It was a long time coming (we knew the Kansas City Chiefs had hired him nearly a month ago), but defensive coordinator Steve Spagnuolo held his first teleconference on Wednesday.
Here were five things I took away from the call:
1. Spagnuolo already seems like a standup, likable guy.
It is not something that is expected—when NFL coaches win, they can act however they please—but during his very first media opportunity in Kansas City, Spagnuolo seemed like a standup guy. He opened the call by poking some fun at Chiefs communications VP Ted Crews, then by thanking the Hunt family for the opportunity:
“I just want to say I appreciate your time [Wednesday],” he said. “I want to in advance thank Clark (Hunt), the Hunt family, coach (Andy) Reid, Brett (Veach) for allowing me this opportunity. I’m excited as heck to be here. I feel really, really blessed to be part of this organization, this team and what it’s all about. Certainly, my association with Andy goes way back and to be able to be back with him is just terrific and greatly appreciated.”
2. Spagnuolo relishes another opportunity to coach with Andy Reid.
Spagnuolo served as a defensive assistant (1999-2000), defensive backs coach (2001-2003) and linebackers coach (2004-2006) under Andy Reid while he was the head coach of the Philadelphia Eagles (1999-2012).
Spagnuolo was the St. Louis Rams head coach from 2009-11 before he was let go in 2012. Reports from 2012 suggested that at that time, Reid offered Spagnuolo a role, but Spagnuolo opted to take a job as Saints defensive coordinator instead.
“After I was not a head coach anymore, Andy was one of the guys I wanted to work for again,” he said. “2012 is so far back, I can’t remember what happened then, but I do know this: in 2019 right now, I feel very fortunate and blessed that I’m back to work with coach Reid again. I really am.”
3. As one would expect, Patrick Mahomes and the Chiefs offense did indeed make Kansas City an attractive destination.
The 2018 Chiefs were No. 1 in yards per game (425.6) and No. 1 points per game (35.3), both in great thanks to Patrick Mahomes, who went on to win the AP NFL MVP award.
So yes, as you would assume, Spagnuolo explained that the Chiefs offense makes Kansas City a desirable place to work.
“You won’t talk to a defensive coach in the NFL that doesn’t say they’d like to be on a team with A, a really good head football coach and B, a really good quarterback,” he said. “We all know in today’s football in this league, if you don’t have that position, if you don’t feel good about that position at quarterback, you’re always looking for one and the whole rest of the team is affected when you’re looking for it, so it goes without saying that I’m real excited to be part of an organization that has an elite quarterback, judging by what he did last year... to work for Andy Reid again and what he’s all about and what he’s meant certainly to this franchise and to the league as a whole, is really, really special to me to be back and to be a part of it. I had eight years in Philadelphia, loved it, and I’ve made my way back to working with Andy again and I’m really looking forward to it.”
4. Spagnuolo provided limited updates on Eric Berry, Dee Ford
The last we heard (from Brett Veach), Eric Berry was in Green Bay. Don’t worry—it seemed like he was just getting evaluated. Spagnuolo was asked about Berry on the conference call:
SPAGNUOLO ON BERRY: “(Chiefs athletic trainer) Rick Burkholder will handle that with Andy. I’m not up to snuff on the injury situation, but I’ve always had a great deal of respect for Eric ever since he was drafted. I have not had a chance to speak with him, but he’s a talented football player and we all know you got to be healthy, so I’m sure he’s working on that right now.”
Spagnuolo was also asked about Dee Ford, who the Chiefs will likely franchise tag sometime this month:
SPAGNUOLO ON FORD’s 2018 CAMPAIGN: “Still kind of assessing [Ford’s tape], but the one thing he can do, and we all know this, is he’s an explosive football player that makes a lot of plays. He’s had some production. If he’s here with us, I’ll be excited to have him, be excited to work with him.”
There has been a question as to whether Ford would go back to the defensive end position, where he played during his college career at Auburn.
SPAGNUOLO ON FORD’s FIT IN THE NEW DEFENSE: “I’ll be perfectly honest. [We] really haven’t figured that out yet. I think myself, linebackers coaches, D-line coaches would still like to figure that out. I don’t think that we’re ready to put a tag on it one way or the other.”
Some great unintentional pun work by Spagnuolo there at the end of the quote.
5. Spagnuolo completely rebooted the staff, pinning “speaking the same language” as a main reason
As Craig Stout wrote Wednesday morning, the Chiefs sent a message when they chose to reboot the defensive staff, replacing or moving each and every defensive positional coach.
Spagnuolo explained exactly why it was necessary to do so.
“I do think [having a history with assistants] is always important,” he said. “Coach Reid was tremendous—a bunch of coaches left here for other jobs and there were openings. Andy and I put our heads together. It was a little bit of a long process, but I think it was long for a good reason. I think we got the right people... Many of these guys I have a history with and that’s really important, especially when you start out this process—even in the meetings that we’ve had, we start out right with terminology because you can’t sit here and talk football unless you’re speaking the same language.
“Believe it or not, every team you go to has a little bit of a different language, but we’re all on the same page. We’re advanced that way. In other words, the guys that are here working together have spoken a very similar language. We’re trying to put something together that will work, but having guys that know each other a little bit I thought was really, really important.”