AFC North: Steve Spagnuolo

Tracking AFC North coaching changes

February, 5, 2014
Feb 5
PITTSBURGH -- Staggering might be a bit strong when looking at the amount of coaching turnover that has taken place in the AFC North.

But there has been a lot of it in the last six weeks, which leads me to a story even if it does poke fun at yours truly.

I decided to recap all of the coaching changes in the division, reaching out to the other AFC North reporters about the comings and goings on their respective teams.

Here is the response I got from Brown reporter (and noted nemesis of mine) Pat McManamon: Um ... Scott ... except for special teams coach, they've changed the entire staff.

Uh, yeah, would make sense that a new head coach hires his own staff. I appreciated Pat not calling me stupid though I'm pretty sure he implied it (Pat, I must be getting too much sun here in Pittsburgh).

But I digress. Here is an update on the coaching staffs in the AFC North (teams in order of 2013 finish).

Cincinnati Bengals
What has changed: The Bengals have two new coordinators, Hue Jackson (offense) and Paul Guenther (defense), after Jay Gruden and Mike Zimmer left for head coaching jobs.
Most significant hire: Guenther. Zimmer, who left for Minnesota, had been a widely respected coordinator. The Bengals finished no worse than seventh in the NFL in total defense in each of the previous three seasons, Guenther, who was promoted from linebackers coach to take over for Zimmer, has said he will call plays with the same aggressiveness that defined his predecessor.
Skinny: Head coach Marvin Lewis stayed in-house to replace both coordinators, and Jackson is expected to emphasize the run more, something the Bengals got away from in their playoff loss to the San Diego Chargers. Look for Jackson to take better advantage of Giovani Bernard, who flashed as a rookie and should get more touches after splitting carries with the plodding BenJarvus Green-Ellis in 2013.

Pittsburgh Steelers
What has changed: Mike Munchak is the new offensive line coach, and the Steelers essentially traded running backs coaches with the Vikings with Kirby Wilson joining Zimmer's new staff in Minnesota and James Saxon replacing Wilson.
Most significant hire: Munchak. The Pro Football Hall of Famer becomes the third former head coach who is now an assistant on Tomlin's staff, and there are incredibly high hopes for him. His credentials as a player and an offensive line coach make this one of Tomlin's best hires -- and one that Steelers' fans appear to be unanimous in applauding.
Skinny: Tomlin's staff for 2014 appears to be set. Defensive assistant Jerry Olsavsky was a candidate to become the linebackers coach in Buffalo but that position has been filled. Munchak is expected to institute a zone-blocking scheme and there may not be a more qualified person on the planet to teach it. I've written how Le'Veon Bell could be one of the biggest beneficiaries of the zone-blocking scheme. Here is what former Titans tight end and current radio talk show host Frank Wyche told the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette about Bell in that scheme: "He's going to run the ball like Eddie George did for us."

Baltimore Ravens
What has changed: John Harbaugh made plenty of changes after the Ravens went 8-8 and missed the playoffs a season after winning the Super Bowl. Gary Kubiak is the new offensive coordinator and Rick Dennison, has followed Kubiak to Baltimore. Dennison, the Texans' offensive coordinator for the previous four seasons under Kubiak, will coach the Ravens' quarterbacks
Most significant hire: Kubiak. The former Texans head coach wasn't among the three finalists for the offensive coordinator job, but Harbaugh convinced him to join his staff. Kubiak's biggest challenge is reviving a ground attack that mustered just 3.0 yards per carry in 2013, the worst in the NFL. The Texans always seemed to be able to run the ball during Kubiak's tenure in Houston so he is probably the right coach to fix the Ravens' broken ground game.
The skinny: Harbaugh now has two former NFL head coaches on his staff with assistant head coach/secondary coach Steve Spagnuolo joining Kubiak in that distinction. There are still openings at running backs coach and wide receivers coach to fill. When Harbaugh has finished rounding out his staff he will have made six changes to it. The previous high as far as coaches Harbaugh had to replace in an offseason was four in 2011.

Cleveland Browns
What has changed: Well, just about everything and yet not much at all to jaded Browns fans. Cleveland dumped Rob Chudzinski after just one season. What seemed like an interminable search for his successor turned up former Bills defensive coordinator Mike Pettine, who didn't appear to be on any other teams' radar as far as head-coaching candidates. Former Bills linebackers coach Jim O'Neil is the new defensive coordinator while former Redskins offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan now holds the same position in Cleveland.
Most significant hire: After Pettine, it is Shanahan. The former will be tasked with grooming the quarterback of the future and getting more out of an offense that has a legitimate star in wide receiver Josh Gordon but is lacking overall at the skill positions. The Browns have two first-round draft picks, including No. 4 overall, this year and they figure to take a quarterback with one of those selections.
The skinny: The Pettine hire didn't inspire much hope among Browns fans so add that to the list of things working against him in Cleveland. The Browns might have been able to lure defensive coordinator Dan Quinn away from Seattle had they waited longer to hire Chudzinski's replacement. That too will loom over Pettine's first season in Cleveland, especially if his results are similar to the ones that got Chudzinski fired.

Links: High expectations for Browns' D

June, 19, 2013
Baltimore Ravens

Matt Zenitz of the Carroll County Times says a Steve Spagnuolo-Ravens partnership could benefit both parties. Zenitz: "For the Ravens, they add a highly regarded defensive mind to their coaching staff. And for Spagnuolo, the job is a bounce-back opportunity of sorts after being fired following each of the last two seasons."

