Giants pick Sheridan to run defense

EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- Less than two days after Steve Spagnuolo left to become coach of the St. Louis Rams, Tom Coughlin promoted linebackers coach Bill Sheridan to replace him as the New York Giants' new defensive coordinator.

"Bill is a very good football coach," Coughlin said Monday. "He does an excellent job of teaching, of reinforcing what we aspire to be with our defensive team. He's coached our linebackers, he's given a big assist to Steve in all that he has done."

Coughlin interviewed Sheridan and secondary coach Peter Giunta for the coordinator's job Sunday. Giunta was the Rams' defensive coordinator when they won the 2000 Super Bowl.

"Both were very good," Coughlin said. "Peter has been a coordinator before. I just felt in my gut that Bill would be the right choice."

Sheridan has spent four seasons with the Giants, with his biggest challenge coming in 2007 when he helped Mathias Kiwanuka make the move from defensive end to linebacker.

"As a linebackers coach, you're a central figure in the spoke, because you're involved in the coordination of the front and the linebackers and then the back seven," Coughlin said. "He has done a good job of encompassing the entire defense and grasping the aggressive style."

Before coming to the NFL, Sheridan spent two decades as a college assistant, coaching all the positions on defense in that span.

"Obviously, I'm thrilled," said Sheridan, who'll turn 50 next week. "I'm humbled but very, very excited and anxious to get going. I've prepared my entire career for this opportunity."

The Giants played an aggressive blitzing defense in Spagnuolo's two years as defensive coordinator, and Sheridan said that he will keep the system, although he will make some modifications.

"I'm sure, as much as anything, that's Tom's motivation for promoting from within, whether it was me or Peter Giunta, [was] to keep the defense in place," Sheridan said. "It's obviously a proven, excellent system that Steve brought from Philadelphia.

"You're obviously going to have a slightly different tint to it, because you have a different coordinator and will get different input from whoever Tom brings in from outside to complete the staff," added Sheridan, who was traveling Monday to the Senior Bowl in Mobile, Ala. "But the system is in place and there's a tremendous comfort level with the players."

After posting a 26-11 record and winning a Super Bowl in the last two years, Coughlin said he wanted to stay in-house in replacing Spagnuolo.

"Continuity is important to me, but the strength of staff is important, too," Coughlin said. "We've lost Steve, our coordinator, but it takes many, many people to be successful and to function properly. Of course, all the coaches on the defensive side of the ball did an outstanding job in working together. They worked very well together. There was great harmony on that side of the ball. I want to keep that."

The players seem happy with the choice.

"It's good to know that there will not be many changes," said middle linebacker Antonio Pierce, who joined the Giants in 2005, the same year as Sheridan. "Bill is a hard worker and is very familiar with the defense. Obviously, we did great things on defense over the last two seasons, and I am looking forward to what Bill will bring as defensive coordinator."

Defensive tackle Fred Robbins said the adjustment from "Spags" to Sheridan shouldn't be difficult.

"It's good that we will not have to start this whole defense over," Robbins said. "We've been in it for two seasons and we've had success, we all know the system and it will be good to continue to work in it."

All-Pro defensive end Justin Tuck called Sheridan a very knowledgeable football guy.

"It's good that we kept it in-house so we can continue to improve on a successful defense," he said. "I'm very excited to see what Coach Sheridan will do in his new role."

Sheridan said he learned a lot from Spagnuolo.

"Not just the scheme itself, [but] the fundamentals of the scheme itself and the pressure package," Sheridan said. "I think Steve did a great job of looking at our defense as our opponents did, with a self-scout mentality. He was always trying to be one step ahead with regard to how we were being viewed by our opponents."

Coughlin now has two coaching vacancies. He has to find a new linebackers coach and fill the spot that opened on offense when assistant offensive line coach Dave DeGuglielmo left to become the new line coach with the Miami Dolphins.