Back when Mike Shanahan was fired, I immediately knew who I wanted to replace him. I wanted the Broncos to hire Steve Spagnuolo, who was then the defensive coordinator for the New York Giants. I felt like Pat Bowlen would tend toward the candidate who most reminded him of a young Shanny, and that was Josh McDainels. I really hoped that wouldn't happen, and I had a couple of solid reasons.
1. The Broncos were immensely talented on offense but lacked direction and talent as a defense. After 14 years with an offensive mastermind at the helm, I felt it was time to go in a different direction. Spagnuolo has taken the Rams, whose defense was in complete disarray and built a decent unit in two years. He knows how to identify defensive talents and maximize them. He also comes from the Jim Johnson school of blitzing which was becoming more prominent and successful throughout the league.
2. One year earlier, Spagnuolo kicked the crap out of Josh McDaniels in Super Bowl XLII. McDainels was offensive coordinator of the highest scoring team in history, but on the biggest stage, Spagnuolo had him figured out. A lot of people will credit the late offensive heroics by Eli Manning and company, but for me, the Giants win came down to the fact that Spagnuolo outcoached Josh McDaniels. He was the only defensive coordinator that confused Tom Brady at all during the 2007 season.
3. Every other coordinator who has come out of New England has failed miserably. Charlie Weis, Romeo Crennel, and up until today, I thought the worst of the bunch was the absolutely clueless wonder, Eric Mangini. Now, I'm starting to think that McDaniels might be the dunce. The fact is, in New England, Bill Belichick is the defensive coordinator and Tomo Brady is the offensive coordinator. Everyone else deserves a participation trophy at best.
The Rams have improved about as much as the Broncos have regressed in the last 1.5 seasons and that is a large amount on both counts. Watching the game today, I couldn't help but wonder what could have been. I also wonder what defensive coordinators like Leslie Frazier, Ron Rivera, or dare I say, Mike Nolan, might have planned for next season...