What Steve Spagnuolo Hiring Means to Giants

Can defensive coordinator Steve Spagnuolo lead the struggling New York Giants back to the promise land? With a new cast of characters and coaching staff, the defensive guru will need all hands on deck to turn things around in 2015.

In something of a long-overdue reunion, Steve Spagnuolo has returned to the New York Giants. Desperate for an improvement on defense since his departure to become the St. Louis Rams’ head coach in 2009, the Giants would love nothing more than to replicate the success they had on defense when Spagnuolo was coordinator for the 2007 and 2008 seasons, including the team’s 17-14 victory over the then-undefeated New England Patriots in Super Bowl XLII.

Over the last six seasons with Spagnuolo’s predecessor Perry Fewell calling the shots, the Giants have featured one of the league’s worst defensive units. They have finished in the top six for most yards allowed three of the last four years, proving to be dangerously susceptible to the big play and incapable of generating a consistent pass rush from week to week.

That once-heralded pass rush is a distant memory now. Though they did manage to finish fourth this season with 47 sacks, Pro Football Focus (subscription required) rated the defense as only the 14th-best pass-rushing group. In fact, they finished inside the top 10 just twice during Fewell’s tenure (2010 and 2011) with three mediocre finishes in 2009, 2012 and 2014, and the fourth-worst unit in 2013.

The Giants are banking on Spagnuolo to revitalize a defense that has become stagnant in recent years with mediocre production. Injuries plagued the Giants during Fewell’s tenure, but he never seemed to be able to find a way to get the most out of any of his players.

Spags, meanwhile, looks like the safe bet. It was easy for Coughlin to go with a comfortable face he’s already familiar with. But Spagnuolo’s track record since leaving New York isn’t great.

After three awful years at St. Louis during which the Rams went 10-38, the New Orleans Saints hired him to be their defensive coordinator. In a season marred by suspensions and the absence of head coach Sean Payton due to Bountygate, Spagnuolo’s defense was historically atrocious, allowing a record 7,042 yards. The Saints missed the playoffs for the first time in four years and he was let go at the end of the season as a result. He spent the past two seasons on the Ravens staff in Baltimore.

Because of those struggles, it might be silly to expect him to be able to recreate previous success just because he’s reconnecting with the Giants. The defensive talent currently present has potential, but it’s inferior to the crop Spagnuolo coached during his first stint.

Fortunately for the G-Men, if there’s one thing that separates Spags from Fewell, it’s his ability tailor his system to his personnel.

Fewell’s conservativeness was a burden for the Giants and his inability to make halftime adjustments killed them quite often in the second half. While the G-Men outscored opponents 211-169 in the first half, they fell to pieces in the second half, 230-170. Even a slightly better job could have made the Giants an 8-8 or 9-7 team this season, at the very least.

During Spagnuolo’s first turn in New York, however, the Giants actually improved in the second half, holding opposing offenses to 169 points in 2007 and 134 in 2008 (h/t Bleacher Report’s Patricia Traina)

His return will be welcome by fans who have been calling for an aggressive approach with more blitz packages. Putting pressure on the quarterback is paramount in his system, as it should be in a passing league.

If Spagnuolo’s first year back with the Giants is going to successful, though, it’s vital they re-sign Jason Pierre-Paul. The Giants should be able to generate a strong pass rush with the talent they currently have on the roster as long as JPP is with Big Blue again in 2015. He is a key player on the defensive side of the ball and his performance ignites the young players around him.

The Giants already have a plethora of talent for Spags to work with in JPP, Robert Ayers (the Giants’ top pass rusher in 2014, according to PFF), emerging star Johnathan Hankins, reliable veteran Cullen Jenkins and Damontre Moore along the defensive line. Add in breakout linebacker Devon Kennard and a potential first-round pass rusher like Missouri’s Shane Ray or Kentucky’s Alvin Dupree, and Spagnuolo could easily have the defense playing like the Giants of old.

Obviously, there will be bumps in the road. The Giants need to add more depth in the linebacking corps and at safety, the latter of which could feature two new starters in 2015. Meanwhile, injuries have cursed the defense year after year, so it’s hard to assume next season will be any better.

Spagnuolo has his work cut out for him, but he wouldn’t have accepted the opportunity if hewas not up to the challenge. Last time the Giants brought him in, he groomed one of the league’s most embarrassing defenses into a suffocating Super Bowl winner. It might be unfair to expect the same results, but you’d be a fool not to be optimistic about the potential.


The Giants Beat Top Stories

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Fewell’s conservativeness was a burden for the Giants and his inability to make halftime adjustments killed them quite often in the second half. While the G-Men outscored opponents 211-169 in the first half, they fell to pieces in the second half, 230-170. Even a slightly better job could have made the Giants an 8-8 or 9-7 team this season, at the very least.\r\n

During Spagnuolo’s first turn in New York, however, the Giants actually improved in the second half, holding opposing offenses to 169 points in 2007 and 134 in 2008 (h/t Bleacher Report’s Patricia Traina)\r\n

His return will be welcome by fans who have been calling for an aggressive approach with more blitz packages. Putting pressure on the quarterback is paramount in his system, as it should be in a passing league.\r\n

If Spagnuolo’s first year back with the Giants is going to successful, though, it’s vital they re-sign Jason Pierre-Paul. The Giants should be able to generate a strong pass rush with the talent they currently have on the roster as long as JPP is with Big Blue again in 2015. He is a key player on the defensive side of the ball and his performance ignites the young players around him.\r\n

