Steve Spagnuolo settling in as New York Giants interim coach
EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. (AP) — The whirlwind is starting to wind down for Steve Spagnuolo.
Seeing Ben McAdoo and general manager Jerry Reese fired, being elevated to interim head coach, thrust into the position of choosing a quarterback, then getting the New York Giants ready for the Dallas Cowboys is all Spagnuolo has dealt with this week.
Being a head coach is nothing new for him. The 57-year-old Spags did the job for the St. Louis Rams from 2009-11, and he’s worked in the NFL for almost two decades.
It’s been hectic since the Giants’ co-owners cleaned house Monday with the team sitting with a 2-10 record, and promoted him from defensive coordinator.
“It’s a difficult thing to go through because there’s emotions, and there’s people involved and it’s real, and yet we know we’re in a big business,” Spagnuolo said after practice Thursday. “We have to move forward, so we’re trying to do that, and I think the guys have functioned pretty well. We got a little more work to do with meetings this afternoon. I think that’s important. Get them some rest tonight, come in tomorrow, and get a quick practice in.”
Spagnuolo has changed some things over the past few days, starting with the team’s schedule. It used to be practice on Wednesday and Thursday, a recovery day on Friday and an 80 percent workout on Saturday to get the juices flowing.
Spagnuolo has opted to make Friday a short day when the team works on red-zone drills and other things. Saturday will be a more traditional no-helmet, walk-through workout.
He has totally handed over running the offense to coordinator Mike Sullivan and his assistants and has worked mostly with his defense. He is brushing up on his game management skills, timeouts, challenges and so forth.
“You have to go with your gut, you have to use the guys around you, and we’ll do that. Hopefully we’ll make the right decisions going forward,” said Spagnuolo, who used a gut reaction to return Eli Manning to the starting job this week after being benched last week.
For the most part, the detail-oriented Spagnuolo has been working like crazy. Even his wife, Maria, has noticed.
“I got scolded last night because Maria said I better get home and get more sleep,” said the down-to-earth Spagnuolo. “She’s right, I mean she is right. That is a big mistake I can make because you think you have to work more and work more. But I’m going to give it everything I got and do that and get through Sunday’s game. And then you just reload, take a deep breath and get ready to do it again.”
Safety Landon Collins, who was a big supporter of McAdoo, said it is weird seeing Spags as the head coach. He likes it, though.
“I think it’s a big difference,” Collins said. “If something’s not right, he makes us all redo it right then and there, and he will definitely come back to it. It’s a little faster out there now, and what else? Just a more competitive feel out there. He tries to get us to be more competitive now.”
Defensive end Olivier Vernon said Spagnuolo is just trying to rally the team now. He said the defense is not looking to play better so he gets to keep the job. He tried to win as hard for McAdoo, who led the Giants to the playoffs last season.
“Guys right here are just going out, trying to fight, play for pride right now, trying to get some wins before the season’s over and whatever else happens, happens,” Vernon said.
Collins hopes one thing doesn’t change. Every Friday, Spagnuolo brought in banana pudding, chocolate cake and other things his wife prepared for the defense.
When asked if defense will have to share the goodies now that Spagnuolo runs the whole team, Collins got a stern look on his face.
“If that happens, me and Spags might have a talk,” said Collins, a banana pudding man.