New York Giants defensive coordinator Steve Spagnuolo spent Wednesday afternoon at the Big Daddy Youth Football Camp at New Hyde Park (Long lsland, New York) Memorial High School.
A young fan approached Spagnuolo and asked him for a picture. After the youngster got his picture, he said to Spagnuolo, “Thanks for making our defense better.”
This made Spagnuolo smile.
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“I do think it’s important, no matter what level you’re coaching at, especially as you climb the ladder, you make sure you go back at some point and give back,” Spagnuolo said.
Coach Spags is in his second tenure as Giants defensive coordinator. He certainly gave the defense something in 2016 as they allowed only 284 points (17.8 points per game). Only the Super Bowl champion New England Patriots allowed fewer points.
Spagnuolo can’t help but be a little excited coming into the 2017 season. After all, the defense is returning nine of 11 starters. There is a little personal vindication as well, though he won’t comment on it too much.
Spagnuolo’s first tenure (2007-08) was highlighted by a Super Bowl victory over the Eighteen and One Patriots. He returned to the Giants in 2015 after forgettable stints as head coach of the then-St. Louis Rams, defensive coordinator of the New Orleans Saints, and senior defensive assistant/secondary coach of the Baltimore Ravens.
The Giants’ defense was all-time bad in ’15, surrendering the third-most yards in NFL history. General manager Jerry Reese spent nearly $200 million to upgrade the defense. The result was a Giants defense that surrendered 138 fewer points in ’16 than they did in ’15.
Spagnuolo didn’t have time to reflect on the job he was doing during the season. It didn’t really occur to him until after it was over.
“It’s funny, I didn’t feel it in the middle of the season,” he said. “Because all you’re doing is grinding and as soon as one game’s over, if it happened to be a good one, it’s just onto the next one. It’s just how this league is, and you got to put it to bed.”
“It wasn’t until the season was over—well, it took a couple of weeks after the season was over, because of the way it ended, nobody was happy with (the Wild Card Game loss to the Green Bay Packers), we certainly weren’t defensively.
“But then we had a chance to take a deep breath, yeah, it did feel good. I just believe in what we were doing. I believed in the guys. I believed that was gonna happen. We’ve had a lot of success in this system in Year 2. It’s always been like that, every time I’ve done it.”
Going into 2017, Spagnuolo says there’s a comfort level that he didn’t have in the previous two years. Now, he knows exactly what he’s getting from his unit.
“The first year I was here in 2015, I didn’t really know want we had. JPP had the accident,” he said, referring to defensive end Jason Pierre-Paul’s fireworks accident. “Last year, we really didn’t know, because we brought in a lot of new people. This is the first time in the three years I’ve been here you feel comfortable.
“Where there’s a comfort level in knowing what we are, who we are, guys working with each other, players with players, coaches with coaches, coaches with players. So there’s a comfort level there. It doesn’t guarantee success but I think if we stay healthy we’ll be ok.”