With Spagnuolo, Rams Headed in a Winning Direction

Nathan GrimmCorrespondent IMay 26, 2009

EARTH CITY, MO - MAY 2: Head coach Steve Spagnuolo of the St. Louis Rams watches his team during a mini camp on May 2, 2009 at the Russell Training Center in Earth City, Missouri.  (Dilip Vishwanat/Getty Images)

It's fairly easy to describe the play-calling tendencies of the new coaching regime for the St. Louis Rams.


That's because the head coach, offensive coordinator, and defensive coordinator have been at the helm for a combined zero regular season snaps for their new team.

After the past two seasons in which the team won only five games total, the Rams organization cleaned house this past offseason.

Gone were any remnants of those losing seasons, replaced with arguably the hottest head coaching commodity on the market and a pair of coordinators from successful organizations.

Floundering franchise, say hello to Steve Spagnuolo, Pat Shurmur, and Ken Flajole.

Spagnuolo is most recognized as the defensive mind behind the Giants' immovable object that caused problems for the Patriots' irresistible force in Super Bowl XLII.

Spagnuolo wasn't just a defensive genius overnight, though. Heck, his blitz-heavy scheme, while executed very well by his Giants defense, isn't even unique to Spagnuolo.

Spagnuolo got his start in 1982 as a graduate assistant at the University of Massachusetts, but it wasn't until 1999, when he caught on with the Philadelphia Eagles, that his star started to rise.

With Philadelphia, Spagnuolo got to learn from Eagles defensive coordinator Jim Johnson, one of the game's most aggressive play-callers.

Johnson's defenses are notorious for their relentless pressure on the quarterback, and Spagnuolo put that philosophy to work in New York when he became the defensive coordinator in 2007.

With the likes of Michael Strahan, Osi Umenyiora, and Antonio Pierce, Spagnuolo and the Giants were able to conquer the previously undefeated Patriots by disrupting quarterback Tom Brady all game long.

Spagnuolo spent 2008 with the Giants as well and again earned a trip to the postseason, but this time the Giants fell to Spagnuolo's former mentor Johnson and the Eagles in the divisional round.

Spagnuolo hopes to continue his success in St. Louis. The Rams haven't been to the postseason since 2004.

To help try to bring back a winning tradition, Spagnuolo hired as his coordinators two men who have been winners in their time in the NFL.

Shortly after his hiring, Spagnuolo announced that Shurmur and Flajole would be joining his staff as the offensive and defensive coordinators, respectively.

“Both are very strong leaders, character people,” Spagnuolo said in an interview with Jim Thomas of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch shortly after the hirings in late January.

“They’re exactly what I laid out (Monday) in terms of faith, character, core values, and team first. I’m looking forward to working with both of those guys.”

And they have one more thing going for them: Both have also been to the Super Bowl.  Flajole went with the Carolina Panthers in the 2003 season. Shurmur went the following year with the Eagles.

Both teams lost to the Patriots—something Rams fans can relate to—but with Spagnuolo as the team's new leader, the Rams have hopes that those losses will be a distant memory.

It won't be the first time Spagnuolo has worked with Shurmur.

Shurmur was also hired in 1999 to be part of Andy Reid's staff in Philadelphia. He began as tight ends coach and quickly worked his way up to quarterbacks coach, the position he's held for the past seven years.

The biggest change that Shurmur brings to the Rams is the implementation of the West Coast Offense, which was chronicled in an earlier article.

In Philadelphia, Shurmur was able to work with one of the best in Donovan McNabb. Now he will get to try to revive the career of Marc Bulger.

Defensively, Flajole comes from the Panthers, where he was the linebackers coach for the past six years. Recently, he's helped Jon Beason and Thomas Davis become quality linebackers for the Panthers.

While Flajole might not come in and have a huge impact on Spagnuolo's defensive ideology, Spagnuolo said Flajole will still be counted on for a new perspective, according to Bill Coats of the Post-Dispatch.

“One of the great things about hiring a new staff on defense is, there are a lot of other ideas that come into play," Spagnuolo said.

"I certainly don’t think we had all the answers in New York. Now we can just beg, borrow and steal, and do it officially, because the guys are here. That’s all you do in the league. You steal good ideas from other people.”

Beg, borrow or steal, one thing is certain―the Rams need a new look in 2009 to help everyone forget their 2008.

Now that the structure is in place, it's time to see if this regime can be more successful than the last.

It starts with Snap One.