Tom Brady and the New England Patriots were just one win away in 2008 from joining the 1972 Miami Dolphins as the only team in NFL history to have ever played a perfect season but they were stripped of that feat by the New York Giants in what is considered one of the sport’s greatest upsets.
Steve Spagnuolo, 61, has had a long career coaching in the NFL but the highlight of his career came in 2008 in his first year as the defensive coordinator for the Giants. Under head coach Tom Coughlin, Spagnuolo orchestrated a defense strategy that was able to take down an offense that, to this day, still ranks among the best in league history.
“Spags,” as he was called by the players he coached, told the NFL Network in 2018 that the key to his success 10 years ago was two-fold: frustrate Brady by keeping the pressure on and don’t let him throw passes over 20 yards.
“(Linebacker) Jessie Armstead teases me about this, but at one point during the week I said, ‘Look, it doesn’t matter whether we stop him from throwing it or not, let’s just make sure that we hit him,’” Spagnuolo said at the time. “He told me this later, he said, ‘That doesn’t sound right.’ He said, ‘Coach, I’m not so sure that I was on board with that.’”
He continued: “But our guys bought into it and we hoped— the hope was that we could frustrate him a little bit. That was the first thing. The second thing was, let’s not give up passes over 20 yards.”
Spagnuolo tried his luck as head coach in 2009 when he accepted the position with the St. Louis Rams. He would go 11-41 before getting fired in 2012.
But Spagnuolo would make a comeback in 2019 when he joined the Chiefs as defensive coordinator. He worked well alongside head coach Andy Reid with whom he previously worked with for the Philadelphia Eagles from 1999 to 2006.
The duo would lead the team to the franchise’s second Super Bowl title, making Spagnuolo the only offensive or defensive coordinator in league history to win a Super Bowl with two different teams.
Spagnuolo has the recipe for success. Brady is a methodic player who could easily be thrown off by constant pressure or hits. He’s also known for deep passes and will fire them off if he gets the chance.
The Chiefs are no stranger to the Super Bowl scene but they’ll have to play smart if they want to repeat greatness.