Steve Spagnuolo Coaching Resumé: to whom it may concern

>> 1.03.2009

spags Yikes!  Ol' Spags kinda jumps off the page at you there, doesn't he?  If this is what happens when you ask Steve Spagnuolo to "smile", then I think he'll be just fine as the Lions' next head coach.  For all the official-bio stuff, click the picture.

Spags comes from an excellent lineage, most notably spending seven years with the Philadelphia Eagles and studying under the master of the hyperaggressive 4-3, Jim Johnson.  Spagnuolo has been a defensive line, linebackers, and defensive backs coach and a defensive coordinator at the NFL Europe level or higher.  Intriguingly, he broke into the NFL as a player personnel intern with the Redskins in 1983.  Before you ask, Martin Mayhew was drafted by the 'Skins in 1988, so no, Spags didn't evaluate Mayhew as a player twenty years before interviewing with Mayhew for the Lions gig.  Spags also served as a scout for the Chargers in 1993 . . . if he hadn't left to take the DC gig at the University of Maine, he might have scored a AFC Championship ring from Bobby Ross' 1994 squad.

Since we just looked at the absolutely disgusting team defense stats of the Lions this year, let's cleanse our pallette by looking at the stout performances of Spag's Giants squad:

  • The Giants were ranked fifth in scoring defense, allowing just 18.4 points per game.  What I'm about to do just screams "internet football nerd who doesn't get it", because football is way too complex for a simple translation like this to have any real meaning, but . . . the Lions' offense mustered 16.8 points per game.  If they'd allowed an average of anywhere near 18.4 ppg, instead of the hellacious 32.3 they really did allow, they might could have got a win or two.  God, we allowed twice as many points as we scored . . . no wonder we went 0-16.
  • The Giants were also fifth in yardage defense, allowing only 292 yards per game.
  • New York also finished sixth in sacks with 42, compared to the Lions' 30.  Amazingly, this was accomplished despite losing franchise DE Michael Strahan to retirement, and heir apparent Osi Umenyiora (who's lead the Giants in sacks the last four years running).

    That Spagnuolo's defense could simply plug in Justin Tuck and Matthias Kiwanauka and still be a fear-inspiring, quarterback-eating, Top 5 defense, speaks highly of the Giants' drafting, Spagnuolo's football teaching abilities, and Spags' scheming and system as well.  It's worth comparing his system to his mentor Jim Johnson's in Philly: lots of good, decent, and/or okay DEs and LBs have rotated in and out of Johnson's defenses in the past decade, yet the Philly defense is always amongst the leagues' best (this year the Eagles were ranked 4th, 3rd, and 3rd in the categories above, respectively).

    I think that Spagnuolo's system is an ideal fit for the defensive talent we have--lots of one-gap pass rushers up front, lots of fast and aggressive linebackers (IMAGINE Ernie Sims blitzing every down instead of playing a short zone!).  The Lions' secondary doesn't match up to the perennially star-studded defensive backfield the Eagles boast, but in terms of talent back there, the Giants frankly don't have much the Lions don't also.  Their two starting corners are Corey Webster, a fourth-year second-round pick, whose three INTs more than doubled the two he racked up in his first three seasons, and a second-year first round pick in Aaron Ross.  Yeah, they are highly-drafted guys, but corner is the defensive mirror of WR: most CBs take several years to master technique and get burned enough to learn when to gamble and when to not gamble.  The Giants boast 17 INTs as a team, but no more than 3 by any one player (10 different players have at least one).  This suggests that the defense is working the way the Tampa 2 is supposed to: the pressure up front is creating rushed, panicked throws.  This shortens the field for the corners and safeties and prevents the defense from getting beaten deep.

    Spagnuolo's teaching ability and experience at every level (line, linebackers, DBs, coordinator) of the defense is apparent.  His system would not only be a good fit for our talent, his aggressive style will make for a quick "buy-in", too.  Sims sees himself as the leader of the defense; don't you think he will react well to getting the leash taken off him and being told "Kill, Ernie!  KILL!"?  Spags is highly respected around the league, and highly sought after by other teams (he will interview for the Broncos' coaching gig today, and has already talked to the Browns).  With his background in scouting and player personnel, he will be a great help for Mayhew in finding the right defensive talent to aid a quick turnaround.  Spags is my #1 choice for the next Lions head coach--and he ought to be yours, too.


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