|The coaching hot seat begins to claim victims: St. Louis dumps Steve Spagnuolo after three seasons|
By Ryan Wilson
Steve Spagnuolo made his name during Super Bowl XLII, when he devised a game plan to stop the thought-to-be-unstoppable 2007 New England Patriots, who were 18-0 heading into the championship game and went back to Foxboro 18-1. A year later, Spagnuolo replaced Jim Haslett (who had replaced Scott Linehan) as the Rams head coach.
Now, three years later, he'll be replaced by the next guy the organization thinks can save the Rams. On Monday, St. Louis fired Spagnuolo after going 10-38 in three season, including one win in '09 and two in '11. The news was first reported by Fox Sports' Jay Glazer.
Much like Raheem Morris in Tampa Bay, Spagnuolo may have been a victim of his own success. In 2010, the Rams were 7-9 and a Week 17 victory away from winning the division and going to the playoffs for the first time since 2004 (where, incidentally, they qualified as an 8-8 team). Now St. Louis is headed for the No. 2 overall pick in April's draft two years after they selected quarterback Sam Bradford with the first-overall pick.
"We considered some very qualified and outstanding candidates for this position but we kept coming back to Steve Spagnuolo," General Manager Billy Devaney said in January 2009. "Steve has been on some outstanding defensive staffs during his 10 seasons in the NFL. He represented what we were looking for."
And that was the plan: Spags would bolster the Rams' porous defense (in 2008, they were 30th, according to Football Ousiders; 27th against the pass, 32nd against the run). Except that didn't happen: St. Louis ranked 31st in '09, 20th in '10 and 19th in '11. It was an improvement, but clearly not enough to change the Rams' fortunes. Exacerbating matters: the offense was worse, even with Bradford under center for parts of the last two seasons.
(Before Spags) 2008 - 32nd overall, 32nd passing, 29th rushing
(With Spags) 2009 - 32nd, 32nd, 25th
2010 - 30th, 27th, 31st
2011 - 32nd, 31st, 32nd
Now what? There were reports last week that Jon Gruden and A.J. Smith could be headed to St. Louis but Gruden said later that he's returning to ESPN. So the Rams will look elsewhere. As for Spagnuolo, he could end up in Philadelphia as the Eagles' defensive coordinator.
That could mean curtains for Eagles incumbent Juan Castillo, the longtime offensive assistant hired as the defensive coordinator prior to the season. There were reports earlier this month that Reid's future in Philly was contingent on parting ways with Castillo. (Reid later denied it.) Of course, Castillo could return to coaching the offensive line, a position he held from 1998-2010 in Philly. As for Spags' imminent arrival, there are some logistics to take care of first.
Spags is certainly qualified for the job but the Eagles also have Jim Washburn as their defensive line coach. Washburn came to Philly from Tennessee and he brought the "wide nine" with him. It's a scheme built on getting pressure from the front four and involves little blitzing. Spags was a zone-blitzing maniac during his DC days.
Whatever happens, Spagnuolo's talents will be in demand. And if he again proves himself as a coordinator he'll likely get another chance at a head-coaching gig down the line.
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