Steve Spagnuolo was probably never going to get the Giants' head coaching job once his four-game run as interim coach was over. But Pat Shurmur getting the job might be the next best thing for him.
Because if Shurmur is indeed hired as the next head coach (and a source told SNY that's "likely," though not yet definite), he might keep the 58-year-old Spagnuolo around as the Giants' defensive coordinator. The two have a long history together, including the two years Shurmur spent as Spagnuolo's offensive coordinator when he was the head coach of the St. Louis Rams.
It's not known if Shurmur intends to keep Spagnuolo or if he told Giants brass that he would during his interview with the team, but given how popular Spagnuolo is inside the Giants' building, it seems like a move that would gain ownership's approval, even if they didn't always allow their coaches to choose their own staff.
Spagnuolo and Shurmur spent eight years together on Andy Reid's staff in Philadelphia from 1999 to 2006. Spagnuolo was coming out of the college ranks and off a season as a defensive coordinator in the World League of American Football when he was hired as an Eagles defensive assistant. Shurmur had spent nine years in the college ranks when Reid hired him to coach the Eagles' tight ends and offensive line.
They grew up in the NFL together in a sense, and grew close enough that when Spagnuolo was hired by the St. Louis Rams in 2009, he brought along Shurmur as his offensive coordinator. Shurmur stayed two years before leaving to become the head coach of the Cleveland Browns.
"We learned a lot of football together," Shurmur told NJ.com about Spagnuolo two years ago. "I have a lot of respect for him. Very organized, very detailed coach."
Shurmur added that the two talk a lot, and see each other during summer vacations. He also said their wives are "very close."
So it seems like a natural fit. The only issue is the recent performances of Spagnuolo's defenses. Last year, the Giants' defense ranked 31st in the NFL, a huge disappointment coming off a top-10 season. Injuries were surely a factor, but the bigger issue was a startling lack of discipline on his side of the football. Two cornerbacks, Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie and Janoris Jenkins, had to be suspended during the season, and a third -- Eli Apple -- was benched multiple times. Things with Apple deteriorated so much that safety Landon Collins eventually called him "a cancer."
That may not have been Spagnuolo's fault, but it doesn't help that it all deteriorated on his watch.
It also doesn't help his cause that his 2015 defense with the Giants was the worst in the NFL, and so was his 2012 defense when he was the coordinator with the New Orleans Saints. I.e., in three of his last four seasons as defensive coordinator, his defense ranked dead last or second-to-last in the NFL. In fact, those 2012 Saints broke the NFL record for yards allowed (7,042) and the 2015 Giants (at 6,725) weren't far behind.
That said, it's possible Giants ownership and new GM Dave Gettleman would prefer a clean break and an entirely new staff of assistants. It's also possible that Spagnuolo wants to go elsewhere after being turned down for the Giants' head coaching job for a second time.
But if Shurmur really wants Spagnuolo -- and Spagnuolo wants to stay -- he likely would be allowed to keep him given the Giants' history of not interfering with the head coach's staff selections. And given their personal history, Spagnuolo figures to at least be on Shurmur's preliminary list.