Frank Sinatra’s “That’s Life” blared over the speakers at the start Giants practice on Wednesday with interim head coach Steve Spagnuolo overlooking his team stretching.
By the time they broke for drills the music cut off and it was dead silent in the Meadowlands — a change of pace from the short-lived Ben McAdoo era — marking a new day for the 2017 Giants.
“I hope to unite, restore and find a way to win football games,” Spanguolo said in a 13-minute press conference. “Restore Giants pride. It’s hard to be real prideful when you don’t win football games. I think the guys feel that they understand it and we’ll function that way.”
Spagnuolo is also restoring the Giants starting quarterback, too, going back to Eli Manning.
Spagnuolo said his “gut” told him that Manning should be the starter and after a discussion with offensive coaches they reached the decision to play him.
With all these changes, it is clear the Giants are trying to turn — maybe even tear — the page from the McAdoo era, but that certainly isn’t Spagnuolo’s intent.
In fact, he cannot help but feel some humility in replacing the head coach under these circumstances.
“First thing I want to say and convey is how much respect I have for Ben and what he did here as the head football coach,” Spagnuolo said. “I feel personally, as one of the guys who let him down, that we failed as a team and part of that failure was me. So it’s really hard for me to stand here in this position right now.”
Spagnuolo, who said he will remain heavily involved in the defense, said the first practice was good but not great — another deviation from McAdoo, who lauded almost every practice.
“I think we can get better at that,” he said. “We’ll try to work at that and it’s about getting the football right.”
Spagnuolo also hopes he can incorporate some of the things he learned after his first stint as a head coach with the then St. Louis Rams.
In three seasons in St. Louis, he finished 10-38 before he was fired and has not held a head coaching position until now.
“I got six pages — typed out list — that has all of the ‘what would I do next time,’ ‘what did I think I did wrong,’ and I’ve already reviewed that,” he said. “I’m not going to reveal them all, it’s too long of a list. Sometimes you learn more from failure than as a success. I think everybody understands that.”
The Giants job in particular has always been attractive to Spagnuolo, and he was even a candidate to replace Tom Coughlin before McAdoo was hired.
Spagnuolo admitted that he has thought about the meaning of being Giants head coach in the past, but now that the opportunity is here it has yet to cross his mind and said his focus is solely on this week.
“Not going to lie, in the past I have thought about this, but because of how fast it all happened I haven’t thought that way,” Spagnuolo said. “I prayed Monday morning it wouldn’t happen, I’ll be honest with you. But, that’s okay. This is where we’re at. I’m honored to do it but as soon as it happened, it was ‘boom!’ You shift gears.”
That’s life, funny as it may seem.