EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. –** Steve Spagnuolo is digging deep to build a foundation for his Giants defense.
Deep into the team's past, that is. Since the players arrived for the beginning of the offseason conditioning program on April 20, Spagnuolo has not only been providing lessons in his defensive scheme, but in the Giants' rich history on that side of the ball.
Spagnuolo is part of that history. He was the coordinator in 2007, when the Giants won Super Bowl XLII, and 2008, when they were 12-4 as the defense ranked fifth in the NFL.
The team's proud defensive tradition is at the forefront of everything Spagnuolo does. He has covered the walls of the defensive meeting room with posters of Giants Hall of Famers and Ring of Honor members – Lawrence Taylor, Harry Carson, Michael Strahan, Andy Robustelli, Sam Huff, Emlen Tunnell, Tom Landry, Carl Banks and Jessie Armstead.
"Before I even talked about the foundation, I talked about the tradition here," Spagnuolo said today following a rookie minicamp practice. "I led that right off the bat and before almost every meeting we talk about Giants tradition. The guys have been great. I see things typed out. They've got the names and the numbers and what college they went to. We should all be proud to be part of the Giants' organization. I think to be proud of something, you've got to dig back and see what it was all about. We'll have Wellington Mara up soon."
Spagnuolo tells the current players stories about the greats from the past and shows them video of Taylor, Strahan and Banks, etc. in action.
"I think that stuff is all neat," Spagnuolo said. "I like hitting the guys with that. They get a kick out of when I read what the salaries were when these guys played back in the day. The other thing is all of these guys way back had second jobs. Most of them served our country. We've got people out there protecting us right now and we don't necessarily have to go over and do it. I think it's important for young guys to understand that, not just the Giants tradition and history here, but some of the things we have in this country that we should make sure that we don't forget.
"We're going to keep doing it. There will be other things. They have to learn who 70 (Huff) and 49 (Landry) are, and 81 (Robustelli). And they need to spit it back to me. And then every once in a while, if we've watched the video, I might wait three days and say, 'What did we see on the highlight we watched on Lawrence Taylor or we watched on Michael Strahan the other day?' That's what Michael said, that they wanted to live up to the legacy of the Giants' defensive tradition."
The best photos from day one of Giants Rookie Mini-camp
Head coach Tom Coughlin is also a Giants historian and now the defensive assistants are getting a lesson as well.
"The whole staff just felt like when you understand the tradition of defensive football here at the Giants, you embrace it," Spagnuolo said. "When you embrace something, you have a little pride in it. If you've got a little pride in something, like your family, you tend to protect it. The only other thing I added to them was let's grow our own tradition and history here. We've been going back and feeding the guys all the greats here, and we'll eventually start feeding great defensive games. We've got some picked out. I think we all should embrace that. There should be a passion about it and should carry it out right here on the field. That's the goal."
Spagnuolo spoke on a wide variety of defensive-related topics in his 20-minute session with reporters:
On whether he plans to move around defensive end Jason Pierre-Paul, who predominantly plays on the right side:
"(Defensive line) coach (Robert) Nunn and I have talked about that, but one other thing I do believe in is you get guys in comfortable spots," Spagnuolo said. "I haven't had enough of a long conversation with JPP to know what he's more comfortable with, but when you've got a talented player, you try to put them in places where they can excel and help your defense. We'll fill that out when he gets here."
- On having Antonio Pierce as a leader during his first stint here and who might emerge in that role this year:
"That's going to take a little bit of time," Spagnuolo said. "There are guys in that room that we're working with right now that I know in the past, having listened to other coaches or watching the Giants from afar, that I think there's some good leaders there and I think you always have got to develop more. Sometimes when leaders leave the program or system, some guys jump up that you would have never expected. Sometimes leadership lids are removed and guys that you never even would have thought would step to the forefront. I'm anxious to see who that might be. I'm just going to add this. Would I like to have AP back? Sure. He ran the show. He was pretty good."
- On middle linebacker Jon Beason, who is already a team leader:
"He's been great," Spagnuolo said. "I remember Jon coming out of Miami and I have friends down in Carolina that were with him and I remember talking about Jon Beason before he even became a Giant. Everything was complimentary, and you've got to love those guys that like the chess game. Jameel McClain is the same guy and I have some experience with him in Baltimore, so it's nice to have a couple of guys like that and I'm sure there'll be some other guys."
Photos of Safety Landon Collins in Giants Blue
- On what he wants from safety Landon Collins, the Giants' second-round draft choice:
"I want him to go to the Pro Bowl," Spagnuolo said. "That's what we want all of our guys to do. I will say this, from practice one yesterday to just this morning, I saw a jump already. They come here initially and they're feeling their way through. They don't really want to say anything, but by the time we got to that last team period, Landon was moving people around and directing, so if he can keep doing that every day, I think we'll have exactly what we thought we had when we took him."
- On his expectations for third-year defensive end Damontre Moore:
"I'm not sure I have any except what I have with all the guys," Spagnuolo said. "I said this to the group, that the main objective right now, from now until February, is to be better today than we were yesterday. I know that sounds cliché-ish, but I think that's where we should be right now."