BALTIMORE (AP) — Steve Spagnuolo is getting another chance to prove his defensive coaching skills.
The Baltimore Ravens hired the former Rams head coach and defensive coordinator of the Saints and Giants on Friday as a senior defensive assistant. Spagnuolo will have an opportunity at redemption following an unsettled 2012 season in which he oversaw a historically bad defense with scandal-plagued New Orleans.
Spagnuolo was fired in January by Saints coach Sean Payton following one season in New Orleans in which the Saints’ defense allowed a single-season NFL record 7,042 yards. However, his record as a defensive coach before 2012, when the Saints were floundering in the wake of their bounty scandal, was far better.
Spagnuolo had top 10 defenses with the Giants in the 2007 and 2008 seasons. His 2007 defense led the NFL with 53 sacks and the 2008 unit was sixth in the league with 42.
In the Giants’ 2008 Super Bowl triumph over New England, their defense sacked Tom Brady five times and held the Patriots, who had led the NFL with an average of 36.8 points per game, to only 14 points.
“Steve had a number of opportunities in the league right now, and we’re excited he picked the Ravens,” Harbaugh said. “He comes to a staff that we believe is very strong, and he makes us even better. His wealth of NFL coaching experience speaks for itself, and he’ll help us across the board.
“We think he can help with every position on the defense, and we’ll take full advantage of his knowledge and excellent teaching abilities.”
Before joining the Giants, Spagnuolo was a defensive assistant in Philadelphia from 1999-2006. He coached several Pro Bowl players including Brian Dawkins and Lito Sheppard, and helped Philadelphia field a 10th-ranked defense in the 2004 season, when the Eagles made it to the Super Bowl before falling to New England.
Spagnuolo also spent three seasons as St. Louis Rams head coach from 2009-11, going 10-38.
Payton hired him to take over the Saints’ defense in 2012, only months before Payton wound up being suspended in the bounty probe.
Payton, who never actually coached with Spagnuolo, decided to change New Orleans’ defensive scheme from the 4-3 front that Spagnuolo ran to a 3-4. Payton also was apologetic in letting Spagnuolo go after a most unusual season.
“In fairness to him, I think it was a unique, not only difficult but somewhat unfair situation to Steve,” Payton said during the NFL meetings in March. “He’s hired, and then all of a sudden the guy he was going to work with — he doesn’t have a chance to. He coaches the defense for a season and then here it is, we’re making a change. And I told him that. ... I felt bad and I felt like there were a handful of these things that were messed up.”