Spagnuolo Replaces Haslett In St. Louis

Steve Spagnuolo, who spent two seasons as the New York Giants’ defensive coordinator, has been hired by the St. Louis Rams to be their next coach.

Rams spokesman Rick Smith said he was not aware of any announcement and no news conference was planned. Calls by The Associated Press to Spagnuolo’s agent, Bob LaMonte, were not returned.

Spagnuolo, 49, agreed to a four-year deal worth about $12 million, according to the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, which was the first to report the hiring.

Spagnuolo replaces Jim Haslett and takes over a team that finished 2-14. Haslett went 2-10 as interim coach after his promotion from defensive coordinator when Scott Linehan was fired following an 0-4 start.

Spagnuolo was the architect of the Giants’ sack-happy defense that thwarted New England’s run to a perfect season in last year’s Super Bowl upset.

By late afternoon, several media outlets were at Rams Park but there was no sign of Spagnuolo or Rams general manager Billy Devaney.

Spagnuolo was one of five finalists for the job, along with Haslett; Dallas Cowboys offensive coordinator Jason Garrett; and defensive coordinators Rex Ryan of Baltimore and Leslie Frazier of Minnesota. Garrett flew into St. Louis on Friday night, prompting speculation he would be the new coach. But he was only there for another interview.

The 49-year-old Spagnuolo took over as defensive coordinator in New York in 2007. A year before, New York ranked 25th in total defense. Under Spagnuolo in 2007, the Giants ranked seventh, led the league with 53 sacks and made the playoffs.

Last season, they upset favored Dallas and Green Bay to reach the Super Bowl against New England, with the Patriots seeking to become the first 19-0 team. But Spagnuolo’s defense harassed quarterback Tom Brady all day, sacking him a season-high five times and holding down New England’s potent offense in a 17-14 upset win.

Despite New York’s loss to Philadelphia in the NFC divisional round this season, many considered this an even greater coaching job by Spagnuolo after 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.

New York ranked fifth in the league in total defense, giving up 294 yards per game. That’s a far cry from the Rams, who ranked 28th, giving up 465 yards per game.

Spagnuolo interviewed for several other head coaching vacancies each of the past two seasons. He was a strong contender last season for the top job in Washington before deciding to stay with the Giants.

He faces a big challenge in the Rams, who won their first two games after Haslett took over, then lost their final 10.

St. Louis is 5-27 the past two seasons, hasn’t had a winning season since 2003 and hasn’t made the playoffs since the 2004 season. The offense was even worse than the defense last season, tying for 30th in scoring offense, averaging just 14.5 points per game.

On the plus side, St. Louis will have the second pick in the April draft for the second straight season. The Rams have a top-tier running back in Steven Jackson and some promising young players, including defensive end Chris Long, the No. 2 overall pick in 2008, and second-round draft pick Donnie Avery, a speedy receiver.

Spagnuolo, a Massachusetts native, was a wide receiver at Springfield (Mass.) College. He got his first taste of the NFL as a player personnel intern with Washington in 1983.

After several other stops at the college and pro levels, Spagnuolo was hired as the Frankfurt Galaxy’s defensive coordinator in 1998. He was hired the following year by Philadelphia and worked his way up from defensive assistant to coordinator.

Credit: ESPN

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