Firing Squad

Last week, defensive coordinator Steve Spagnuolo stood tough in the pocket almost as long as opposing quarterbacks have been able to this season against his defense. He answered every tough question thrown his way and stood tall in defense and in belief of his beleaguered troops.

Here's what Spagnuolo had to say to the New York media, including the first several questions, which were between Spags and a very small gathering of reporters that included TGI.

Q: Why haven't we seen more of the physical press coverage we were expecting?

A: It's not called that way every down. But it is part of our package. We could be showing it but not have it be a part of the call. And they have options. Sometimes we want them to do something and sometimes it's an option.

Q: Have you been surprised by some of the missed tackles and missed coverages we've seen?

A: I don't know if surprised is a good word. It is part of the NFL. The guys on the other side are pretty good too. But I do believe we'll get better at it. (On Wednesday) I was walking off the field and James Butler, Gibril Wilson and Corey Webster, on their own, went over to the tackling sled. I went over there and joined them because I wanted to be part of what they were trying to get better at.

Q: What signs do you see that make you think they can do any better?

A: I believe in what we built from the beginning and the foundation we laid in training camp. Let's face it, anything you do in the whole athletic realm, confidence is the key. We'll build that and we'll keep plugging away. Once that confidence is built I expect all that stuff to take care of itself. Let's face it, everyone in this league has had some missed tackles because the offensive players are pretty good too.

Q: Bill Parcells used to say that players will do anything you want them to as long as you're right. Are you afraid that you might lose their confidence if things don't change soon?

A: I don't know that I believe that things aren't going right. When you fine-tooth it after the game is over, you can find a lot of good and a lot of right in there. Now is it 100 percent? No. Sometimes when you're wrong somewhere it gets magnified as a big play. But there is a lot of right going on and I'm hanging my hat on that.

Q: What is some of that right that we're obviously not seeing?

A: You can say Gibril Wilson's interceptions; Aaron Ross has had good coverage; Justin Tuck had some big plays. The big plays are right, and even some of the non-big plays. What was right about our run defense (against Green Bay) was we only allowed 2.2 yards per carry on first and second down. That's pretty good. There's a lot of right there and the guys are hanging their hat on it. That's what we have to do.

Q: First couple of weeks, how do you respond to that?

A: Well, what we have been doing is just sticking with the process. We keep talking about that and keep believing in what we are doing. And that is what we are trying to focus on: the bottom line.

Q: When you come into this week and try and get better as a unit, is there one thing that you can focus on? Is it a technique issue; is it an effort issue?

A: Well, it is like I said to the guys this particular week, I firmly believe that it always comes back to that – basic techniques. You hit the nail on the head. And we continually go back to that. We would keep going back and forth with that if we were 2-0; if we were shutting people out. Because I believe it begins and ends there. So the focus has been there. It will stay there. And little by little, I think we will continue to get better. I have seen improvements. And again, I probably repeat myself a hundred times here, but you stick with the process.

Q: How much do you consider personnel changes in the starting lineup?

A: When you don't have a lot of bodies to begin with on either side of the ball, I believe all of them have to help you. And I don't ever get hung up on who starts or who doesn't. I believe that when it is all said and done, we are going to need everybody. And the guys know that. And guys that aren't tagged as starters right now know that they are going to be relied on at some point. And guys at every position, including the coach running it, have to improve it and step it up. And that is the bottom line.

Q: I guess what I mean is, when you threaten a guy who is in the starting lineup, do you think that that can sometimes light a fire under him and make him perform better?

A: I wouldn't use the word ‘threatened.' We coach our guys and if we feel somebody needs to get better, we coach him to get better. And there are a lot of different ways to do that.

Q: With the pass rush, or lack therefore, clearly being an issue, what are your thoughts on moving Mathias (Kiwanuka) back from linebacker to defensive line?

A: Well, he does a little bit of that if you see both games. The last game was a little bit different because of personnel matchups. But that is always an option; it is always an option. We can do that.

Q: Your confidence level after the start?

A: You can't let two games shake your confidence in a 16-game season. And you know, like anything that we all do, and you probably do the same thing, when you are in certain adverse situations, you rely back on prior experiences. In 2000 and I think it was '03 or '02, we (in Philly) began 0-2. And we ended up in the NFC Championship Game. So it hasn't shaken me yet.

Q: What is your level of surprise with how tough things have been to this point?

A: If you classify it as ‘tough,' I think this business is tough, period. I think it's tough when you are winning, I think it is tough when you are shutting people out. So to me it is not toughness, it is the process. Continue to do what you believe in. That's what we are going to stick to.

Q: Do you have the people to play this defense that you want to play?

A: Yeah. I believe in the guys. I believe in the coaches. I believe in what we are doing; I believe in how we are doing it and I believe in sticking with it. This is no time to bail out.

Q: It has been written and said that Michael Strahan was a little bit rusty in having missed camp. Do you buy into that?

A: No. You probably didn't get to see practice today (Thursday), but if you went on today's practice, you wouldn't say that. He was getting after it pretty good. He really was.


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