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Steve Spagnuolo staying focused on present, not future


Steve Spagnuolo held his season wrap-up news conference Monday:

EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. – Steve Spagnuolo today was still enjoying his first victory as the Giants' interim head coach, and had not yet pivoted to thinking about whether he will remain in the position long-term.

At his wrap-up news conference, Spagnuolo was asked if he has scheduled a meeting with new general manager Dave Gettleman.

"None of that has even been talked about," Spagnuolo said. "Dave and I have been just kind of focusing on getting to this year-end meeting, and that's what we did. We knocked that out and boom, I'm right here. So, I don't have anything to report on that."

Spagnuolo was more than willing to discuss his four-game tenure as the team's interim coach, which concluded yesterday with an 18-10 victory against the Washington Redskins. The Giants had lost to Dallas, Philadelphia, and Arizona in their first three games after Spagnuolo took over for Ben McAdoo, who was dismissed on Dec. 4.

"I would have felt very empty if we had gone through this month of four games and not having been able to come away with a win," Spagnuolo said. "Because it is a result-oriented profession, and it was good to at least get that win one time.

"I am happy with the way things went yesterday. I was really proud of the guys, the way they played. We handled the elements real well. Rushing the ball the way we did (260 yards). Playing third down on defense the way we did (Washington converted only one of 13 opportunities). I was really, really proud of the way they – it was New York Giants football in my opinion; 18-10, we win, and everybody is feeling good."

The Giants were close in two other games under Spagnuolo. They were tied with the Cowboys until midway through the fourth quarter. And they led Philadelphia – the NFC's top postseason seed – at halftime and lost by just five points.

"I go back to 10-10 in the Cowboys game with seven minutes left," Spagnuolo said. "That says a lot, and after coming off of a really hard week. Everything changes and guys that play in this league for the most part are young. We're not talking about guys that have been doing professions for a long time. That was not easy on them, yet they picked it up, we acted like pros. Coaching staff did a great job. The people in the building did a great job. We were able to function in a game. We were swinging at the end and then kind of lost a little bit. Philadelphia game was impressive. Wish we had played better defensively, but we're right there at the end of the game. With one play we could win it. Didn't play quite as well down in Arizona (a 23-0 loss), but this game here sure felt good that we could have found a way."

Spagnuolo got an opportunity to be a head coach in 2017 only because the Giants had such a poor season. When the Giants were struggling at 2-10, team ownership turned to Spagnuolo, who was the coach of the St. Louis Rams from 2009-11. He returned to the Giants for his second stint as defensive coordinator under Tom Coughlin in 2015.

"I will tell you this, I was honored to do it," Spagnuolo said of taking the coaching reins. "I did not want that to happen. I want to keep saying that because I have a great deal of respect for Ben. But I will say this that when it did happen, I certainly felt so much more prepared, even though it was right in the middle of it than I did on that day I flew from New York to St. Louis and had the press conference there. I remember going up to my office and then sitting down at my desk and saying, 'OK, what do I do now?' because it all just comes at you and you got to move. So it was more comfortable that way. I wish we had better results in the win-loss column, obviously. But, was proud of the way the guys functioned, operated."

When he elevated Spagnuolo, team president John Mara said the veteran coach would be considered for the fulltime position. A formal sitdown with Gettleman will be scheduled. But Spagnuolo's focus now is on contributing to the postseason player evaluation, and not his own future.

"That would be the focus of any organization right now, to evaluate your team," Spagnuolo said. "Mistakes, what could have been done, what could be done better, changes and I'm here to help Dave right now. We'll work through the rest of it. The coaches are doing the same thing. We're going to get together with Ken Sternfeld and Matt (Shauger, of the pro personnel department) and try to get all those evaluations going forward right now."

Before he turned his attention to offseason matters and the players departed, Spagnuolo held a final team meeting.

"We talked about the game and the things we did, and that was fun talking about it," Spagnuolo said. "We talked about going forward, exit physicals and exit interviews, and all those things and now we're onto the offseason. So to me, I didn't say it to the guys today, but there's 19 other organizations having the same meetings today that we're having. Little disappointed the season is over. One month from now, there will be 11 other teams that will be disappointed in the way their season ended, and there will only be one team standing that will be content and happy jumping up and down. The next day, February 5th I think it is, all 32 teams will be 0-0. It'll be a new season. It'll be trying to do the same thing, which will be bring us the Super Bowl trophy home to their organization."

With Spagnuolo still in an integral role, the Giants today began working to give them a chance to be that team.

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