Spags Speaks, Giants.com's exclusive weekly interview with Giants interim head coach Steve Spagnuolo:
Q: The circumstances of you assuming this position were difficult, and you don't know what the future holds, but are you enjoying being a head coach again?
Spagnuolo: "I have some really good, enjoyable moments when I have the head coaching hat on, because the people here have been terrific. When you are a head coach or you are leading anything, you have to have people help you. You can't do it on your own. And the people from equipment to training room to the cafeteria to the weight room to the whole other side of the building, they've just been terrific in a hard situation. Everybody is feeling the same thing. Everybody is just as hurt. Everybody in this building lives and breathes for the wins. When they don't come, it's a shot in everybody's gut. I thought everybody picked up really well last week, and hopefully we can keep on going. The future, as you heard me say, I put it in God's hands, and I'm very confident in everything whichever way it goes, and I am honored to have this job right now."
Q: Have all the responsibilities you have as a head coach come back quickly – things like preparing what to say when you address the entire team, game management stuff, daily interaction with the media?
Spagnuolo: "You know what's funny? When there's a head coaching opening, people always say, 'You're going to go out and get this guy or that guy, or you're looking for a fresh guy that's never done it before, or you're looking for a guy with experience, blah, blah, blah,' right? So you go out and get a first-time head coach like I was when I went to St. Louis. There are some growing pains. I will say this and this happened really quickly, you don't have an offseason to get ready, but in my mind, thank God I had three years as a head coach. You're not fully prepared for this kind of step, because it's in the middle of the season. But there's definitely a comfort level having gone through this type of responsibility for three years in St. Louis."
Q: Last week, I'm sure you had a million things running through your head. Has it slowed down a little this week?
Spagnuolo: "A little bit. When last Monday came, I woke up and prayed that this did not happen. And it wasn't until, I don't know, noon or 11, I don't remember when it was when John (Mara) informed me of what was going on. There is some shock, so it took a little while to get up off the canvas - probably the rest of Monday, gather thoughts, decide what we were going to do. Then Tuesday was a grind and then all of a sudden, boom, the players are here and you're getting ready to play a football game against the Dallas Cowboys. It was fast, but I keep going back to everybody in this building, the people that helped me out with schedules, (coaching assistant) Chris Pridy and (Ed) Triggs (the team's football operations project coordinator), all the coaches and Jessie (Armstead), Antonio Pierce. Thank God those guys were around."
Q: You're still putting together the defensive game plan, so you're still focused on the opposing offense. Are you watching tape on the opposing defense and special teams?
Spagnuolo: "Yes, just so I'm associated with it. But I'm putting full trust in Tom Quinn and Mike Sullivan and the offensive staff to put together those game plans. They keep me abreast of what we're going to do, so we can piece it all together as a team going in to try to win a game. Our defensive staff, there are obviously moments where I have to step out and can't be in there all the time. I'm there for most of it, but they function great. That's not easy for the defensive staff to be waiting for the head coach to come in; they have to wait. So I've let them roll on a bunch of things, and it's been fairly smooth."
Q: Things like in-game communication, game management - if you don't do it for a while, you can get rusty as you would with anything else. You have meetings, but do you preview situations in your mind before the game. How does that all work?
Spagnuolo: "We talked about it. (Senior director of football information) Jon Berger was involved, Mike Sullivan, myself, Tom Quinn, we talked over things. It wasn't until Friday of last week and into Saturday night, to be quite honest, which is late. That's one thing that this week being normal, we'll be able to do a little bit earlier. And look, the way that I felt going into last week, I will be like that this coming week. The game of football, you can prepare for all kinds of different scenarios, and it never comes out the way you expect it. It doesn't. You have to roll with punches, rely on experience, communication, decision making and gut feeling. Now, we didn't really have any critical decision-making things in this past game, but when that time comes, I'm sure we'll find a way to hopefully make the right decision at that particular time. Whether it comes out right or not, who knows?"
Q: You went back to the more traditional NFL schedule week, bringing the players in on Monday to dissect the game, then giving them Tuesday off, and practicing on Friday. Is that how you were raised in the NFL?
Spagnuolo: "It was very much, but I did like the prior schedule, and I had experience in the prior schedule down in Baltimore for two years, a little differently. In Baltimore for two years, Monday was off, Tuesday we came in, we did some work like we did here. The only thing that was different was Friday. It's really back to an old school schedule. I've had that schedule, probably 17 out of the 19 years I've been in the league, so I'm more comfortable with it."
