After the firing of five year tenured defensive coordinator Perry Fewell, the New York Giants brought in multiple candidates to try and replace Fewell and re-energize the defense, who finished 30th overall in total yardage this season.
The Giants chose to bring in Steve Spagnulo, the teams defensive coordinator in 2007 and 2008, leading them a the 7th and 5th best defenses in the NFL in those two seasons. His crowning achievement however, was winning super bowl 42, holding one of the greatest offenses in NFL history to just 14 points. Their offense featured Tom Brady who broke the single season record for touchdown passes that season, and Randy Moss who had broken the single season record for touchdown receptions that season.
Spagnulo was so potent with his defensive schemes due to modeling it after his players strengths. He got the most out of everyone. An example of this was innovating the NASCAR package, a defensive set that had four defensive lineman on the field at once. The Giants defense ranked 25th and 24th in 2005 and 2006, and with a largely similar cast, jumped to 5th and 7th in 07-08.
Justin Tuck has 12 sacks in 2008, the most in his career, and 10 in 2007, his fourth best total. Osi Umenyiora missed the entire 2008 season, but in 2007 put up 13 sacks, the second highest total of his career. Kawika Mitchell, Terell Thomas, and Corey Webster also had career years under the guidance of Spagnuolo.
While all of that sounds like re-signing Spagnulo was a no brainer, he did fail at his last defensive gig. He led the Saints defensive unit in 2012, and they gave up the most yards in a single season in NFL history. In his defense though, that was the year with the distraction of bountygate and Sean Payton and Jon Vilma were both suspended for the year, two critical parts for the Saints, leading to a down year around the board. He also was fired after going 11-37 in three seasons as the Rams head coach before the Saints job.
After that, he was brought in by the Ravens as a defensive assistant and a secondary coach. In his two season, the Ravens had two top 12 defenses and were top 6 in allowing the fewest passing touchdowns.
While Spagnulo has had his moments of glory, he’s also had his moments of pitifulness. Spagnuolo does though, know how to use a talented defense to the best of its abilities and raise them to elite level. His Rams and Saints defenses had poor personnel, leading to bad outcomes. With the Giants and Ravens though, he inherited decent defenses, and raised them to an elite playing level. Spagnuolo also already has a chemistry of sorts with Tom Coughlin and has succeeded in the same situation.
Hiring Spagnuolo appears to be the right choice. The Giants have pieces, and if they stay healthy have an excellent core to build around. With Jason Pierre Paul and Robert Ayers as solid pass rushers, Spagnuolo should be salivating at the prospect of being able to coach them. Whether or not he can return to the big game though, is yet to be seen.