New York Giants fans may not want to hear this, but Steve Spagnuolo should seriously be considered as a head coaching candidate for this team. His name may not grab the headlines or create fervor among the fans but Sunday’s 18-10 win over the Washington Redskins clearly showing that whatever Spagnuolo is selling, this team right now is buying it.
Spagnuolo finally got his first win in what was his fourth try as Giants interim head coach, doing so in less than ideal circumstances. With a beat-up offense lacking their top two wide receivers and an offensive line that might be the worst in football, the former Giants defensive coordinator now turned their interim head coach has managed to get the team effectively moving the ball and playing better.
And while these three performances under Spagnuolo, who spent three years as head coach of the St. Louis Rams, haven’t been perfect a few things now begin to emerge.
His Giants are more disciplined, having cut penalties over these this span of four games. They also are focused and playing hard, this even as they came into this final game with a 2-13 record.
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While many seem to want a big name or a splashy hire, the solid and dependable Spagnuolo seems to be resonating with this team.
With nothing to play for on Sunday, against the backdrop of an empty MetLife Stadium on a bitterly cold, freezing day the Giants played hard and seemingly with purpose. A performance like this from Spagnuolo’s team in a game where they had no incentive and could easily have chosen to sit on the heated benches must resonate with newly named general manager Dave Gettleman.
To date, Spagnuolo has checked off a lot of boxes. He reinstated quarterback Eli Manning the very next game after his insulting benching in early December; Manning has responded with two very solid performances in these last three starts. Spagnuolo also has not been afraid to roll out some younger players on both sides of the ball, boldly beginning the process of evaluating talent for next year.
Spagnuolo will get an interview, this much is certain. But he should get a long, serious look.
Certainly, his prior experience with the Rams wasn’t ideal, his three-and-out coming off a disappointing 10-41 record. But that was a bad team with poor management and disinterested ownership, something that should not see him found wanting when he interviews soon.
In there here and now, Spagnuolo has done something right. Sunday’s win not emphatic but gutsy from a team that very easily could have shown-up and gone through the motions.
There is something to be said about not just getting a team to respond and play hard but actually execute. While flawed and banged-up, Spagnuolo has done that more often than not over the past month.
His first loss against the Dallas Cowboys was close until the fourth quarter and then the next week was a five-point loss to the NFC’s top seed. He even coached up his team well this week after a 23-0 loss the previous Sunday at the Arizona Cardinals, a loss that could have set in motion another lackluster performance to close out this season.
Instead, his team listened and responded, putting their heart into Sunday’s ugly win. Perhaps Gettleman and Giants ownership will be listening too.