EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. –** The Giants have reached into their past to lead their defense into the future.
The team announced today that Steve Spagnuolo has been hired as defensive coordinator, the position he held in 2007-08. During his first tenure as coordinator, the Giants won Super Bowl XLII and ranked seventh and then fifth in the NFL in total defense.
Spagnuolo, a 34-year coaching veteran and former head coach of the St. Louis Rams, spent the previous two seasons on the Baltimore Ravens' coaching staff. In 2013, he was a senior defensive assistant and last year he was assistant head coach and secondary coach.
Spagnuolo succeeds Perry Fewell, who was not retained after holding the coordinator's position for the previous five seasons.
"We spoke to a lot of very good candidates," coach Tom Coughlin said. "The energy, enthusiasm and strong personality that we saw before in Steve Spagnuolo, all of that was very evident again. His desire to be a Giant again was very, very obvious."
"Maria (his wife) and I are very happy to be returning to the Giants," Spagnuolo said. "This is both new and familiar at the same time.
"I was hoping to take the next step, God willing, and be a coordinator again. I'm ecstatic that it's with Tom Coughlin. Tom is the highest character guy I know. The feeling I have is one of excitement. We're going to work our butts off, and hopefully we will do great things together."
The Giants also hired Tim Walton as secondary/cornerbacks coach, replacing Peter Giunta. Walton was the Rams' defensive coordinator in 2013.
Spagnuolo, 55, was first hired by the Giants on Jan. 22, 2007, after an eight-year stint on the Philadelphia Eagles' coaching staff, the last three as the club's linebackers coach. 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 six-game winning streak in which the Giants allowed an average of just 13.2 points a game.
That season, the Giants yielded an average of 305 yards a game, a 37.4-yard improvement over the previous season. They also led the NFL with 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 Patriots – who had averaged a league-high 36.8 points a game in the regular season - to 14 points.
"That really was a special time," Spagnuolo said. "What I remember most are the relationships we made with the players and coaches and everyone else in the organization. We've always felt like the Giants are a big part of our lives."
Coughlin said he likes Spagnuolo's defensive scheme, his ability to teach and how well he relates to the players.
"Steve has so much enthusiasm in front of the room," Coughlin said. "His defense has changed since he was last here. He worked in Baltimore with John Harbaugh and Dean Pees, and they are outstanding defensive coaches. He has studied defenses. Steve visited colleges and talked to college coaches, including Urban Meyer (coach of national champion Ohio State) to learn how to defend the spread offenses that have become so popular."
Spagnuolo said he is grateful for the two years he spent with the Ravens.
"I want to send out my gratitude to John Harbaugh, Steve Bisciotti and Ozzie Newsome for the opportunity they gave me," Spagnuolo said. "John Harbaugh is a great coach and friend and a man of God, and I will miss working with him every day."
In 2008, the Giants' defense continued to improve, giving up only 292.0 yards a game. That defense was ranked ninth against the run (95.8 yards a game) and eighth vs. the pass (196.2) and allowed 294 points, 57 fewer than the previous season.
Spagnuolo left the Giants in 2009 to become the head coach in St. Louis, where he had a three-year record of 10-28. In 2012, he was the defensive coordinator in New Orleans. But that was a tumultuous season in Saints history because the team had two interim head coaches after the year-long suspension of head coach Sean Payton.
Spagnuolo began his coaching career as a graduate assistant at the University of Massachusetts in 1982. He was a player personnel intern the following year for the Washington Redskins. Spagnuolo coached on the collegiate level before joining the Eagles as a defensive assistant in 1999. He coached the team's defensive backs from 2001-03 and the linebackers from 2004-06.
Check out photos of the Giants new Cornerbacks Coach Tim Walton
Walton, 43, is entering his 20th season in coaching. He was the Detroit Lions' defensive backs coach from 2009-12 and the coordinator in St. Louis in 2013. His defensive unit finished the season ranked 15th in the NFL (345.0 yards a game), including ninth vs. the run (102.9).
A former defensive back and team captain at Ohio State, Walton began his coaching career at Bowling Green in 1995. He moved to Memphis in 2000, Syracuse in 2002 and LSU in 2003, when he was the secondary coach for Nick Saban's BCS national championship team. Walton spent three seasons at the University of Miami, the first two as defensive backs coach and the third as defensive coordinator before returning to Memphis as coordinator in 2008. He joined the Lions the following year.
Photos of Interim Head Coach/Defensive Coordinator Steve Spagnuolo's two stints with the Giants