In his three hires of head coaches, Dan Snyder has taken one from each of three major categories. He has gone the retread route in hiring Marty Schottenheimer. Then he went into the college ranks to get Steve Spurrier. Four years ago it was returning legend Joe Gibbs. The results have ranged from a cut or two above mediocre to downright embarrassing.
Now, he has a chance to go into a fourth category—the hot coordinator. And rarely has there been a coordinator more smokin' hot than Steve Spagnuolo.
Spagnuolo, born December 21, 1959 in Whitinsville, Massachusetts, currently is the defensive coordinator of the Super Bowl champion New York Giants. In case you haven't heard, his defense held the highest scoring team in NFL history to 14 points. According to Joe White of the Associated Press, Spagnuolo will interview for the Redskins head coaching job on Tuesday.
Holding the best offensive team in NFL history to two touchdowns in the Super Bowl does not, in and of itself, qualify a coordinator to be a head coach. Neither does running a defense that beat Tony Romo, Bret Favre, and Tom Brady along the road to the title. And it takes more than being a fiery, intense presence on the sidelines. Spagnuolo has all of that. It takes having a plan for the whole team, for how the units will mesh together. A coordinator generally has to deal with the media but those responsibilities grow exponentially when moving up to the level of head coach. When a practice squad offensive lineman gets into a barroom fight the head coach gets a phone call at 2:30 AM. He's responsible for setting the tone, setting the mood for the entire 53-man roster.
Can Spagnuolo handle all of that? Snyder will try to get a feel for that during Tuesday's interview (and perhaps a second one a day or two later). But, until a coach does it, there's no way of telling whether or not he'll do it well. All Snyder can do is try to calculate what the chances are that he will be successful.
And if Snyder determines that there is a reasonable chance that Spagnuolo will fill the bill, he might well choose to offer the job to him. If that happens, it seems likely that he will accept it. It's likely that the Giants will come back with to offer some more money and an Assistant Head Coach title. But there is no guarantee that there will ever be another top job offer for Spags. The Giants could well follow the route of many Super Bowl champions and wallow in mediocrity for a few seasons. Nobody wants the DC of a 9-7 or 8-8 team that went one and done in the playoffs, which is where the Giants were the last two years.
Spagnuolo may not get his choice of coordinators, but he may have been sending a signal that he would be OK with that when he spoke to the media during the week leading up to the Super Bowl. When he came to the Giants as their DC at the beginning of this past season, the team had decided to retain almost all of the defensive position coaches. Spagnuolo didn't have a problem with that, as he was quoted as saying in this article from the Arizona Republic:
Inheriting a staff wouldn't be an ideal situation for some assistants, but Spagnuolo viewed it as a positive.
"In some regards, when that happens you're relieved of having to go find (coaches)," he said. "It didn't take long for me to realize that I was lucky they all stayed, in all truthfulness."
Will he feel lucky inheriting Jim Zorn and Greg Blache? We will see.