MIAMI GARDENS, Fla. — Twelve years is a long time between Super Bowls. For Steve Spagnuolo, it was worth the wait.
The former Giants defensive coordinator, the man who orchestrated the attack that brought Tom Brady and the undefeated Patriots to their knees in Super Bowl XLII after the 2007 season, has another ring for another finger.
Spagnuolo had to endure plenty of tough moments between then and Sunday night, when he called the shots for a Chiefs defense that did not allow a point in the final quarter to allow a Patrick Mahomes-inspired comeback in a 31-20 victory over the 49ers in Super Bowl 2020.
“Man, long day,’’ an exhausted and happy Spagnuolo said afterward. “Happy as heck. First of all I want to thank God for bring me to Kansas City and Andy [Reid] having the faith in me.
“It wasn’t pretty, but it was gritty, and it was gritty at the end.’’
49ers quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo said he saw “new wrinkles’’ out of Spagnuolo.
“A good defense,’’ Garoppolo said. “You have to give some credit to them.’’
Spagnuolo could not take away the 49ers’ potent ground game — they rushed for 141 yards — but Garoppolo’s longest completion went for only 26 yards and the Chiefs pitched a shutout in the fourth quarter.
“The defense is unbelievable,’’ said tight end Travis Kelce, mentioning Spagnuolo by name. “That defense played their tails off.’’
It has been quite a ride for the 60-year-old Spagnuolo. Tom Coughlin gave him his first shot at being a defensive coordinator with the Giants in 2007 and that season ended with in glory. Spagnuolo unleashed Michael Strahan, Justin Tuck and Osi Umenyiora on Tom Brady and a year later, that performance landed Spagnuolo a head coaching job with the Rams.
He lasted only three years in St. Louis, going 10-38. Sean Payton in 2012 hired Spagnuolo to rebuild the Saints defense but Payton was suspended for his role in Bountygate and Spagnuolo’s defense allowed the most yards in a season in NFL history. He was out in New Orleans after only one year.
There was two years as a defensive assistant with the Ravens. Coughlin in 2015 brought Spagnuolo back but the Giants gave up the most points in franchise history that year. Coughlin was fired after that season, Ben McAdoo retained Spagnuolo but McAdoo was fired 12 games into the 2017 season. Spagnuolo went 1-3 as the interim head coach and then was let go.
Spagnuolo got his NFL start on Reid’s staff with the Eagles and Reid hired his former assistant to run the Chiefs defense that ranked 31st in 2018. The Chiefs endured some growing pains learning Spagnuolo’s system but surged to the finish to give Spagnuolo a second Super Bowl prize.
“You say, ‘Is this one better than the other one?’ ’’ Spagnuolo said. “It’s the one you’re in the middle of that you enjoy, so I’m really grateful.”