Sunday, February 15, 2009

Spagnuolo is ready to 'beg, borrow, steal'

Coach Steve Spagnuolo hadn't even reached his seat at Thursday's greet-and-meet
with the media when he issued a cautionary note about the status of his first
Rams playbook.

"We're still working on the scheme," he said. " I know there's going to be
thoughts: 'What are we going to do? What are we going to do on offense? What
are we going to do on defense?'"

For now, Spagnuolo has more pressing things on his plate, most notably the
start of the free-agency period in less than two weeks, and the NFL Scouting
Combine next week in Indianapolis.

The Rams also must make some tough decisions on their own personnel.

Who to keep? Who to cut? Who to restructure? That process started Friday with
the release of veteran strong safety Corey Chavous.

Even so, most Rams fans and media already have an idea of what Spagnuolo stands
for defensively. As defensive coordinator for the New York Giants the past two
seasons, Spagnuolo orchestrated aggressive, hard-nosed units. He wasn't afraid
to take chances, and he certainly wasn't afraid to blitz.

"You'll see that in the defense," Spagnuolo said. "But one of the good things
about hiring a new staff is there's a lot of other ideas that come into play.
So I certainly don't think that we had all the answers in New York."

It just looked that way much of the time, particularly in last year's Super
Bowl, in which the Giants stymied the potent New England offense for a stunning

Nonetheless, Spagnuolo added, "You beg, borrow and steal. Now we can just beg,
borrow and steal, and do it officially (from the members of his newly assembled
coaching staff). That's all you do in the league is you steal good ideas from
other people. That's what we're doing."

For example, new Rams defensive coordinator Ken Flajole was part of the highly
successful Carolina defense before coming to St. Louis. Spagnuolo is an
unabashed admirer of Carolina's defensive-oriented head coach, John Fox. So it
wouldn't be surprising to see the Rams add a few wrinkles from the Panthers'
defensive playbook.

On the other side of the ball, new offensive coordinator Pat Shurmur comes from
the "West Coast" scheme of the Philadelphia Eagles. When the casual fan thinks
of the West Coast offense, it's easy to fall into the trap of thinking: pass
first, then run.

And that doesn't seem to mesh exactly with Spagnuolo's stated desire for an
aggressive running game.

"Philosophically, Coach Spagnuolo and myself, we're very similar," Shurmur
said. "The Rams' offense is going to be a team that can run the football. We're
going to make an effort to run the football, and protect the quarterback when
you throw it. It's very rare that a quarterback on his fanny can do anything
good with the ball.

"And you can't turn it over. All that being said, we're going to try to win the
game. Do what we have to do to win football games."

So there's a pragmatism involved on offense and defense. And Spagnuolo also has
shown early signs of flexibility. Whether it's offense, defense or even special
teams, he's not going to force his philosophies or preferred scheme on players
and coaches if it's not a fit.

And right now, he's far away from even knowing who some of his players will be.

"We'll create an offense and defense once we find out who we've got and how
they fit, and try to do the right thing," Spagnuolo said. "We're chipping away
at (the playbook). ... But we're tweaking and mixing and matching. Pat's doing
it on offense. Ken's doing the same thing on defense. Tom (McMahon) is knocking
it out with Derius (Swinton) on special teams. So we're a ways away from having

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Valero retained, McMahon named special teams coach by St. Louis Rams

St. Louis Post-Dispatch

Art Valero is the second holdover coach from the Rams’ 2008 staff to be retained by new coach Steve Spagnuolo. But he has a new job description. Valero, who coached running backs last season, will assist Steve Loney coaching the Rams’ offensive line in 2009.

Valero, 50, has coached either running backs or tight ends in his seven NFL seasons with Tampa Bay and St. Louis. But 15 of his 20 seasons at the college level were as an offensive line coach.

Meanwhile, the team has named Tom McMahon its special teams coordinator. McMahon, 39, had been the assistant special teams coach for the Atlanta Falcons the past two seasons _ his only prior NFL coaching experience.

Also, the Rams officially announced the previously reported hirings of Sylvester Croom as running backs coach; Rock Gullickson as strength and conditioning coach; Brendan Daly as defensive line coach; and Matt House as defensive quality control coach.

Chuck Faucette, the Rams’ assistant strength and conditioning coach last season, has interviewed for the same job on Spagnuolo’s staff.

The additions of Valero and McMahon make it 15 hires for Spagnuolo in 16 days since he was hired on Jan. 17. Spagnuolo has only a couple of hires left to complete his staff.