- The Washington Times - Monday, February 4, 2008

GLENDALE, Ariz. — If Washington Redskins owner Dan Snyder looked at last night’s Super Bowl XLII as a final audition for New York Giants defensive coordinator Steve Spagnuolo, it’s bad news for Jim Fassel, Ron Meeks and Steve Mariucci.

Spagnuolo, whom the Redskins are expected to interview tomorrow to replace coach Joe Gibbs, turned in a virtuoso performance last night at University of Phoenix Stadium, dialing up a defensive game plan that helped the Giants shock the New England Patriots 17-14.

Using a variety of looks and blitzes, the Giants held the Patriots to 274 yards, a whopping 137 below their regular-season average. New York sacked quarterback Tom Brady five times.

“I believed in the guys and what they’re about and what they could do,” Spagnuolo said. “But I have so much respect for New England that I thought if our offense could control the ball, they could outscore their offense.”

Asked about the Redskins opening, Spagnuolo said: “I’m thinking about just us tonight. I want to take it all in. Whatever the future holds, we’ll take care of that then.”

Several players approached Spagnuolo after the game and told him to stay.

“I told him, ‘Spags, man, you can’t leave us,’ ” safety James Butler said.

Said Spagnuolo: “I love these guys. I appreciate them saying that.”

Spagnuolo is scheduled to fly home with the team today. On Saturday, Snyder said he wanted to have a coach in place by the end of this week.

According to a league source before last night’s game, a person who spoke to Spagnuolo after the Atlanta Falcons were denied permission to interview him said Spagnuolo did not have interest in becoming a head coach at this point. The source said Spagnuolo felt he needed more time to prepare for the interview process and the demands of being a coach.

But that was before the Giants won three consecutive road games to reach the Super Bowl and then held the Patriots in check, save for two touchdown drives.

It’s conceivable now to think Spagnuolo looks at the situation differently. Another league source said the hiring of both coordinators wouldn’t be a major stumbling block.

After New England scored on its first possession, it punted four times, fumbled once and failed on fourth down once over the next six possessions.

“Just like he’s done all year, Spags had a great plan,” linebacker Antonio Pierce said. “He listened to the players and made adjustments on the sideline. He did everything he needed to do to be a winning coordinator in this game.”

Despite the great defensive performance, the situation looked dire when New England completed an 80-yard drive to take a 14-10 lead with 2:42 remaining. But the Giants won the game on Eli Manning’s 13-yard pass to Plaxico Burress with 35 seconds left.

New England lost 10 yards on its last-gasp drive.

“All I was thinking about was the [last touchdown] drive we gave up at the end, and I felt bad that things might not go our way,” Spagnuolo said. “I’m very proud of the players and the way they responded and played against adversity. They did an awesome job.”

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