Defensive Coordinator Steve Spagnuolo
December 29, 2016
Q: Casillas had a few things to say before practice?
A: He did. Yeah, he did a great job. It was well said.
Q: Was that planned?
A: I couldnít hear it all. I donít know that. You would have to ask Ben. That was a team thing. JC is a good man, a good leader, has good insight, has some good experience, so it is good stuff.
Q: What makes him that good leader?
A: Oh, all of those things, his work ethic Ė look, he does a really good job, I think, of relationships with the other guys on the team and I think it is as much as anything away from the building. You hear that. I donít ask the guys what they do away from the building, that is their business. But I know that the gatherings and him being a leader that way are really important and I think that the guys respect that.
Q: Is it important for guys like him, who have done this before, to come out and do things like that?
A: Yeah, you are going to draw on all of that, all of the guys that are in the room, coaches, players who have been through it before. But look it, we are going to take it one step at a time. We have a game coming up, that is the most important thing. We will worry about that later, but what you are saying is true.
Q: When you look at the turnaround of this defense, what does it mean to you?
A: Yeah, it is a one game at a time thing for me. Look, we said this from the beginning, this was right from day one two years ago Ė that the goal was to be better today than we were yesterday. Honestly, that is the truth. That is not coach speak, that is how it has been. I said that same thing again this past Tuesday when we met with them, that to work forward, just worry about today and letís be better today than we were yesterday and if you do that in anything and in life and can accomplish that, if you can actually be that every day, then you can be pretty good at anything.
Q: Do you feel like you have done that this year?
A: In a lot of ways, yeah. There are some ups and downs and there is some work to do. We are not nearly where we want to be, in my opinion. All I can go off is the last game. We didnít win the last game and we didnít play good enough defense to win the last game, so for us, we are working on that.
Q: How surprised are you to be able to rebuild the defense in the span of a year, the way you guys have?
A: It is funny, until you lay it out like that and say what you just said, the numbers and who was here and who wasnít there, that gets lost on me because you are in the meeting rooms, you get on the practice field, you are working with the guys youíve got, you are trusting in your coaching abilities, your assistants, you are putting everything together and you just roll. In this business, you just go. I donít think about, ĎIs this possible?í That never came in my head. It was just move on to the next day, the next season. Obviously, I think it was very important that we had a year under our belt with a somewhat nucleus of guys that we had, so it is still not where we want it to be.
Q: Realistically, did you know that it would take a little bit of time into this season to gel?
A: Yeah, there is probably some truth to that. I donít know if I thought that way, but there is probably some truth to that.
Q: You describe the defense as prideful guys and I like that word. But why does that matter?
A: I have always felt that if you had pride in something, then you protect it, you work for it, it is important to you and I think that is what we are saying when we say that we have prideful guys. It is important, it is important to this group of men that we work with on defense. It is important to be good defensively, it is important to go out and do whatever we have to do as a defense to help the organization and help the team win. We only have one phase of it, but I think that our guys do take a lot of pride in that and I think some of that is built on and you all know this, we have talked about it, but the defensive legacy here that this organization and this defense is built on. The guys take a lot of pride in that. We feed it to them, they embrace it, they absorb it, and I think that is part of it, too.
Q: Landon Collins said that he wants to be Lawrence Taylor good. Do you think that is him embracing what you have tried to do?
A: I think so. That is good insight. I would not have known that if you had not told me. I am glad that that is his goal. I am glad that his aspirations are to be better than what he is. I remember when I used to recruit when I was in college and I used to try and find out the guy you are recruiting, what drove him. What is the most important thing to you right now? What are your goals? And any young man who said, ĎTo get a college scholarship.í I would have to wonder about if we offer him a scholarship, he has reached all of his goals, so when you say, I am glad that the goal is high. Reach for the sky and see what you catch along the way.
Q: What appealed to you guys about Romeo Okwara before he came here and how has he adapted to the increased playing time?
A: He has done a great job. Look, I credit Jerry Reeseís staff and the scouting department for discovering Romeo. I am not going to stand here and tell you that I knew much about Romeo before he came out. We knew the name and I think we had done the research as coaches, but they earmarked him, the scouts got him in here and then we take those guys that are free agents and work with them and I think that (Defensive Line Coach) Pat Graham and (Assistant Defensive Line Coach) Jeff Zgonina did a great job with him because he just got better and better and better and if you are going to play in this league, you have to have a little bit of something inside you, a little bit of grit that says, ĎIt is not too big for me. I can play in the NFL.í And I think Romeo has a little bit of that and I think that part of it, too, is guys that he works with in that room Ė the Harrisonís and the OVís and the JPPís and the confidence that they built in him. I think that helped as well.
Q: How can you tell that it is not too big for him?
A: Well, in the games that he has played, it doesnít look that way. Now, they are about to get bigger. This one is big, in my opinion, this week and we know what is after that, so we will see.
Q: With the focus on Washington, does it lessen the temptation to look forward because you donít have a team to focus on? You still donít know who you are playing in two weeks. Does it help in that regard?
A: It probably does. I know that Ben mentioned it yesterday, but there is no Ė the only film that I have watched, the only players that I am looking at are the guys that wear a Washington Redskins jersey and that is it. I have always believed this and I talked to the guys about this the other day, on defense, in this game, our job never changes. It doesnít matter whether we are up by 50 or behind by 50. It doesnít matter what the game means, what it doesnít mean. Our job is to go out there and stop the team that is trying to score, it never changes in the course of the game, during the season, in between games, that is all that we are doing, that is all that we can control and that is what we try to do.
Q: Why is it a big game for you?
A: Because you want to win football games in the NFL. It is game 16, get to 11-5. There are a lot of reasons. If you arenít going out there to win a football game, then you probably ought to not go out there.