Former New York Giants defensive coordinator Steve Spagnuolo is scheduled to interview for that same job Wednesday. Spagnuolo is the top choice of many Giants fans and some in the Giants' building. Here's a look at some of the potential pros and cons of hiring Spagnuolo as Perry Fewell's replacement:
Spagnuolo was the Giants' defensive coordinator for only two seasons, but they were wildly successful. The 2007 Giants rebounded from an 0-2 start to finish 10-6, claim a wild-card playoff spot and beat the undefeated New England Patriots in Super Bowl XLII. They ranked seventh in the NFL in total defense. The 2008 Giants went 12-4 and ranked fifth in the league in total defense before losing in the divisional round of the playoffs after top wide receiver Plaxico Burress was arrested for firing a gun in a New York City nightclub.
That performance got Spagnuolo a job as head coach of the St. Louis Rams. He went 10-38 in his three seasons in that job, which is obviously a complete disaster, though he did come very close to winning a division title in 2010. His team lost to the Seahawks that year on the final day of the season, which meant both teams finished 7-9 and the Seahawks won the NFC West on a tiebreaker. Spagnuolo's Rams went 2-14 the following year and he was fired.
From there, Spagnuolo went to New Orleans, where he served as the Saints' defensive coordinator in 2012. The Saints' defense that season set an NFL record with 7,042 yards allowed, and Spagnuolo was (again, obviously) fired as a result. The 2012 season was a wreck all the way around in New Orleans, because that was the season for which head coach Sean Payton was suspended as a result of the bounty scandal. Spagnuolo was put in a very difficult situation, replacing suspended and fired coordinator Gregg Williams in historically unprecedented circumstances, so it might not be completely fair to judge him on his performance in New Orleans.
Still, it's important to reiterate that the 2012 New Orleans Saints, with Spagnuolo as their defensive coordinator, allowed more yards than any other team in NFL history has ever allowed in a single season.
Spagnuolo has spent the past two years as a defensive assistant with the Baltimore Ravens, which is a fine place to rebuild a beaten-up coaching reputation. He is 55 years old, and given the challenging circumstances in which he found himself in St. Louis and New Orleans, he likely deserves another chance. As a man with NFL defensive coordinator and head coach experience on his resume, he's clearly overqualified for his current job and clearly qualified for this job, which is one he used to have.
I just don't think he's the slam-dunk choice others seem to believe he should be. Those Giants defenses with which he had so much success had Hall of Famer Michael Strahan as well as Justin Tuck, Osi Umenyiora and Antonio Pierce in their front seven. Those are some heavy hitters, and even if Jason Pierre-Paul re-signs and Jon Beason comes back from his injury, the 2015 Giants defense stands as something of a rebuilding project. The only player still on the Giants' defense who remains from Spagnuolo's tenure is Mathias Kiwanuka, and his chances of being on the 2015 roster are quite slim.
As I have written before, the Giants need to be looking forward and long-term with this hire. This can't be about comfort level for 2015. This is about rebuilding a defense with a clear vision for the long haul under someone with the ability to execute that vision. The Giants might well decide Spagnuolo is that man, and as I said above, he has the qualifications. But if they do hire him, they need to make sure it's for those reasons, and not because 2007 and 2008 were so awesome.