Do Saints Players Really Hate Defensive Coordinator Steve Spagnuolo?

Knox Bardeen@knoxbardeenNFC South Lead WriterJanuary 2, 2013

DENVER, CO - OCTOBER 28:  Defensive coordinator Steve Spagnuolo of the New Orleans Saints sends a sign to his defense during a game against the Denver Broncos at Sports Authority Field Field at Mile High on October 28, 2012 in Denver, Colorado. The Broncos defeated the Saints 34-14. (Photo by Dustin Bradford/Getty Images)
Dustin Bradford/Getty Images

It’s almost as if the New Orleans Saints can’t find a way to return to normalcy.

Just days after the 2012 regular season ended, a season of turmoil from start to finish, an anonymous defensive player told Larry Holder of the Times-Picayune that there was a growing sense from the defensive players that defensive coordinator Steve Spagnuolo should be fired.

The anonymous player said that even though the team praised Spagnuolo’s work during the season, it was just puppet talk, an attempt to put on a good face in a terrible situation.

Trust me all the guys were being politically correct this season when answering questions. It's bad.

To give up what we gave up can't be all talent. Look at where his units (have) been ranked before. I think one top 10?

The Saints defense gave up 28.4 points per game; only the Tennessee Titans were worse. Far more extreme, however, was the fact that New Orleans became the first team in NFL history to allow more than 7,000 yards from scrimmage to opposing offenses.

Spagnuolo’s defense gave up a record 7,024 yards in 2012. It was easy to run (2,361 rushing yards allowed) on the Saints, who at times looked inept at some of the simplest forms of tackling. It was almost as easy to pass (4,681 passing yards allowed) on the Spagnuolo’s unit.

During the year, the players and coaches towed the company line. It takes a while to pick up on the intricacies of a Spagnuolo scheme, said many. The personnel isn’t ready, said some. Even more predicted that as soon as Spagnuolo had an offseason to stockpile "his type" of players things would surely get better.

We all thought the players believed the words coming out of their mouths. Until now.

I question the poor timing of this anonymous players’ gripe.

Why wait until days after the season to tell the media everyone disliked Spagnuolo? The Times-Picayune report talked about a dictator-like approach to coaching from Spagnuolo. The player even said he questioned in-game coaching decisions:

Players have no say in anything. It was (a) complete opposite from before where it was a simple D that players had lot of control and say. We couldn't suggest (expletive)...Nothing ever changed. It was his way only.

Don't even get me started on lack (of) ability to adjust during games. Bad, bad, bad.

He does have that good-guy persona, but he is a control freak and treats people like crap. (Spagnuolo has) no patience and zero personality. (He) has a way of pissing players and our defensive coaches off with how he says and does things. (I) think it's even harder after having (former defensive coordinator) Gregg (Williams), who guys enjoyed.

It almost reads like fiction. Or like someone with an axe to grind.

An NFL player should know better than to air dirty laundry like this. It’s especially suspect coming from a player in the Saints locker room. Shouldn’t any player in this organization be completely against anonymous testimony? After the Bountygate scandal that rocked New Orleans, why would any player issue a statement like this and not go on the record?

Saints’ players spent much of the entire season fighting to see anonymous evidence. They even used the route of litigation to reveal the truth.

How could anyone who had gone through that drop a huge anonymous bomb?

I don’t doubt that the anonymous player made and believes the statement he made. But he made it sound like the majority of the defense felt that way too. Wow.

Spagnuolo may be difficult to deal with. And his record with the Saints—on the field—surely leaves a lot to be desired. But, does the entire defense, even the team as a whole, truly hate their defensive coordinator?

True or not, this scandal need to be resolved quickly. That’s of the utmost importance.


Unless otherwise noted, all quotes and statements were obtained firsthand.

Knox Bardeen is the NFC South lead writer for Bleacher Report and the author of “100 Things Falcons Fans Should Know & Do Before they Die.” Be sure to follow Knox on Twitter.