Rams' Spagnuolo says he'll take it slow
ST. LOUIS -- At the start of the St. Louis Rams' coaching search, Giants defensive coordinator Steve Spagnuolo was not really on the list.
General manager Billy Devaney assumed New York would be back in the Super Bowl and didn't think he could afford to wait for Spagnuolo.
The Rams and Buccaneers hired new coaches Saturday, Steve Spagnuolo and Raheem Morris.
Devaney's long-term friendship with Spagnuolo helped speed things from there. Their close relationship was evident at the introductory news conference Monday, with coach and GM, both about 5-foot-7, exchanging height-challenged related digs while adjusting the microphone level.
Friendship aside, the 47-year-old Spagnuolo played an integral role in thwarting the New England Patriots' perfect season in last year's Super Bowl and had another successful year last season despite dealing with injuries to key personnel. He quickly won over ownership and agreed to a four-year contract worth just under $12 million Saturday.
"It was like, automatically, he's basically at the end at the head of the class and going to meet ownership," Devaney said. "There was a plan, there was a confidence, the leadership part came out."
The enthusiasm, too, as he headed into the task of rebuilding a franchise that was 2-14 last year and is 5-27 the last two seasons.
"He was excited about it," Devaney said. "All the hot-button topics that were raised, he embraced fully."
Spagnuolo left his interview Thursday in Los Angeles ready to start rebuilding the Rams.
"When it was all said and done, I had a good feeling," Spagnuolo said. "I was sold, as they were. When you feel the right fit, when you feel you're around the right people, and it's something that has been in your heart for a long time, that's the time to do it."
He stopped well short of a turnaround timetable, though, for a franchise that last went to the playoffs in 2003.
"I'm not going to go there," Spagnuolo said. "We're going to have to start at the beginning here, take it one step at a time, and build on it.
"It's not about predictions and bold promises; it's about building."
Devaney and interim coach Jim Haslett, who was eliminated from contention last week, also are friends. Haslett would have been a tough sell after St. Louis ended the season on a 10-game losing streak, even though the team was competitive down the stretch after getting running back Steven Jackson back from a thigh injury.
Devaney said Haslett began the job of restoring morale after replacing Scott Linehan following an 0-4 start.
"You see what this building is like compared to the first week, first two weeks of the season, and that's after losing 10 in a row," Devaney said. "Absolutely, Haz deserves tremendous credit for getting it to this point."
Spagnuolo, he believes, can finish the job.
"While Steve is a friend of mine, at the end of the day, the guy's a phenomenal coach," Devaney said. "Friendship aside, he's the guy that can take us to championship level and the fact that I know him and I know what kind of person he is, that's a bonus."
On Tuesday, Spagnuolo and Devaney are heading for the Senior Bowl, where Spagnuolo is more likely to interview potential coaching staff candidates than scout potential draft picks. Spagnuolo said he'd also interview remaining Rams staff members.
"Steve won't make it out of the hotel room," Devaney said. "That's where the coaches are, and there's probably guys down there that he'll want to consider and interview, so it's a perfect setting."
He insisted staff hires have not been on his mind.
"I've prided myself on this fact: This thought process was not in the forefront of my mind until after we got beat by the Eagles eight days ago," Spagnuolo said. "I could never do that and feel like I was being loyal."
Spagnuolo was one of four finalists along with Ravens defensive coordinator Rex Ryan, Vikings defensive coordinator Leslie Frazier and Cowboys offensive coordinator Jason Garrett.
Three players attended the news conference, all impressed with Spagnuolo's presence. Cornerback Tye Hill, who has ended the last two seasons on injured reserve, met briefly with the coach.
"I'm excited to be working for him," Hill said. "He was very straightforward, and I think he's going to be a great hire for us. I think he's going to get this organization back to where it should be, and that's dominance."
Copyright 2009 by The Associated Press
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