My very first article for CSC was about the hiring of Steve Spagnuolo. I was all for the hire from the outset. Just like many other Saints fans, I was done with Gregg Williams. Not just the "bounty" situation but the on-field results he was generating without Darren Sharper leading the defense. A change had to be made and Spags seemed like a good choice.
Spags was like the anti-Gregg. Cerebral, non-demonstrative, and highly accountable. No "look at me" antics from this guy and most importantly, not the same predictable defensive scheme. Spags led the 2011 Rams, the NFC's worst team, to a stunning win over these Saints the season before he was hired. The defensive effort and scheme was outstanding that day, featuring a relentless pass rush without the need for excessive blitzing.
It could have been a perfect marriage. Sean Payton's unstoppable offense paired with Steve Spagnuolo's disciplined defense. What could go wrong?
Instead, what didn't go wrong? Payton missed the entire season, the draft picks were slim to none, and the defense just couldn't "figure it out." The 2012 New Orleans Saints gave up the most single season yards in NFL history, by a mile. A sure thing became a flat out bust.
Despite all of his on-field failings last season, I still respect Steve Spagnuolo as a man and a football coach. It just wasn't meant to be. Wrong place, wrong time I suppose you might say. He always took the heat and he believed in this team. He didn't make excuses or throw any players under the bus, it's unfortunate that same courtesy wasn't extended to him.
Spags was always at a disadvantage. He was saddled with "Gregg's guys" and there weren't enough draft picks or cap space to change that very much. He did the best he could with what he had. Well, his best sucked in 2012. He made chicken s*** out of chicken s***, to be frank. Spags trying to teach the post-Gregg Williams defense to be cerebral was an exercise in futility. The brutal simplicity of the constant blitz scheme was etched into their minds, it was motor reflex after three seasons. In hindsight, it just wasn't going to work.
In the end it's unfortunate things ended like this. The results of this past season will undoubtedly hurt Spagnuolo's prospects going forward. Spags will find work somewhere and rebuild his reputation I'm sure. I wouldn't be surprised if this guy is leading one of the NFL's better defenses somewhere down the road. Success for Spags and the Saints was never meant to be. He was a stand up guy and he never embarrassed the organization even though his defensive effort certainly did.
Spags, despite the records set last season I wish you luck in the future. The Saints desperately needed a change on defense and with coach Payton back at the helm, there's no better time than now.