New Orleans Saints Head Coach Sean Payton announced today that the team has hired Steve Spagnuolo as the team's defensive coordinator, Ken Flajole as secondary coach and Andre Curtis as assistant secondary coach. Spagnuolo most recently served as the Head Coach for the St. Louis Rams from 2009-11, while Flajole served as his defensive coordinator during that period and Curtis served as defensive backs/safeties coach.
A veteran of 13 years in the NFL coaching ranks, three as a head coach, as well as 16 years in college, Spagnuolo is one of the NFL's most respected defensive minds, having extensive experience as a position coach, defensive coordinator and head coach
"Steve is someone that I have known for several years, who's an outstanding football coach and is very well-respected around the National Football League," said Payton. "He's a tremendous teacher and possesses an outstanding knowledge of the game. Steve shares the same vision that we do for our defense moving forward and will be a big asset to our coaching staff."
During his three-year stint in St. Louis, Spagnuolo's team made a six-game improvement in 2010, as the Rams finished in second place in the NFC West, with the six-game swing marking the second-best turnaround in the NFL from 2009 to 2010. The defense under the supervision of Flajole made strides during their tenure in St. Louis, as the Rams jumped ten spots in total defense that season from 29th to 19th, while they went from 31st in scoring defense in 2009 to 12th in 2010. In 2011, the Rams finished ranked seventh in the league against the pass, while DE Chris Long finished seventh in the NFL with a career-high 13 sacks and LB James Laurinaitis led the team with 142 tackles.
Prior to his stint in St. Louis, Spagnuolo served as the defensive coordinator with the New York Giants from 2007-08. He was the architect of a defense that helped hold the New England Patriots to 14 points in a 17-14 Super Bowl XLII victory, a win against a team that had set an NFL regular season record with 589 points. The Giants sacked New England QB Tom Brady five times and allowed only 45 rushing yards and no offensive gains over 19 yards.
During his two-year Giants tenure, Spagnuolo's defenses were fundamentally sound and produced outstanding results. In 37 regular season and postseason games under his direction, the Giants' defense allowed opponents 17 points or fewer in 19 contests. New York was 19-0 in those games and 17-2 in games where opposing quarterbacks had a passer rating of lower than 75.0.
In 2007, the Giants defense rose from 25th to 7th in NFL net yardage rankings, as they finished in the top 10 in eight statistical categories and led the league with 53 sacks. The defense followed up their Championship season in 2008 by improving to fifth in net yardage, ninth against the run and eight against the pass. The Giants allowed 18.4 points per game, fifth-fewest in the NFL.
Prior to his two seasons in New York, Spagnuolo served on the Philadelphia Eagles coaching staff from 1999-2006. First serving as a defensive assistant, working specifically with the safeties, he tutored the entire defensive backfield from 2001-03 and worked with the linebackers from 2004-06.
While with the Eagles, Spagnuolo coached S Brian Dawkins, CB Bobby Taylor, CB Troy Vincent, CB Lito Sheppard, S Michael Lewis and LB Jeremiah Trotter to Pro Bowl selections in six of his eight seasons. From 1999-2005, a period when the Eagles played in four NFC Championship games and one Super Bowl, the Philadelphia defense ranked first in the NFL in third down conversion rate (33 percent), second in points allowed (17.0 per game), second in sacks (265) and third in red zone touchdown percentage (43 percent). In 2001, the Eagles did not allow more than 21 points in 16 regular season games, only the fourth time in NFL history that feat has been accomplished.
Prior to joining the Eagles, Spagnuolo had his first professional coaching stint as the defensive coordinator/linebackers coach for the Frankfurt Galaxy of NFL Europe. A 16-year college coaching career, which started as a graduate intern at the University of Massachusetts, also included stops at Lafayette (1984-86), the University of Connecticut (1987-91), the University of Maine (1993-94), Rutgers (1994-95) and Bowling Green (1996-97). His first pro football experience came as a player personnel intern with the Washington Redskins in 1983. He also served as defensive line/special teams coach with the Barcelona Dragons of the World League of American Football in 1992 and as a scout for the San Diego Chargers in 1993.
The Whitinsville, Mass. native earned a bachelor's degree in physical education from Springfield College. He later earned his master's degree in sports management from the University of Massachusetts. Spagnuolo is married to his wife, Maria.
Flajole (pronounced FLAY-juhl) came to St. Louis in 2009 after spending the previous six seasons as linebackers coach of the Carolina Panthers. The Carolina linebacker corps were a strength of the Panthers defense during that period. LB Jon Beason was named runner-up in voting for NFC Defensive Rookie of the Year in 2007 and was selected to his first Pro Bowl in 2008 after leading the team in tackles for the second consecutive season with 159 stops. Two other linebackers in Mark Fields and Dan Morgan received Pro Bowl selections in 2004 under his tutelage, while the team advanced to the Super Bowl in his first season with Carolina in 2003.
Flajole coached four seasons (1999-2002) with the Seattle Seahawks in different capacities, leading the defensive backs in 1999 and 2001-02 and linebackers in 2000. In 1999, his secondary led the NFL with 30 interceptions, including two returned for touchdowns. The Seattle native made his NFL coaching debut in 1998 as a defensive assistant for Green Bay after spending the previous 21 years in the college ranks, holding defensive coordinator positions at Montana and Richmond, as well as serving as co-defensive coordinator/secondary coach at Nevada for two seasons before joining the Packers coaching staff.
Curtis joins the New Orleans staff after serving as defensive backs/safeties coach with the Rams from 2009-11. He came to St. Louis after spending three seasons as a defensive quality control coach with the New York Giants from 2006-08, the final two on the same staff as Spagnuolo. The Beaverdam, Va. native came to the NFL in 2006, following a six-year college coaching career, two seasons at Georgia Southern as defensive ends coach and four at his alma mater, Virginia Military Institute, where he was a four-year letterman as a linebacker from 1996-99.