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Giants bring back Steve Spagnuolo to lead defense

New Orleans Saints defensive coordinator Steve Spagnuolo, center,

New Orleans Saints defensive coordinator Steve Spagnuolo, center, talks with his players during the first quarter of a game against the Carolina Panthers in Charlotte, N.C. (Sept. 16, 2012) Photo Credit: AP

Spag to the Future!

The Giants reached into their past to find a defensive coordinator, rehiring Steve Spagnuolo on Thursday. Spagnuolo was their defensive coordinator in 2007 and 2008 before leaving to become head coach of the Rams.

"This is both new and familiar at the same time,'' Spagnuolo, 55, said of his return.

The Giants interviewed four candidates to fill the position vacated when Perry Fewell was fired: Raheem Morris, Pepper Johnson, Dennis Allen and Spagnuolo, who interviewed last. Based on his relationship with Tom Coughlin, Spagnuolo was considered a favorite even before the decision was made to part ways with Fewell.

"We spoke to a lot of very good candidates,'' Coughlin said. "The energy, enthusiasm and strong personality that we saw before in Steve Spagnuolo, all of that was very evident again. His desire to be a Giant again was very, very obvious.''

The two seasons in which Spagnuolo was with the Giants were two of the most successful under Coughlin. The 2007 team won the Super Bowl and the 2008 team was the top seed in the NFC.

Spagnuolo remained popular with his former players -- most of whom have left -- and the front office as well as with Coughlin.

"That really was a special time,'' Spagnuolo said. "What I remember most are the relationships we made with the players and coaches and everyone else in the organization. We've always felt like the Giants are a big part of our lives.''

This won't be a case of simply returning and letting the magic happen again. Only one player from Spagnuolo's previous tenure, defensive end Mathias Kiwanuka, remains on the roster, and he is not expected back in 2015. Safeties coach David Merritt is the only member of the defensive coaching staff who worked with Spagnuolo (the Giants also announced that Tim Walton will be their cornerbacks coach, replacing Peter Giunta, who was fired with Fewell).

Coughlin said he is not expecting Spagnuolo to run the same defenses he ran previously.

"His defense has changed since he was last here,'' Coughlin said. "He worked in Baltimore with John Harbaugh and Dean Pees, and they are outstanding defensive coaches. He has studied defenses. Steve visited colleges and talked to college coaches, including Urban Meyer, to learn how to defend the spread offenses that have become so popular.''

Spagnuolo also has scars that were not there during his first stint with the team. His three years with the Rams were unsuccessful -- a 10-38 record and no playoff appearances -- and his one season as defensive coordinator for the Saints in 2012 was historically bad.

He's been with the Ravens the last two seasons, serving as a defensive backs coach in 2014.

"I was hoping to take the next step, God willing, and be a coordinator again,'' he said. "I'm ecstatic that it's with Tom Coughlin. Tom is the highest- character guy I know. The feeling I have is one of excitement. We're going to work our butts off, and hopefully we will do great things together.''

Again.

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