Senior Defensive Assistant, Baltimore Ravens
Steve Spagnuolo was named defensive coordinator of the New Orleans Saints on February 7, 2012. He’s a veteran of 13 years in the NFL coaching ranks, three as a head coach, as well as 16 years on the collegiate level and two years in NFL Europe.
When Head Coach Sean Payton began a search for a defensive coordinator following the 2011 season, he immediately focused on Spagnuolo, one of the NFL’s most respected defensive minds, who has a well-earned reputation for being an outstanding teacher who’s fostered fundamentally sound, aggressive and opportunistic units throughout his coaching career.
Spagnuolo spent the last three seasons (2009-2011) as the head coach of the St. Louis Rams after serving as the defensive coordinator of the New York Giants from 2007-2008. Prior to joining the Giants, where he was the defensive architect of the Super Bowl XLII Champions and an NFC East Division winner the following season, he served on the Philadelphia Eagles’ coaching staff from 1999-2006, first a defensive assistant working with the safeties, then later tutoring the secondary from 2001-2003 and coaching the linebacker corps his final three seasons.
During his tenure in St. Louis, Spagnuolo’s team made a significant six-game improvement in his second season at the helm, as the Rams finished in second place in the NFC West, remaining in contention for the division championship until the finale of regular season play. His team’s six-game swing marked the second-best turnaround in the NFL from 2009 to 2010, sparked by considerable improvement in all three phases. Defensively, the Rams jumped ten spots in total defense, ranking second in the NFL in third down defense, third in negative play yardage (sacks and tackles for loss), and seventh in sacks. The Rams defense also held opposing quarterbacks to an 80.4 passer rating, which represented the ninth-lowest in the NFL and a dramatic improvement from 31st in the league in 2009 when the team allowed a cumulative 96.9 passer rating.
In 2011 the Rams ranked seventh in the league against the pass, while a pair of promising young defenders continued to progress under Spagnuolo’s watch. A second-round draft pick in 2009, MLB James Laurinaitis led the Rams in tackles each of the past three seasons, including posting 142 stops, three sacks and two interceptions in 2011. DE Chris Long also continued his marked improvement into one of the NFL’s top pass rushers. He increased his sack total each of the past three seasons, culminating with a total of 13 quarterback takedowns in 2011, ranked seventh in the NFL and the highest total by a St. Louis defender since 2006.
Spagnuolo arrived in St. Louis following a two-year tenure as defensive coordinator for the New York Giants, where in 37 regular season and postseason games, the Giants defense allowed opponents 17 points or fewer in 19 total contests. The Giants were 19-0 in those games and 17-2 in contests where opposing quarterbacks had passer ratings lower than 75.0.
In 2007, Spagnuolo’s first season with the Giants, the New York defense rose from 25th in 2006 to seventh in the NFL in yards allowed, an improvement of 37 yards per game. The Giants were in the NFL’s top 10 in eight statistical categories and led the league for the first time in 10 seasons with 53 quarterback sacks. DE Osi Umenyiora led the Giants with 13 sacks en route to a Pro Bowl selection.
However it was in the postseason where the New York Giants defense truly hit their stride, as they held the league’s top three offensive teams – Green Bay (2nd), Dallas (3rd) and New England (1st) – to a total of 51 points, ending with a defensive performance that shut down the high-octane Patriots offense in the Giants’ stunning 17-14 win in Super Bowl XLII.
The Super Bowl win came against a team that had set a league record with 589 points in the regular season. The Giants defense hit New England QB Tom Brady a dozen times and sacked him five times in a stellar defensive effort, which held the most explosive team in NFL history to 137.3 yards less than its season average. The Patriots rushed for only 45 yards and did not have a single gain over 19 yards. New England, which had averaged almost 37 points per game during the season, was limited to 14 points on the evening.
Spagnuolo’s defense followed-up the strong 2007 performance despite the losses of Pro Bowl defensive ends Michael Strahan to retirement and Umenyiora to a knee injury in the 2008 preseason, by improving from seventh in yards allowed to fifth in 2008 as New York won the NFC East with a 12-4 record. The Giants allowed only 95.8 rushing yards per game, ninth in the NFL, and 196.2 passing yards per game, eighth in the league. The Giants allowed 18.4 points per game, fifth in the NFL and the team’s 42 sacks ranked sixth in the league. DE Justin Tuck paced the Giants defense with 12 sacks, earning the first Pro Bowl berth of his career.
During tenure with the Eagles, where he worked under the late defensive coordinator Jim Johnson, Spagnuolo coached several players, including Brian Dawkins, Bobby Taylor, Troy Vincent, Lito Sheppard, Michael Lewis and Jeremiah Trotter, to Pro Bowl berths in six of his eight seasons. From 1999-2005 the Eagles ranked first in the NFL in third-down defense (33 percent), second in points allowed (17.0 per game), second in quarterback sacks (265), and third in red zone defense (43 percent).
From 1999-2005 the Eagles played in four NFC Championship games and one Super Bowl. In 2001 the Philadelphia defense did not allow more than 21 points in 16 regular-season games, only the fourth time in NFL history that the feat has been accomplished.
Spagnuolo was the Male Scholar Athlete of the Year at Springfield (Mass.) College in 1982, and then took a graduate assistant’s position at the University of Massachusetts. In 1983, his first pro football experience came as a pro personnel intern with the Washington Redskins. The Redskins won a berth in Super Bowl XVIII.
Spagnuolo returned to the collegiate level as defensive line and special teams coach at Lafayette (Pa.) from 1984-1986. He was at the University of Connecticut as defensive backs coach from 1987-89 before adding defensive coordinator duties from 1990-91.
In 1992, Spagnuolo made a second foray into professional football, coaching the defensive line and special teams for the Barcelona Dragons of the World League of American Football. After the spring in Europe, he briefly served as a scout for the San Diego Chargers in 1993 before moving to the University of Maine, serving first as defensive backs coach in 1993 before becoming the defensive coordinator/ linebackers coach in 1994. He then continued his career advancement by serving as the defensive backs coach at Rutgers (1994-1995) and at Bowling Green (1996-1997).
In 1998, Spagnuolo coached another season of pro football with the Frankfurt Galaxy of the renamed NFL Europe League. Spagnuolo served as the Galaxy’s defensive coordinator/linebackers coach and under his tutelage four of the Galaxy’s six linebackers and nine of the 11 defensive starters went on to play in the NFL. The Galaxy defense ranked second in the league in total defense, helping the team to an 8-2 record and a World Bowl appearance.
A native of Whitinsville, Mass., Spagnuolo is a member of the Grafton (Mass.) High School Athletic Hall of Fame. He earned a bachelor’s degree in physical education from Springfield College and a master’s degree in sports management from the University of Massachusetts.
Steve and his wife, Maria, became positive impactful members in the St. Louis community through their work with The Spagnuolo Foundation and look forward to doing the same in New Orleans. The foundation, whose mission is centered on the biblical verse Hebrews 11:1, (“Now faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see.”) is designed to give hope to youth who otherwise may not have the opportunity to pursue and achieve their dreams.