Giants hire Spagnuolo as defensive coordinator

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EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. (AP) – The New York Giants looked to one of their division rivals to help shore up their porous defense.

Steve Spagnuolo, the Philadelphia Eagles’ linebackers coach the past three seasons, was hired by the Giants on Monday to be their defensive coordinator.

Spagnuolo will replace Tim Lewis, who was fired this month after three seasons with the Giants.

Coach Tom Coughlin was sufficiently impressed with the 47-year-old Spagnuolo, who has never been a defensive coordinator in the NFL, that he hired him without conducting in-person interviews with any other candidates.

Clearly, Spagnuolo’s association with Eagles defensive coordinator Jim Johnson, whose aggressive, blitzing defenses have confounded the Giants for years, made him an attractive candidate.

“We were looking for a guy who had had the opportunity to work with some of the outstanding defensive people in the league,” Coughlin said. “It is a plus that he knows our division, and it is also a plus that he comes from a program that has Andy Reid as a head coach and Jim Johnson as a defensive coordinator.”

Spagnuolo said the chance to be a defensive coordinator trumped any thoughts of staying in Philadelphia and positioning himself to one day replace Reid.

“You aspire to be in certain positions, and coordinator was one I wanted,” he said. “I don’t think you ever say no to them.”

He will inherit a Giants defense that was beset by injuries to star players Michael Strahan and LaVar Arrington and others last season, but still underperformed.

As a unit, the Giants ranked 25th in the NFL in yardage allowed (342.4 yards) and 28th against the pass (228.1 yards). They were worst in the league when opponents got inside the 20-yard line, allowing them to score touchdowns on 30 of 46 chances in the red zone, or 65.2 percent.

Defensive shortcomings were a prime factor in the Giants losing four games in the second half of the season in which they led or were tied in the fourth quarter. The capper came in a 23-20 loss to the Eagles in the wild-card game when the Giants tied the game with 5:04 to play, but allowed the winning drive as time expired.

Spagnuolo said he had an emotional goodbye with Eagles Pro Bowl linebacker Jeremiah Trotter earlier Monday, but said he’s looking forward to working with a healthy Arrington and middle linebacker Antonio Pierce, who are the anchors of the Giants’ defense along with Strahan and defensive end Osi Umenyiora.

He didn’t give any specifics about his defensive philosophy except to say he’ll incorporate schemes he has picked up during nearly 25 years in coaching.

“This is a business of beg, borrow and steal,” he said. “I will pick pieces and parts from a lot of different places I’ve been and try to put all the pieces together and come up with something good.”

Before coaching the Eagles’ linebackers, Spagnuolo was a defensive assistant for two years and a defensive backs coach for three years. He was also an assistant coach in Europe with Barcelona and Frankfurt, and with several college teams dating to the mid-1980s.

AP-ES-01-22-07 1643EST

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