Giants defensive coordinator Spagnuolo will interview for jobs

EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- Defensive coordinator Steve Spagnuolo was a hot head coaching commodity after the Giants won the Super Bowl, and the interest in "Spags" has only increased with New York carrying the No. 1 seed into the NFC playoffs.

Spagnuolo, who is one of the league's highest paid coordinators with an annual salary of $2 million, already has an interview scheduled on Saturday for the vacant coaching job with the New York Jets -- the Giants' co-tenant at Giants Stadium. He also has been mentioned for the openings in Detroit and Cleveland.

Coaching file
Age: 49

Years with Giants: 2

Years in NFL: 10

Bob LaMonte, Spagnuolo's agent, did not immediately return a telephone call left by The Associated Press seeking comment.

"I will give it the thought or address it when it happens," Spagnuolo said last week when asked about the possibility of interviewing during the bye week for the Giants (12-4).

When pressured, the 49-year-old Massachusetts native said with his best Boston accent that he was more concerned about buying his wife a Christmas present.

That's Spagnuolo, though. In his two seasons with the Giants, he has shown himself to be soft-spoken and relaxed. He kids about his Italian ancestry, noting that his father always said that the "g" in his name was silent.

His name is pronounced "Spah-NYOO'-loh."

His coaching style mirrors his personality. He learned an aggressive blitzing style on defense working under Jim Johnson in Philadelphia, and he brought that and his old mentor's other favorite quality -- patience -- to New York.

If things don't go right on the field, Spagnuolo will either start again, stick with his system or ask his players for their thoughts and make changes when their ideas are sound. He rarely criticizes, and never points a finger in public.

When the Giants limited Carolina to seven second-half points in clinching the conference's top seed with a 34-28 overtime victory over the Panthers little more than a week ago, Sgagnuolo took none of the credit for the halftime adjustments.

"If you walked in here at halftime, you would have seen that the players were making the adjustments on their own, and I am not talking about any scheme or any X's and O's," he said. "I think they realized what had happened and, true to their character, the group of guys we have they came out in the second half and got it straightened out on their own."

Players smile when Spagnuolo talks that way. He contributed.

What he has done this season is impressive, considering that seven-time Pro Bowler Michael Strahan retired last summer and fellow Pro Bowl defensive end Osi Umenyiora was lost in the preseason with a major knee injury.

Despite the losses, the Giants finished the season ranked fifth in defense, yielding an average of 292 yards. It is the first season they have allowed less than 300 yards since 2000, a season in which the team went to the Super Bowl.

Spagnuolo came close to getting a head coaching job after last season. The Washington Redskins gave him two interviews before Spagnuolo withdrew from consideration and got the big contract from the Giants.

Middle linebacker Antonio Pierce expects Spagnuolo to stay put this time, adding it's up to the Giants management to deal with the defensive coordinator.

"Spags is a grown man. He is his own employee," Pierce said Monday. "He is the CEO of Spags Incorporated and my job is not to tell Coach Spags what to do and what not to do. My job is to listen to him because he is my defensive coordinator of the New York Giants and that is all I care about.

"Anything else that is being speculated or being asked about, I think that just shows you the kind of performance that our defense and Coach Spags have put together this year," Pierce said.

Copyright 2008 by The Associated Press

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