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Another great article on Spagnuolo...


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Defense blossoms under player-friendly Spagnuolo

Steve Spagnuolo has changed everything about this Giants defense from the day he took over as coordinator last January. When it turned from a confused group that allowed 80 points in the first two games into a relentless, attacking bunch that allowed only 46 points in a 5½-game stretch, the biggest credit Spagnuolo got was for not giving up on his plan.

Now that the defense has been the driving force behind the Giants' trip to the NFC Championship Game, Spagnuolo's biggest achievement as a first-year coordinator might be his willingness to listen.

Justin Tuck said the final two drives of the 21-17 win over the Cowboys last Sunday were a perfect example. With cornerback Aaron Ross out, Spagnuolo wanted to make up for having a less experienced group in the secondary with some blitz packages; Tuck and the other linemen thought they could get to Tony Romo without big blitz schemes.

"It means a lot for us as players to know our voices can be heard," Tuck said. "It's not like we run things or just shake him off. But we're the ones out there and we can tell him what works and what doesn't."

Asked if he'd ever had a coach who did that, Tuck smiled. "Not a chance," he said. "I'd have probably been taken out of the game."

Instead, Tuck was in, the Giants used some basic four-man rushes and they won another game thanks to some late defensive stops.

Spagnuolo's consistency also has been important in building confidence. It's how unsung guys such as defensive end Dave Tollefson and cornerback Geoffrey Pope managed to make a relatively seamless transition into Sunday's game at critical times. And with a group that includes three rookies (Ross, Michael Johnson and Jay Alford) playing significant amounts, the confidence factor is very big.

"When I've messed up in practice, he waits until things are done and just pulls me to the side and says, 'This is where you messed up, and this is where you did good,' " said Johnson, a seventh-round pick out of Arizona State. "I mean, when you mess up, you really expect to hear a coach say, '**** it, what the bleep are you doing?' Right there, in front of everyone. But Spags is always the same. He won't let you get away with messing up, but he won't try to embarrass you, either."

Spagnuolo's faith in his scheme, and in the players he had to play that scheme, kept his confidence going after those opening losses to the Cowboys and Packers. He came off the field after the 35-13 loss to Green Bay, when Brett Favre burned the defense for three touchdown passes and 14 consecutive completions in the second half, looking ready to trash the defensive meeting room.

"In all honesty, we knew we were better than that," linebacker Antonio Pierce said. "So did he."

"I didn't envision that they were losing it one way or the other or that they were bailing out," Spagnuolo said. "That's a credit to the position coaches and that's a credit to the leaders on the defense, because certainly, if the coaches bailed or the leaders bailed mentally or however, that would have been a challenge. But they didn't do that."

What they did do the next week was stuff the Redskins four times from the 2-yard line to earn their first victory, which kick-started the run of six straight wins in which the defense started piling up sacks and momentum.

And all the while, Spagnuolo still was willing to listen.

"I really feel like I can just go and talk to him about what I see, during a game or whenever," safety James Butler said. "He does a great job communicating what he wants us to do."

Even when Spagnuolo isn't there to guide the defense, the players take note. Friday afternoons are defensive-starters-only meeting days, to watch more film. Spagnuolo's wife, Maria, makes sure her husband's crew has extra incentive to stay in that film room; she's been baking desserts all season. Banana pudding, apple turnovers, cookies and cheesecake are on the menu, just to name a few of the specialties.

"Spags is like 5-8, 115 pounds. He should be 5-8, 250," Reggie Torbor said. "I don't know how he can resist."

"[Maria] started that when I was in Philly with the linebackers," Spagnuolo said. "It turned into a whole buffet because [Jeremiah] Trotter always wanted more. But it's her way of showing a little bit of love to the players, and I really like her being a part of it."

The players, in turn, have respected their coordinator from his first few weeks on the job.

"You come off the field and there he is," Torbor said. "He's only 5-8 or so; he didn't get to pick his body out. But he has a huge heart. No matter if we're playing good or bad, he's over there, cool, calm, collected. You don't want to let a guy like that down."

http://www.newsday.com/sports/football/gia...0,3696609.story

I've read a few of these on Spags, who is now getting a ton of credit for the Giants being in the NFC Championship Game. As it appears today, the Falcons would like to interview him before they make a hire. As I have stated before, Schwartz is my favorite candidate, but i wonder why no one has brought him in for second interviews. With that being said, I like to look at the positives for each coach, and Spags is a good one folks.

From all of the articles I have read, here are some great positives:

- Loves the game

- Communication skills

- Has an even keel, and stays calm (never too high or low)

- Tremendous at making adjustments

- Preparation (hands out study sheets to players)

- Players love to play for him

- Constructive criticizer (He doesn't cause resentment when he "gets on to you.")

- Good listener

I'd like to say something about a player's coach. I think the term is often misconstrued as "coach without discipline." After doing a lot of reading, I don't believe that at all. Being a player's coach means you listen to your players, you care about them, you teach them and discipline them without bringing embarrassment to them, or causing resentment. It means your players would run through a wall for you. Isn't that really how you get the most out of your team?

Tony Dungy is a tremendous example of this. He is a coach the players love to play for. You don't see him in anyone's face on the sidelines, but his teams are still disciplined.

If Spags is really who Atlanta is waiting for, I don't think they will be disappointed.

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MidWest Falcon (1/18/2008)
Thanks for the post Cush. I didn't know much about him but after reading that he seams like a good guy. BTW, why is there not as much activity in Pure Football??? I would love to not have to read through all the crap that some people are posting ex. Jigga Donkey/AK/etc. etc. etc.

I can't even see the Pure Football forum, it doesn't show up for me.

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scott24falcs (1/18/2008)
MidWest Falcon (1/18/2008)
Thanks for the post Cush. I didn't know much about him but after reading that he seams like a good guy. BTW, why is there not as much activity in Pure Football??? I would love to not have to read through all the crap that some people are posting ex. Jigga Donkey/AK/etc. etc. etc.

I can't even see the Pure Football forum, it doesn't show up for me.

ya gotta be a member

Since the Falcons took a downward turn in 2007 the so called "fans" from the past 5 years on these boards including the moderators have taken a vacation it appears

.

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RICARDO VIALPANDO (1/18/2008)
I want this guy, BUT I'm tired of reading all the good things about potental coaches and then it does'nt happen.
I understand your pain. But the good thing is, the staff is not rushing into a very important decision this time. Last two times around, I think the Falcons were the first team to name a Head Coach, and it hasn't worked out.
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texasbirdfan (1/18/2008)
scott24falcs (1/18/2008)
MidWest Falcon (1/18/2008)
Thanks for the post Cush. I didn't know much about him but after reading that he seams like a good guy. BTW, why is there not as much activity in Pure Football??? I would love to not have to read through all the crap that some people are posting ex. Jigga Donkey/AK/etc. etc. etc.

I can't even see the Pure Football forum, it doesn't show up for me.

ya gotta be a member

Since the Falcons took a downward turn in 2007 the so called "fans" from the past 5 years on these boards including the moderators have taken a vacation it appears

.

Seems like that's the case.

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