- Dan Graziano, ESPN Staff Writer
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The St. Louis Rams have fired head coach Steve Spagnuolo, who began his NFL coaching career with the Philadelphia Eagles and rose to prominence as the defensive coordinator for the 2007 Super Bowl champion New York Giants. Spagnuolo's been a hot name around this blog lately (though, for some reason, not a name that's getting any easier to type), so let's take a team-by-team look at his chances of returning to the NFC East in 2012.
This is the most likely spot for Spagnuolo to resurface in the division. He was a defensive position coach in Philadelphia from 1999-2006 under legendary defensive coordinator Jim Johnson. And while reports have said he was upset toward the end of his Philadelphia tenure, that Eagles coach Andy Reid blocked him from pursuing opportunities to be a defensive coordinator elsewhere, the two men have since reconciled and their relationship likely wouldn't be an impediment to a potential Spagnuolo return. Other things could be, however. While first-year defensive coordinator Juan Castillo took a lot of heat in Philadelphia this year -- and Reid took a lot of heat for converting Castillo from offensive line coach to defensive coordinator -- the Eagles finished the season strong and ended up ranking eighth in the NFL in total defense, as measured by yards allowed. Additionally, the Eagles just hired Jim Washburn to coach their defensive line a year ago. The scheme that Washburn and Castillo installed this year leans on pressure from the front line, whereas Spagnuolo has been more known for blitz-heavy and zone-blitz schemes. It's possible that the Eagles are (a) happy with Castillo's performance in spite of the outside criticism and/or (b) loath to make major coaching and scheme changes again leading into next year, since that seems to have backfired in 2011. Spagnuolo could return to Philadelphia as defensive coordinator, but it's certainly no slam dunk.
New York Giants
There are Giants fans who'd like to see Spagnuolo back in New York as defensive coordinator. But first of all, you don't often see a guy make a direct backward career move like that. Second of all, the Giants like current defensive coordinator Perry Fewell, even though the team ranked 27th in total defense this year and the coverage issues in the secondary need to be addressed along with the linebacker position before next year. Third of all, I don't know if you heard, but the Giants just won this division and are in the playoffs, so they certainly won't be making any coaching changes for at least a week. And for those who thought Spagnuolo could come in as coordinator and be a coach-in-waiting behind Tom Coughlin -- the way the Giants have finished this season makes it very unlikely that Coughlin would be going anywhere anytime soon.
Obviously, Rob Ryan's first year as defensive coordinator in Dallas was a flop, but it'd be a surprise to see them give up on the well-regarded Ryan after just one year and without addressing the personnel issues they have in their own secondary. Also, the Cowboys likely would have to transition from a 3-4 defense to a 4-3 under Spagnuolo. Possible? Sure, but it'd be a big surprise.
The defense was a strong point for the Redskins this year, and Mike Shanahan is pleased with the way the second year of the conversion to the 3-4 under Jim Haslett went. Haslett's safe.