Coaches

Steve Spagnuolo
Defensive Coordinator

Biography

Steve Spagnuolo is in his third season of his second tenure as the Giants’ defensive coordinator. He previously held the position in 2007-08.

In 2016, the Giants fielded the NFL’s most-improved defense, one that was a catalyst behind the team’s 11-5 record and first postseason berth in five years.
Steve Spagnuolo is in his third season of his second tenure as the Giants’ defensive coordinator. He previously held the position in 2007-08.

In 2016, the Giants fielded the NFL’s most-improved defense, one that was a catalyst behind the team’s 11-5 record and first postseason berth in five years.

Last season, the Giants’ defense achieved top 10 rankings in 12 statistical categories recognized by the NFL, including a top five ranking in eight critical statistical categories: touchdowns allowed (first), red zone efficiency (first), points allowed per game (second), opposing quarterback rating (second), yards allowed per rush (second), third-down efficiency (third), completion percentage (third), and first downs allowed per game (fifth).

The Giants allowed 17.8 points per game, the lowest average by their opponents since 2002, when they gave up 17.4 points a game. They were second in the NFL with 284 points allowed, one season after they were ranked 30th after giving up 442 points. The 158-point decrease in points allowed was by far the NFL’s highest. The Giants were the first NFL team to allow at least 158 fewer points than the previous season since the 2002 Indianapolis Colts (173 points).

The Giants allowed an NFL-low 25 offensive touchdowns. They gave up 15 touchdown passes in 2016. That was the NFL’s second-lowest total, behind Denver’s 13 touchdown passes allowed.

The Giants surrendered 19 points or less nine times, their highest total since 2008, when they also did it eight times. Their record in those games was 8-1. In the final four games of the season, after losing one of the unit’s best players in defensive end Jason Pierre-Paul, the defense held their opponents to an average of 13.5 points a game.

In addition, the Giants ranked 10th in the NFL, allowing 5,435 yards (339.7 a game), one season after finishing 32nd by yielding 6,725 yards (420.3 a game). The 1,290-yard improvement was the league’s best. They held their final eight opponents to less than 400 total yards, their longest such streak in a single season since 2013.

The Giants held their opponents to less than 100 rushing yards in 10 games, their highest total since they did it 10 times in 2001.

Several of Spagnuolo’s players received individual accolades in 2016. Defensive tackle Damon Harrison and safety Landon Collins were selected to the Associated Press 2016 NFL All-Pro team. They were the Giants’ initial first-team All-Pros since defensive end Jason Pierre-Paul in 2011. Defensive end Olivier Vernon, and cornerbacks Janoris Jenkins and Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie were second-team All-Pros. Jenkins and Collins were each slected to their first Pro Bowl.

In 2015, the Giants had 28 takeaways and a plus-7 turnover differential, one season after they had a minus-2 differential. The 28 forced turnovers tied for the NFL’s sixth-highest total.

During Spagnuolo’s first tenure with the team, the Giants won Super Bowl XLII and ranked seventh and then fifth in the NFL in total defense. In 37 regular season and postseason games, the Giants’ defense allowed 17 points or fewer 19 times. The Giants were 19-0 in those games.

A 36-year coaching veteran, including 19 in the NFL, Spagnuolo (pronounced SPAG-no-low) has coached for teams that have made 9 playoff appearances, won 6 division titles, played in 5 conference championship games, earned 2 conference titles and won a Super Bowl.

Spagnuolo, 57, was first hired by the Giants on Jan. 22, 2007, after an 8-year stint on the Philadelphia Eagles’ coaching staff. In his first two games as coordinator, the Giants allowed 45 and 35 points in losses to Dallas and Green Bay, respectively. But Spagnuolo stressed to the players that he had faith in both them and the defensive system. In Week 3, a goal-line stand late in a victory in Washington ignited a 6-game winning streak in which the Giants allowed an average of just 13.2 points a game.

With Spagnuolo as the architect of the defense, the Giants that season ranked in the NFL’s Top 10 in eight statistical categories, including a league-high 53 sacks. Spagnuolo’s defense did its best work in the four-game postseason, allowing an average of 16.3 points per game. In the Super Bowl, his schemes and adjustments held the 18-0 New England Patriots – who had league-high averages of 411.3 yards and 36.8 points a game in the regular season – to 274 yards and 14 points.