The Giants already have a plethora of talent for Spags to work with in JPP, Robert Ayers (the Giants’ top pass rusher in 2014, according to PFF), emerging star Johnathan Hankins, reliable veteran Cullen Jenkins and Damontre Moore along the defensive line. Add in breakout linebacker Devon Kennard and a potential first-round pass rusher like Missouri’s Shane Ray or Kentucky’s Alvin Dupree, and Spagnuolo could easily have the defense playing like the Giants of old.\r\n

Obviously, there will be bumps in the road. The Giants need to add more depth in the linebacking corps and at safety, the latter of which could feature two new starters in 2015. Meanwhile, injuries have cursed the defense year after year, so it’s hard to assume next season will be any better.\r\n

Spagnuolo has his work cut out for him, but he wouldn’t have accepted the opportunity if hewas not up to the challenge. Last time the Giants brought him in, he groomed one of the league’s most embarrassing defenses into a suffocating Super Bowl winner. It might be unfair to expect the same results, but you’d be a fool not to be optimistic about the potential.\r\n","mobileBody":"

In something of a long-overdue reunion, Steve Spagnuolo has returned to the New York Giants. Desperate for an improvement on defense since his departure to become the St. Louis Rams’ head coach in 2009, the Giants would love nothing more than to replicate the success they had on defense when Spagnuolo was coordinator for the 2007 and 2008 seasons, including the team’s 17-14 victory over the then-undefeated New England Patriots in Super Bowl XLII.

Over the last six seasons with Spagnuolo’s predecessor Perry Fewell calling the shots, the Giants have featured one of the league’s worst defensive units. They have finished in the top six for most yards allowed three of the last four years, proving to be dangerously susceptible to the big play and incapable of generating a consistent pass rush from week to week.

That once-heralded pass rush is a distant memory now. Though they did manage to finish fourth this season with 47 sacks, Pro Football Focus (subscription required) rated the defense as only the 14th-best pass-rushing group. In fact, they finished inside the top 10 just twice during Fewell’s tenure (2010 and 2011) with three mediocre finishes in 2009, 2012 and 2014, and the fourth-worst unit in 2013.

The Giants are banking on Spagnuolo to revitalize a defense that has become stagnant in recent years with mediocre production. Injuries plagued the Giants during Fewell’s tenure, but he never seemed to be able to find a way to get the most out of any of his players.

Spags, meanwhile, looks like the safe bet. It was easy for Coughlin to go with a comfortable face he’s already familiar with. But Spagnuolo’s track record since leaving New York isn’t great.

After three awful years at St. Louis during which the Rams went 10-38, the New Orleans Saints hired him to be their defensive coordinator. In a season marred by suspensions and the absence of head coach Sean Payton due to Bountygate, Spagnuolo’s defense was historically atrocious, allowing a record 7,042 yards. The Saints missed the playoffs for the first time in four years and he was let go at the end of the season as a result. He spent the past two seasons on the Ravens staff in Baltimore.

Because of those struggles, it might be silly to expect him to be able to recreate previous success just because he’s reconnecting with the Giants. The defensive talent currently present has potential, but it’s inferior to the crop Spagnuolo coached during his first stint.

Fortunately for the G-Men, if there’s one thing that separates Spags from Fewell, it’s his ability tailor his system to his personnel.

Justin Tuck to me: "Thing about Spags is his defensive mind. He knows how to work with whatever it is that he's gonna have available."

— Art Stapleton (@art_stapleton) January 15, 2015

Fewell’s conservativeness was a burden for the Giants and his inability to make halftime adjustments killed them quite often in the second half. While the G-Men outscored opponents 211-169 in the first half, they fell to pieces in the second half, 230-170. Even a slightly better job could have made the Giants an 8-8 or 9-7 team this season, at the very least.

During Spagnuolo’s first turn in New York, however, the Giants actually improved in the second half, holding opposing offenses to 169 points in 2007 and 134 in 2008 (h/t Bleacher Report’s Patricia Traina)

His return will be welcome by fans who have been calling for an aggressive approach with more blitz packages. Putting pressure on the quarterback is paramount in his system, as it should be in a passing league.

If Spagnuolo’s first year back with the Giants is going to successful, though, it’s vital they re-sign Jason Pierre-Paul. The Giants should be able to generate a strong pass rush with the talent they currently have on the roster as long as JPP is with Big Blue again in 2015. He is a key player on the defensive side of the ball and his performance ignites the young players around him.

The Giants already have a plethora of talent for Spags to work with in JPP, Robert Ayers (the Giants’ top pass rusher in 2014, according to PFF), emerging star Johnathan Hankins, reliable veteran Cullen Jenkins and Damontre Moore along the defensive line. Add in breakout linebacker Devon Kennard and a potential first-round pass rusher like Missouri’s Shane Ray or Kentucky’s Alvin Dupree, and Spagnuolo could easily have the defense playing like the Giants of old.

Obviously, there will be bumps in the road. The Giants need to add more depth in the linebacking corps and at safety, the latter of which could feature two new starters in 2015. Meanwhile, injuries have cursed the defense year after year, so it’s hard to assume next season will be any better.

Spagnuolo has his work cut out for him, but he wouldn’t have accepted the opportunity if hewas not up to the challenge. Last time the Giants brought him in, he groomed one of the league’s most embarrassing defenses into a suffocating Super Bowl winner. It might be unfair to expect the same results, but you’d be a fool not to be optimistic about the potential. 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