Head Coach Josh McDaniels and his Rams counterpart Steve Spagnuolo have taken parallel paths to the peak of professional football.
Each man accepted his first NFL head coaching gig in 2009, and both of them contributed to Super Bowl championships with other franchises. McDaniels won three titles with the Patriots, but his New England team fell to Spagnuolo’s Giants in Super Bowl XLII.
Spagnuolo spent his last two years in New York as the defensive coordinator, while McDaniels served as offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach for his final three years in New England. The coaches forged a mutual respect through their quick rise up the ranks in professional coaching.
“I have an affinity for Steve Spagnuolo because the relationship I kind of formed with him when we were competing against each other as coordinators,” McDaniels said. “He happens to have to the same agent that I have. We have had an opportunity to meet each other and really kind of get to know one another.”
Before Sundays matchup against Spagnuolo’s squad, McDaniels reflected on why he respects his opponent so much. He said the Rams coach is “putting his stamp” on the franchise, putting together a defense that consistently wreaks havoc.
“He is doing it his way, and I really respect the way that he does it,” McDaniels said. “He always makes you fix problems in the middle of the game, and that is not the case with every other coordinator. He will always take something, he will hurt you with it, and then you better fix it or else you could be in trouble.”
McDaniels isn’t the only person at Dove Valley familiar with the head coach in St. Louis.
For eight years in Philadelphia, Spagnuolo worked with Brian Dawkins, who earned first-team All-Pro honors in 2001 — Spagnuolo’s first year as defensive backs coach.
“Steve was huge in some of the things I was able to do in Philadelphia, a lot of it came from his insight and him helping me out,” Dawkins said. “He is a great human being, a great guy to talk to, very approachable, and he is a straight-shooter as well.”
For his part, Spagnuolo reflected praise back onto McDaniels and Dawkins, whom he said he “respects a great deal and loves even greater.”
On Sunday, McDaniels and Spagnuolo will match wits as head coaches for the first time, and Spagnuolo expects a chess match from a coach who knows how to utilize each piece of his team.
“One thing about Josh is that he’s a creative guy,” Spagnuolo said.
“He’s going to take his talent, whatever he has asset-wise, talent-wise and he’s going to use it effectively. I can see that throughout the film that I watch. I have a great deal of respect for him. He’s done a lot of good things in this league as a coordinator and he’s doing a lot of good things (in Denver) as a head coach.”
Andre’ Goodman (hip), Darcel McBath (quadricep) and Demaryius Thomas (ankle) did not practice all week and are out for Sunday. D.J. Williams (concussion) was limited in practice all week and is questionable, while Robert Ayers (foot) fully practiced all week and is probable.
For the Rams, WR Danario Alexander (knee) was limited all week in practice and is questioable. P Donnie Jones (left calf) was limited all week as well, but he is probable, and WR Laurent Robinson (toe) and T Rodger Saffold (shoulder) are also probable after fully participating all week in practice.
-Gabe Hiatt, DenverBroncos.com
Below are photos from Friday’s practice: