flacco or Alex Smith or Dalton any other good mobile game manager), and see how they perform.
            LBs, I would say Kendricks and Ryans had great years in a year the was overshadowed with severe disappointment, especially Kendricks starting from day 1 as a rookie. Once Kendricks switched over to weakside at about week 12 or 13 he started playing much better, he’s no doubt staying there (if they stay 4-3 of course). And Ryans, 113 tackles, a sack and a pick speak for themself. If the NFC wasn’t so loaded with really good linebackers (Bowman, Willis, Fletcher), Ryans would be going to Hawaii.
            CBs, Boykin had a great rookie year as a slot corner, who knows if he moves outside. DRC has the talent, the tackling yes is a known issue, but if he can focus for a whole season (maybe not smoke so much ganja), he has potential to be a top cover corner again. Nnamdi I don’t even know what to say there, take a big pay cut or bye bye. Maybe Chip can get something out of him, who knows right? He preaches about fitting to personnel, and he’s and analytical genius, so that gives you an idea that there is a slight chance that he can be coached up or something and fit into the scheme based on determined strengths. He’s guaranteed 4M and if he stays he’s 15M against the cap, so I don’t see him staying unless he works it down to a 4-6M cap hit or something… or less.
            S I think we all know talent lacks there, Coleman and Allen won’t do….
            The Dline has the talent, of course they didn’t produce as expected this year and that’s the argument for you, but there’s no doubt that Brandon Graham and Fletcher Cox showed much promise toward end of season. Cox was a very good draft, versatility and dominant. Cullen Jenkins who knows what’s left of him, and TCole also, hopefully he can have a rebound year.
            As UKeagle said, the Place Kicker is very talented. Set a franchise record this season for most in a row, something like 25 – 30 I should know but I don’t…. the only reason he ended the streak was because he missed a 55 yarder at the end of the half late in the season, never would have kicked that 55 if it wasn’t the end of the half. Henery is one of the most accurate kickers in the league, his range is in the low to mid 50s tho I believe.
            RBs we both know how much talent is there. Brown can work on ball control all offseason and that duo could play very very well. ESPECIALLY IF PETERS, HERREMANS, (#4 OVERALL OT STUD, JOEKEL IF HE’S THERE), KELCE are all back healthy and back performing, will benefit the run game big time.
            The secondary is bad without a doubt, but many positions have lots of skill and are still quite young and eager to get better.
            I just don’t see where you don’t see talent. I think the only real positions that need rebuilding are QB and most of the secondary…
            Regardless have to wait and see what the coaching situation is. A whole new staff means a whole new team and scheme might show up next year, as we all sit and hope it is for the better, and not a big flop.
            There’s something about Chip that just gives good feelings on the future, whether it’s his obvious commitment and dedication, his personality, his analytics….. Again, hopefully it turns out for the better and he can successfully adapt his mind to the NFL…..


          • theycallmerob

            Graham, I’d love to agree with you, but for two years now we’ve heard how the talent is there, just not the results.
            The thing is, the results speak for themselves. I think at this point, until PROVEN otherwise, we can’t speak on talent and assume the players will play up to it. Unfortunately, with all that talent comes a lot of ego, and the erosion of Reid/Philly culture these last few years did this team in.
            In truth, we’re deepest on our O-line and have good RB’s. For now, that’s it. One good tight end, one big WR would immediately improve those situations, and a stud OLB would also shore up the front seven. In my eyes, at this point, our biggest concern is secondary.

          • Graham

            Agreed with you there.. completely. See the way I see it, the group as a whole has underperformed yes. for 2 years now. For quite a few positions though, like LB and Oline, it’s hard to argue that there isn’t talent there,
            Completely see what you’re saying, performance as a whole is well-under expectations. Also agree that a big WR is needed, like I said, Riley Cooper is a pretty reliable big guy, and this Marvin McNutt could develop, but doubtful. I think he’s a fifth round pick or something.
            When you say Oline and RBs are the only positions with talent, that’s where I don’t see it. DL and LBs have plenty of (young) talent. TEs are lacking, I didn’t even want to mention them, Secondary is just disgusting, that sort of magnifies other problems…. What if this new culture gets much more out of these guys? (What if it gets less?)…. very anxious for the answer.
            Completely agreed, the group has underperformed and it’s hard to pick talent out of it when that happens. But again, you can’t help but notice certain pro-bowl level talent that is throughout the positions. This is how I See it (kind of like above, shorter and revised):
            DL: who know’s until we know what scheme will be run. Cox and Graham are great, Tcole and Jenkins underperformed, but they have the pro-bowl talent.
            OL: One stud out of draft and this group could be very good, AGAIN, who knows how they will now play without Mudds scheme, will it be better or worse? Chip commands athleticism out of his Oline and they’re quite athletic, so that may benefit.
            LB: Kendricks and Ryans are very solid IMO, like u said need a strong side to shore up the LBs….. but other than that they are great unit that did perform this year.

            WRs agreed… need an addition there… but having Maclin and Jackson WITH A RELIABLE QB… they could produce well. QB has been so god damn inconsistent for 2 years now that it’s hard to judge talent at WR when they don’t have a reliable passer…. Who knows what kind of years they would have had if Smith or Flacco or Dalton or Rivers or Wilson or Luck was throwing to them….. So many unknowns that we will only find out when the season kicks off… I love it! the suspense
            Secondary is just gross. Simply put. DRC and Nnamdi might (hopefully) be salvageable, DRC might have too high a price tag in FA, and they might let him walk. whooooo knows
            All I’ve ever known is Andy, so this is quite exciting this offseason, as we all sit back and hope the change is for the better

          • GoBirds1

            you just undermined your own argument, I think you are a dope, dopey, or smoking too much of it…

          • Graham

            Undermined it? not really.
            I’d say I more revised it based on what theycallmerob argued. I like to consider everyone’s arguments and not be biased, I’m not one of those posters (and there are many on this site) that simply argue my opinion and not consider other’s thoughts.
            To say the only talent on the entire team is at RBs (like you did) is a little dopey. There are plenty of positions with talent and to say they don’t have talent just displays a complete lack of knowledge of the team and/or the game. I know you are a die hard, just as myself, and saying something like this would offend you. But come on, really? You think OL, DL, and LBs are all crap? Place Kicker? There is talent. The lack of talent at Secondary probably overshadows bright spots on the team..

          • GoBirds1

            See above reply. To buttress your position with Place Kicker is pretty weak, yet humorous. I am sure Kelly gave it a lot thought when deciding to come here and this massive pool of talent, he said thank God we have a PK!!! I think one of the reason he did come here is that this a rebuild project, Lurie knows it, and he will have the expectation and give Kelly the time to build his roster. Measured in years – not picks in a single draft.

          • Graham

            Good we can agree on PK!!!!

          • GoBirds1

            Deep on the O-line, what depth are you talking about? Did you see the replacements we had this past year, even are starters are questionable.

          • GoBirds1

            To answer your question, NO, I do not think there is much talent on
            this team. And lets get one thing straight, Kelly might be a great HC,
            but he is all about the O and that is fine, but his presence isn’t
            going to get anything out of a washed up CB or one that is a flake that tries when he wants to, otherwise plays flag football.

            As I stated, we are set at RB and even at FB.

            K – great and you can check off long snapper too.

            QB – Giant question mark. I like Foles. I think he can develop into a
            Ryan or Flacco type. And this goes to my point about skill positions
            and receiving – we don’t have players that make plays and goes up and gets the ball when they are covered. How good is Ryan without White, Jones and Gonzales. Likewise with Flacco, without Boldin and Smith and even Pitta. However, Foles’ chances of developing may be marginalized by Chippah’s offense.

            TE – below average – Celek is a tough guy and will get you YAC, average receiver, bad blocker, in decline and slow getting slower. As for Harbour – a ceiling closer to the floor.

            WR – please, one dimensional. DJack is a specialty player not a no.1 and vanishes in the redzone, check his declining TD production. Maclin – how long are we going to have to wait for his breakout year, I am tired of the excuses and game changing mistakes. Once again, not a no. 2 maybe a 3 or 4. Cooper, you are joking, right. I like him as a STeamer, but why does he have to turn around on kickoffs and direct the return man where to go, stupid. Made some nice plays on the fade, no. 3 or 4 but dispensable once we get a real 6’4″ wr. McNutt, sixth round shot, forget it. I like Avant, a little goofy and he was slow coming out of MU now he is running in mud, he is done.

            OL – question marks everywhere and there is no depth or young developing talent anywhere, none, zero does not exist. If there is, please let me know who, because they did not show up last year. Peters, LT stud, BEFORE he ruptured his achilles, not once, but twice! The likelihood a man of his size did not lose mobility is a stretch and that his current condition will manifest into other injuries means he has a few years left playing at a lower level. Mathis – journeyman guard playing the best ball of his career. Let’s see if he can maintain that going forward. I don’t care what PFW ranks him, he missed just as many assignments as he made good plays. RG – revolving door. Scott off the couch into the starting line up. He is better than 2nd year, 1st round pick starter – the Fireman. And obviously we have no depth, desperately shopping the waiver wire. RT – Herremans has been a stud and versatile throughout his career, but fell off cliff this year at T. Probably better off at G at this point, but for now he is our starter. C – Kelce, after a season and two games I am not sure how he is considered a Pro Ball center, he is not Pouncey for cryng out loud. He is atheletic and good at the second level and may be a good fit for Kelly’s O, but he is a below average drive blocker and just ok in pass protection. Lets not forget both Kelce and Herremans are coming off of major surgery and potentially career ending injuries. Clearly we have no depth here and across the entire line. Effectively, we have a bunch of 30something linemen to build our team around.

            STs – Clearly a function of the garbage they have drafted over the years that make up the bottom half of the roster. It amazes me after all the 2nd, 3rd and 4th rounders they have released, we still have players like Matthews who can’t play STs or his regular position.

            Defense, what is there to say, they suck with limited talent and a handful of young potential players.

            S – clean house and start over.

            CB – DRC we have no claim to him anymore than any other team as a free agent. I like him but if this is his effort in a contract year, how is he going to be better after you give him a $50million contract. NA, lets face it, we, Howie and AR got bagged. He was not good when he got here and he is done, it does not matter what price you pay for him. There are good players out there, CB, next to QB is the hardest and hardest to adjust coming out of college. Load up on some mid level FA talent and see who rises to the top. Boykin can play but will be challenged because of stature in the slot. All of the backups are backups and the Marsh experiment is over, another wasted 3rd pick, thanks Howie.

            LBs – Ryans can play but limited in coverage and will impact effectiveness in 3-4. Kendricks another undersized value pick, the differences between him and other smaller successful NFL LBs, is he can’t get off blocks and they can. Chaney has the physical ability but can make that step to be a starter. Jordan – well he is what he is. Bottom line – most of these guys will not be playing in a 3-4 if thats where we are going. When you under value a position for 15 years and can’t pick defensive talent, this is what you get.

            DL – Cox, Graham maybe, and Curry with some upside, other than that, nothing! Trent and Jenkins are done. Patterson too. Dixon and Landry in the middle, below average. Whoever they bring in as DC, he better be able to identify and develop talent, otherwise we are destined for middle of the pack mediocrity.

            GoBirds! go Chippah!!!

          • Graham

            Good analysis… my apologies for any offense I may have given in last posts. Good valid points there…. We can speculate everything we want and its wait and see. Like you said Chips in it for the long run, Lurie’s giving him 5 years most likely….. Correct me if I’m wrong but pretty much every coach contract is fully guaranteed right? If the coach gets fired and signs with another team immediately then they cover the difference… giving him 6.5 million/year, making him a top-6 paid coach in the league with 0 NFL experience lol that’s a lot of faith…. CK somethin about him it’s exciting

          • Guest


          • Guest


  • JofreyRice

    I really thought Spagnuolo was in the process of getting that Saints Defense turned around; guess I was wrong. I thought Spags was a pretty good coach, but most of the evidence seems to be pointing to the contrary. I guess if it comes down to Spagnuolo with one good year and several horrid ones, or Donatell, who’s been mostly mediocre, I’ll go with Donatell. There could always be some weird dark horse candidate out there, too.

  • Damon

    Let’s make him our Oline coach!

  • Wilbert M.

    Spags sounds like a train wreck waiting to happen. Philly fans like him because he looks and acts like a tough guy, But he is not the right guy for a fresh star.

    • Wilbert M.


    • ICDogg

      yep, not the right guy.

    • UKEagle99

      Agreed. people like the idea of a name they know. Taking a coach from college is like a pick in the draft, you may get a ‘Tom Brady’ or you may get a ‘Ryan Leaf’. Everyone has to start somewhere, It’s a new era so lets try something new…

  • I want a new guy, full of energy, toughness and new direction, I’m tired of the same ol in this nfl, that’s why I’m excited about this off season!

  • Heavies

    Is Gregg Williams banned for life?

    • ICDogg

      no, “indefinitely”, has not been reinstated yet but has been looking for work

  • teamdoc

    Having defected to the NY giants means he has crossed the loyalty line and is not welcome to return with full team/city privileges.

  • ICDogg

    I think with the way the rules are and the type of offensive innovations that we’ve seen recently, you just can’t have a shut-down defense any more. There is no “shutout-ability”.

    What I think you *can* do is get after the quarterback and have personnel who are opportunistic at creating turnovers. That type of defense might gamble more and give up some big plays, but would also generate big plays of their own and get the ball back into the hands of the offense.

  • The Guru

    I’d take Spags over Donnatell any day of the week. For three years he put himself in bad situations with bad teams and talent. If Donnatell were that great of a D-coordinator, don’t you think he’d be a head coach by now?