Redskins to Talk With Spagnuolo
Coordinator's Scheme Key to Upset

By Les Carpenter
Washington Post Staff Writer
Monday, February 4, 2008

GLENDALE, Ariz., Feb. 3 -- In a matter of days, the Washington Redskins are expected to interview New York Giants defensive coordinator Steve Spagnuolo for their vacant head coaching job. It is a big reason why, team owner Daniel Snyder said on Saturday afternoon, that the Redskins have yet to hire their new coach.

They wanted to talk to someone in this Super Bowl. From all indications, it is Spagnuolo.

Now it may be clear why.

For his part, Spagnuolo had little to say about the potential of the Redskins' job.

"I want to take this all in tonight," he said after the Giants beat the Patriots, 17-14, to win Super Bowl XLII. "Whatever the future holds, we'll see."

The Giants' defense that Spagnuolo coaches, the one he tweaked in his single year in New York, came after the New England Patriots on Sunday night. It came after quarterback Tom Brady, shoving him, pushing him, knocking him to the ground. He never looked comfortable in the face of the Giants' pressure and that was something new. Brady has always looked comfortable, even when the line in front of him was breaking apart and it seemed all was lost.

On Sunday, the leader of what statistically stands as the most potent offense in the history of the NFL, worked frantically just to put 14 points on the scoreboard.

"I think they just executed better," Brady said. "You have to give those Giants a lot of credit. It is an extremely well-coached team. We played them five weeks ago and it was a three-point game and they made enough changes and eliminated what we did offensively."

When asked what the Giants did, Brady sighed.

"They mixed it up quite a bit, give you a bunch of different looks," he replied. "They put a lot of pressure on your offensive scheme. At times we handled it pretty well and at times we didn't. I think because of our inconsistency it really limited what we could produce in terms of scoring points."

Sure, the Patriots moved the ball at times Sunday night. They held onto it for almost the entire third quarter and moved with stunning efficiency on a fourth-quarter drive that led to what was presumed to be the winning touchdown. But the Giants also sacked Brady five times and held Randy Moss to 62 receiving yards. The 274 yards the Patriots generated Sunday was not a number to which they are accustomed. In many ways, Spagnuolo beat the New England Patriots in Super Bowl XLII.

Yet when he was asked after the game, if he believed he could hold the Patriots to 14 points, he said: "In all honesty, no. I believed in the guys and what they were and what they did and what they could do. But I just had so much respect for New England that I thought if our offense could control the ball and we could score a few points, then maybe we could outscore them. Just in case."

Last night he abandoned the outside blitzes that the Giants had used in other years, relying instead on blitzes up the middle. This seemed to open up defensive end Justin Tuck, who roared in on Brady several times -- once sacking the quarterback by jumping on his back and another time sneaking around from behind and knocking the ball from his hands.

But there were others who played heroic roles in the aggressive defense Spagnuolo brought with him from Philadelphia. Like Kawika Mitchell, who also pressured Brady, and former Redskins linebacker Antonio Pierce, who had seven solo tackles.

Spagnuolo said he didn't think the Giants blitzed as much as everyone might have thought -- maybe only 30 or 35 percent of the time. But he said the linemen up front did an excellent job of pushing forward just as they had all year. Once again it worked.

Last night, another candidate for the Redskins coaching job -- NFL Network commentator Steve Mariucci -- said of Spagnuolo and the Redskins: "I think it's important that they have a good interview and see if it's the right fit."

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