- The Washington Times - Tuesday, February 5, 2008

PHOENIX — Each time a New York Giants defensive lineman pounded Tom Brady into the turf Sunday night, hiring a coach to replace Joe Gibbs might have become easier for Washington Redskins owner Dan Snyder.

And each time the Giants’ linebackers stuffed Laurence Maroney for little or no gain, deciding whether to pursue a head coaching opportunity might have become easier for defensive coordinator Steve Spagnuolo.

In the aftermath of the Giants’ 17-14 shocker over the New England Patriots in Super Bowl XLII, Spagnuolo could have emerged as the front-runner for the Redskins’ opening if Snyder viewed the Giants’ run to the title as a four-game job interview. The same holds true if Spagnuolo sees the Redskins as the job for him despite obstacles perceived and real.

“He couldn’t interview any better than he did Sunday night,” a league source said yesterday.

The Giants held the Patriots to season lows in points, yards (274) and yards a play (4.0) and sacked Brady five times.

Spagnuolo flew with the Giants back to New Jersey yesterday and will attend a noon parade in New York today before talking with the Redskins tonight or tomorrow.

Snyder always deemed Spagnuolo worthy of an interview but was forced to look at other options because the Giants kept winning. Days after the Giants’ NFC title game win at Green Bay, Snyder put the search in a holding pattern so he could wait for Spagnuolo.

Spagnuolo has not interviewed for an NFL head coaching job before and has only one year of coordinator experience.

The Atlanta Falcons’ request to meet the week of the Giants’ wild card game at Tampa Bay was denied by the Giants. But two league sources said he did not have a strong interest the position. That was perceived to mean Spagnuolo felt he needed more seasoning. Not so, a league source said.

“Washington has always been the most alluring opening,” a league source said.

Jim Fassel, Ron Meeks and Steve Mariucci remain in the mix. Snyder said last weekend he hopes to have a coach in place for the end of this week.

Spagnuolo has three things to consider if an offer from the Redskins materializes:

• The hot-cold nature of NFL assistants in general and defensive coordinators in particular. Spagnuolo should look no further than Gregg Williams. Two years ago, Williams was on the short lists for jobs in St. Louis and Minnesota, but he signed a record contract to remain with the Redskins. The next season, Washington was 31st in yards allowed. This year, the interview process fell apart, and he was fired. If the Giants, through injuries or ineffectiveness, fall apart next season defensively, Spagnuolo’s stock will drop.

• Staying with a stable organization, which has a talented core and just won the Super Bowl. Giants coach Tom Coughlin, 61, is expected to sign a multiyear extension. New York doesn’t have a tradition of giving its assistants big raises, but the Mara and Tisch families might have to make Spagnuolo an exception or risk losing him to a division rival. It’s not out of the question to include some contract language naming him as Coughlin’s eventual successor.

• He’s going to a team whose coordinators are already in place. Jim Zorn (offense) and Greg Blache (defense) have been hired, and the only opening is for a defensive line coach. This issue, the league source said, is a nonissue. In 2002, Jon Gruden left Oakland for Tampa Bay and inherited nearly the entire staff.

Last January, Spagnuolo arrived from Philadelphia, and all of the Giants’ defensive assistants were retained. Before teaching the players his system, he had to teach the staff.

“The players, certainly with the leadership, pulled us out of [an 0-2 start], but the assistant coaches, who were the same guys that were here a year ago, did a tremendous job staying loyal to the system and believing in it and kept pushing in on the players, who embraced it,” he said last week. “The two-way street worked out really well.”

Giants safeties coach David Merritt said last week Spagnuolo is qualified to be coach.

“Everybody says he’s a player’s coach and he’s a guy you want to play for,” Merritt said. “He’s all football. He has no agendas. You know as a player that he’s working to make you the best possible defense. He has a way with words that is very simple — the ‘KISS’ theory: Keep It Simple, Stupid.”

That mantra was quickly embraced by his players, and the reward for them was a championship. For Spagnuolo, it may his first head coaching job at any level. It will represent a full circle journey — he was a personnel intern in 1983 with the Redskins.

“I’m not really [resentful of the path], and here’s why: All of the experiences I’ve had and all of the people I’ve worked for have been very positive ones,” he said. “I can’t remember a situation where I said, ‘I wish I wasn’t working here.’ I was able to coach in college, coach in Europe, coach in the NFL.”

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