MIAMI — Steve Spagnuolo said that when he was the defensive coordinator for the Giants team that won Super Bowl XLII against the previously undefeated Patriots, he had one thought as he basked in the glow of that championship.
“I remember saying this to myself: ‘As great as it was in ’07, I hope that’s not the end or the ultimate,’ ” he said on Monday night. “ ‘I hope there is something better than that.’ ”
It took 12 long years to get close to fulfilling that wish, and there were plenty of times when it seemed as if it would never happen. When the furthest thing from his imagination was an event like Monday night’s Opening Night of Super Bowl Week at Marlins Park.
But there he was, and on Sunday, Spagnuolo again will be coaching in a Super Bowl as a defensive coordinator. He’ll be running the Chiefs’ attempts to slow down the 49ers.
It’s been a road of extremes to get back to the Super Bowl. He left the Giants after the 2008 season to become the head coach of the Rams and went 10-38 in his three years in the position. Then he was the defensive coordinator for the Saints in 2012, a team that set a record for the worst defense in NFL history. He spent time as an adviser with the Ravens before returning to the Giants — and, in 2015, was in charge of the defense that gave up the most points in franchise history.
“Yup,” he said. “That was rough.”
He remained with the Giants long enough to be the interim head coach at the end of 2017 after Ben McAdoo was fired and was out of the league last season.
“I think that’s part of any coach’s career,” he said. “I don’t know that there is a coach who stays on top the whole time, so you’re going to have some ups and downs. You pick yourself back up. I’ve been fortunate that people have believed in me.”
In this case, Andy Reid. The head coach of the Chiefs — and the head coach of the Eagles when Spagnuolo was climbing through the coaching ranks — was able to look past Spagnuolo’s recent failings.
“I’ve known him forever, so I had a ton of confidence in him,” Reid said Monday night. “He’s a great coach. Sometimes it’s the situation. He’s in a good situation here. He’s got guys here, coaches and players who believe in him and love him. And he’s got that great mind.”
Spagnuolo will be coaching the Chiefs’ defense on Sunday, but he’s still mostly associated with the Giants. Since Kansas City reached Super Bowl LIV, he’s heard from a number of former Giants players and coaches, including Tom Coughlin, Michael Strahan, Antonio Pierce, Osi Umenyiora and Justin Tuck.
“Being here does bring me back to ,” Spagnuolo said. “What we did then, nobody expected. I remember them talking about the 19-0 book that was already written, right? And the boys got all fired up about it.”
There is no perfect team to beat this time. No greatest quarterback ever to tame. But there is another ring to earn, even if it would be hard-pressed to be more meaningful than the first one.
“I don’t know whether that would be the case or not because that was pretty special,” he said of his Giants championship. “But I’m sure glad to be involved with it again.”