Q: Your wife, Maria, is very much your partner. How did you tell Maria you were the interim head coach, and what was her reaction when you told her?
Spagnuolo: "Well, like this world is right now, I think she knew before I did, or she knew before I called her because it gets out. She was down in Philadelphia and heard, and there was no real celebration, there wasn't any enjoyment about it. That doesn't mean I wasn't happy to do it, it was just the way it happened. We felt more for Ben (McAdoo) and Toni (his wife) than we did about being a head coach. Quite honestly, the word 'head coach' and my name together, I don't think I even thought about until we got to Sunday and we were walking into the game, because everything was coaching football and getting things ready. And even now, look, I'm just here to help. I'm the guy that has to stand in front of the team right now and it feels natural and it feels comfortable, but it's a different situation and I just appreciate all of the work that people are doing around me."
Q: Eli Manning said after the Dallas game last week, "Right now, we just don't have that firepower to finish these games." You said you had your blinders on the defense before the coaching change was made, but do you now understand the difficulties this team has had all season trying to make big plays and score?
Spagnuolo: "Yes, and the explosive plays are missing, and we get that. Somehow, we have to create some, or if it's not going to happen that way, then we got to do a lot of non-explosive plays. But we have to have a bunch of positive plays, and I thought the way Mike (Sullivan, the offensive coordinator) put the game plan together and called it was really good. When we were in there swinging away, with seven minutes left and it's 10-10, it wasn't the offense's fault that they got that big play to turn it around. But the margin for error is small on our football team, we know that. With being banged up on defense, and we know about the guys on offense and Eli was coming back and the whole thing, but somehow, some way as pros, we got to figure it out as players and coaches. "
Q: You had your first real look at the offense last week. Who were some of the players who stood out?
Spagnuolo: "I thought Eli got us in and out of some plays like on a third-and-four that was critical. He checked and changed a run to a pass and attacked the coverage. I showed it to the team (Wednesday) morning, because our defensive guys could appreciate what Eli did and made it tough on their defense. I thought Evan (Engram) other than that one drop. You know who impressed me was Rhett (Ellison). He had a really good game blocking, and then had that really good catch on the goal line down there. And that kick (a 39-yard field goal) that (Aldrick) Rosas made wasn't the easiest kick in the world, especially after we went offside and backed him up five yards. That was into the wind in that tunnel there and he thought he was kicking whatever-yard field goal, and then it was five yards longer. But everybody has to be the best them, play their best football."
Q: You never faced (Philadelphia quarterback) Nick Foles personally, but you know much about him. When you look at tape of him, what stands out?
Spagnuolo: "I'll tell you what, he's an accurate passer. He's a better athlete than people give him credit for. I thought he functioned in the system really well. He probably had limited reps, because Carson Wentz was the starter, and he's able to do that with limited reps. With a week under his belt, to me, he's as good a backup quarterback as there is in this league. So he steps into being the starter and I think it's smart by (general manager) Howie Roseman and the guys down there in Philadelphia to have that kind of backup. I'm sure they're glad that they have him. He started there in 2013 and had a heck of a year. You talk about having experience in something, Nick's been through the Eagles fans and all it means and what you do and how important it is, and what comes with being the quarterback of the Philadelphia Eagles. That won't be new to him."
Q: They are number one in the league in scoring. Generate big plays, don't turn the ball over. The one thing that stands out is they've outscored their opponents in the first quarter, 92-35. They've scored 71 points in their first two possessions of games. Is it safe to say you can't let them jump on you quickly?
Spagnuolo: "You can't let that happen with any team. Ideally, what we would like to be able to do is us play with the lead. And we had that for a short period of time last week. And try to be able to put them in a position where they're not playing with a lead. That makes the difference of the world on defense. People don't understand how that all works together. They've got an offense that's explosive and gets ahead. You get ahead by two scores, you call the defense completely different. When the game is in the balance, that's when both teams are battling out with ideal calls and we'll see the way this game goes. But we get paid to go out and coach and play, and all we ask for is that every coach and every player puts forth the best performance and the best them and see what happens."
A look at the key playmakers on the Eagles roster heading into Week 15