In 2008, the Giants’ defense continued to improve, finishing fifth in yards allowed (292.0 per game), helping the Giants to a 12-4 record and an NFC East title. Despite losing standout defensive ends Michael Strahan (retirement) and Osi Umenyiora (preseason injury) the defense finished ninth in rush defense (95.8 yards-per-game) and eighth in pass defense (196.2) and the Giants’ 18.4 points allowed per game placed them fifth in the NFL.

Spagnuolo left the Giants in 2009 to become the head coach in St. Louis, where he inherited a 2-14 team and within two seasons had the Rams within one game of a playoff berth, losing in the final game of the 2010 season to finish 7-9. In 2012, he was the defensive coordinator in New Orleans. Spagnuolo led a unit that finished with 15 interceptions, including four that were returned for touchdowns, and forced 11 fumbles to help the Saints finish with a plus-two turnover differential. In Week 15, the Saints defeated Tampa Bay, 41-0, earning their first shutout victory since 1995.

After leaving New Orleans, Spagnuolo spent two seasons on the coaching staff of the Baltimore Ravens, in 2013 as a senior defensive assistant, and the following year as an assistant head coach and secondary coach. Baltimore finished the 2014 season ranked eighth in the NFL in yards allowed (336.9 per game) and sixth in points allowed (16.9).

Prior to his first stint with the Giants, Spagnuolo spent eight seasons with the Eagles, five working with the defensive backs, and the last three as the club’s linebackers coach. While he was in that role, middle linebacker Jeremiah Trotter was selected to two Pro Bowl berths. In 2005, Trotter led the Eagles with 169 tackles, including 13 for a loss. That season, Philadelphia led the NFL with 60 tackles for a loss, including 25 by the linebackers.

Spagnuolo spent his entire tenure in Philadelphia working under the team’s highly-respected defensive coordinator, the late Jim Johnson. During six of his eight seasons with the Eagles, Spagnuolo coached a player who earned Pro Bowl honors.

The Eagles’ defense was one of the NFL’s best in those eight seasons. In a six-year period from 1999-2005, Philadelphia’s defense ranked first in the NFL in opposing third down percentage (33 percent), second in points allowed (17.0 per game), second in sacks (265) and third in red zone defense (43.3  percent). During this period, the Eagles played in four consecutive NFC Championship Games and one Super Bowl. In 2001, the Eagles’ defense allowed no more than 21 points in all 16 regular season games, just the fourth time in league history that was accomplished.

Spagnuolo originally joined the Eagles coaching staff in 1999 as a defensive assistant/quality control coach working specifically with the team’s safeties. Two years later, he was promoted to defensive backs coach, where he spent three seasons tutoring Pro Bowlers Brian Dawkins, Bobby Taylor, Troy Vincent, Lito Sheppard and Michael Lewis. In those three seasons, the Eagles pass defense ranked in the NFL’s top 10 in three key statistical categories: third-down defense, touchdown passes allowed and net yards per pass attempt.

Prior to joining the Eagles, Spagnuolo coached 15 seasons in college football and two years in NFL Europe.  He spent the 1998 season as the defensive coordinator of NFL Europe’s Frankfurt Galaxy, who finished second in the league in total defense en route to a World Bowl appearance. Four of the six linebackers and nine of the 11 defensive starters he tutored went on to play in the NFL. Spagnuolo also served as the defensive line and special teams coach of the Barcelona Dragons in 1992.

A native of Grafton, Mass. Spagnuolo has served as a defensive coordinator on the college level with the University  of Connecticut and University of Maine. In addition, he served as assistant coach at the University  of Massachusetts, Lafayette College, Rutgers University and Bowling Green University.

Prior to his stint at Maine, Spagnuolo spent four months as a scout for the San Diego Chargers under then-general manager Bobby Beathard. His first NFL experience came in 1983 as an intern with the Washington Redskins under then-assistant general manager Charlie Casserly.

Spagnuolo was a two-year starter at wide receiver for head coach Howard Vandersea at Springfield College, where he was named the school’s Male Scholar Athlete of the Year in 1982. He earned a bachelor’s degree in physical education from Springfield and a master’s degree in sports management from the University of Massachusetts.

Spagnuolo was born in Whitinsville, Mass. He attended Grafton High School, where he is a member of the school’s athletic Hall of Fame.

Spagnuolo is married to Maria. They engage in community outreach through The Spagnuolo Foundation, whose mission is centered on the biblical verse Hebrews 11:1 (“Now faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see.”) and is designed to give hope to youth who otherwise may not have the opportunity to pursue and achieve their dreams.

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