Aaron Wilson of The Baltimore Sun offers an update on the Ravens' salary-cap situation.

Cincinnati Bengals

Bill Plaschke of the Los Angeles Times isn't a fan of the decision to have cornerback Adam "Pacman" Jones speak at the NFL Rookie Symposium. Plaschke: "Isn't this like allowing an accused arsonist to speak to young firefighters while playing with matches?"

Coach Marvin Lewis is looking forward to his team being featured again on HBO's "Hard Knocks."

Cleveland Browns

Barkevious Mingo is setting the bar high for the Cleveland defense. "If everything is going well, I think this defense could be the best in the league," Mingo said.

The Browns' rookie class received a tour of Cleveland on Tuesday.

Pittsburgh Steelers

Rookie wide receiver J.D. Woods knows how important special teams is to his future.

Links: Arthur Brown working his way back

June, 17, 2013
Baltimore Ravens

Rookie inside linebacker Arthur Brown is working his way back after sports hernia surgery.

Steve Spagnuolo is enjoying his new role as a senior defensive assistant with the Ravens.

Cincinnati Bengals

Terrell Owens visited his former Bengals teammate Chad Johnson in the Broward County, Fla., jail on Saturday.

The Bengals will be in the spotlight again as the team will be featured on HBO's "Hard Knocks."

Cleveland Browns

Father's Day has a special meaning for Norv and Scott Turner.

Mary Kay Cabot of The Plain Dealer dips into her mailbag to discuss all things Browns related.

Pittsburgh Steelers

Quarterback Bruce Gradkowski is excited about how things went for him this offseason.

Mike Golic Jr. was the recipient of some sound advice before signing with the Steelers.
The Baltimore Ravens should be the NFL's most well-coached team. Well, that's based on the number of coaches and their experience in the NFL.

The latest addition was Steve Spagnuolo, the former St. Louis Rams head coach and defensive coordinator for the New York Giants and New Orleans Saints. Spagnuolo was hired Friday to be the Ravens' full-time senior defensive consultant.

The Ravens now have 21 coaches on their staff, the most in the AFC North. In comparison, the Pittsburgh Steelers have 15 coaches. Baltimore has one coach devoted to the run game (Juan Castillo) and three for special teams alone (special teams coordinator Jerry Rosburg, assistant special teams coach Chris Hewitt and kicking consultant Randy Brown).

The defending Super Bowl champions have invested a lot into its coaching staff, considering the resumes. There are two former head coaches (Spagnuolo and offensive coordinator Jim Caldwell), three coaches with defensive coordinator experience (Castillo, defensive coordinator Dean Pees and inside linebackers coach Don "Wink" Martindale) and one ex-offensive coordinator (receivers coach Jim Hostler).

Spagnuolo's ties with coach John Harbaugh date back to the Philadelphia Eagles. They were on that staff for eight years, from 1999 to 2006.

Spagnuolo became one of the hottest head coaching candidates during his two years (2007-08) as the Giants defensive coordinator. His defense was instrumental in the Giants' Super Bowl title, slowing down Tom Brady and the highest scoring team in league history.

He was hired as the head coach of the St. Louis Rams but lasted only three seasons. His overall record was 10-38.

Spagnuolo then spent just one season as the Saints defensive coordinator. He was fired in January after his defense allowed the most yards for a season of any defense in NFL history.

“His wealth of NFL coaching experience speaks for itself and he’ll help us across the board,” Harbaugh said in a statement. “We think he can help with every position on the defense, and we’ll take full advantage of his knowledge and excellent teaching abilities. The Ravens got better today with the addition of an outstanding coach and person like Steve.”

Broncos opening impacts Browns

December, 31, 2008

Posted by's James Walker

The Cleveland Browns better move fast.

 Dilip Vishwanat/Getty Images
 Broncos owner Pat Bowlen could make it difficult for Cleveland to land its ideal targets.

There is a new glamour job available with the Denver Broncos. This came after the team surprisingly fired Mike Shanahan Tuesday night following a late-season collapse.

Prior to this move, Cleveland was competing with teams such as the Kansas City Chiefs and the Detroit Lions for candidates. The Browns were considered on equal footing with this group. But now the Browns have some serious competition from the Rocky Mountains. 

Denver is considered an A-plus destination with a highly respected owner in Pat Bowlen. Shanahan was the second-longest tenured coach in the NFL, which garnered a lot of respect around the league for Bowlen's emphasis on stability.

As time goes on, the Browns and Broncos likely will share some of the same targets on their wish lists.

For instance, what if Denver now covets New England Patriots GM Scott Pioli, who is Cleveland's first choice? Pioli would have to take the time to seriously compare the pros and cons of the two teams.

Also, what if the Broncos choose to entertain coaching candidates Eric Mangini, Josh McDaniels or Steve Spagnuolo, which are more possibilities for Cleveland? Which team do you think is more attractive to these coaches?

The Browns do not want to get in a one-on-one power struggle with the Broncos. There is little comparison between the two organizations when it comes to success and stability, and those are two very important factors.

It's difficult to ignore the fact that the Browns are hiring their fourth coach in 10 years, while Denver had only Shanahan for the past 14 seasons.

So the Browns better make a final decision soon -- very soon -- before the Broncos begin their overtures and interviews. Cleveland doesn't want this hiring process to get to a point where attractive candidates start comparing its resume with Denver's.