Aside from the brilliance of Kansas City Chiefs QB Patrick Mahomes and head coach Andy Reid, it was the turnaround of the Chiefs defense that helped push the AFC Champions over the hump for their first Super Bowl title since 1969.
Led by defensive coordinator Steve Spagnuolo, the Chiefs defense bounced back in a big way in 2019, finishing in the top 10 in total points allowed (7th), takeaways (10th), interceptions (5th), passing yards allowed (8th), and passing touchdowns allowed (8th).
In a radio interview with WFAN’s “Moose and Maggie” show last week, the veteran coordinator talked about some of his motivation heading into one of the biggest games of his career in Super Bowl LIV.
“”I did not want to let that man down,” Spagnuolo said. “I think that every player and every coach feels that way, and we’re just elated that he’s able to feel the winning Super Bowl (as a head coach).”
“I don’t think any of us have ever heard a bad word spoken about Andy, and that’s the truth,” he continued. “It’s because of who he is. It’s the man that he is. It’s the character that comes out the minute you meet him. It’s the rock-solid presence that he has, whether it’s in the building or whether it’s at an owners meeting around other coaches. That’s where the respect comes from.”
Spagnuolo broke into the league in 1999 as a defensive assistant for the Philadelphia Eagles under then first-year head coach Andy Reid. In 2008, ‘Spags’ left to take his first defensive coordinator role with the New York Giants. Two seasons later, he departed to St. Louis for the Rams head coaching job. In three seasons from 2009-11, Spagnuolo led the Rams to a dismal 10-38 record highlighted by a 7-9 season in 2010. He received another opportunity, albeit brief, to coach the final four games of the New York Giants’ 2017 season after the organization parted ways with general manager Jerry Reese and head coach Ben McAdoo in early December.
In 2019, the 60-year-old defensive coordinator put together one of the finest performances of his 21-year career in the NFL. Despite a laggy start as a few of Kansas City’s newest additions learned to play within his scheme, Spagnuolo’s unit turned a corner in the second half of the season and throughout the playoffs.
Inevitably, the impressive turnaround led to questions about his future and Reid’s top defensive assistant made it clear that he still has a desire to work as a head coach again should the right opportunity present itself.
“I would love to do that (be a head coach) again, but I will preface by saying I’ve got a really good job right now and want to just hang on to the one I got,” said Spagnuolo. “I know how this league is. But that burning desire is there. If it’s in God’s plans, it’ll happen. And if not, I’m still a very fortunate man, very, very blessed.”
Having learned from a handful of future Hall of Famers throughout his career, including Tom Coughlin, Job Gibbs (elected in 1996), Sean Payton, and now Reid, Spagnuolo certainly has the chops to lead an NFL team again should the feelings be mutual. For now, it’ll come down to the right job becoming available in the coming seasons. After all, it’ll be hard to top what Kansas City has going right now.
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