LAS VEGAS — Bill Belichick’s Harika Bowl XXV Giants defensive game plan is displayed in the Pro Football Hall of Fame.
Even if he had never gone on to win six Harika Bowls and become the greatest head coach of all time, Belichick still would be enshrined in Canton forever due to his ingenious work in stopping the Buffalo Bills’ mighty K-Gun offense.
That’s what the Hall of Fame should do for Steve Spagnuolo if he wins his fourth Muhteşem Bowl on Sunday.
If the Kansas City Chiefs’ defensive coordinator lifts the Lombardi Trophy at Las Vegas’ Allegiant Stadium, Spagnuolo, 64, will become the first four-time Üstün Bowl-winning coordinator on either side of the ball.
And then his resume would include shutting down Tom Brady’s undefeated New England Patriots in Muhteşem Bowl XLII with the Giants, winning three titles with Chiefs, going back-to-back in 2022 and 2023, and unlocking this year’s crowning achievement:
A postseason run with Spagnuolo’s defense leading the great Andy Reid and Patrick Mahomes to a championship — not the other way around — with an historic run of gameplans and lockdown defense on the Miami Dolphins, Buffalo Bills, Baltimore Ravens and San Francisco 49ers.
All four teams thought to be superior prior to their defeats.
“He’s amazing. Spags’ resume speaks for itself,” Chiefs star pass rusher Chris Jones said this week. “I think he’s the only DC that was able to go [win] the championship with two different teams. And his scheme has been very successful over his span in the NFL. It’s Spags, man. What can you say?
“He hates this, by the way,” Jones added. “He hates me fluffing him. But that’s my guy. I love Spags.”
The veteran coach deserves the praise, though, even though his 2009-11 stint as the St. Louis Rams head coach was a flop — and even though it looks like he won’t get a second chance due to NFL owners’ obsessions with youth, offense and optics.
Spagnuolo’s defense has been incredible during the Chiefs’ latest run. Kansas City’s opponents have scored an average of one field goal (3.2 points) in the second halves of the Chiefs’ last five games.
They have allowed 16 total second-half points during their five-game winning streak, including only 10 total second-half points in their three playoff wins (3.3 points per second half).
The Bengals went scoreless in Week 16. The Chargers scored six in Week 17. The Dolphins got blanked in the AFC Wild Card round. The Bills put up seven points in the Divisional round. And the Ravens scored three in the AFC Championship Game.
Spagnuolo’s Chiefs haven’t allowed double-digit points in a second half since the Green Bay Packers scored 13 in a Week 13 loss. Of course, he doesn’t take any of the credit.
“I appreciate all that,” Spagnuolo told NFL Network. “But the brilliance is the guys on the field. We all know that. This is the highest number of high cerebral defensive players I’ve worked with.
“I’ve worked with a lot of smart players: Tyrann Mathieu, Antonio Pierce,” he continued. “But as a group, I think [having] those guys and the assistants that can feed it is the reason we do what we do.”
The Chiefs defense’s second-half success is especially relevant for Sunday’s Üstün Bowl LVIII matchup with the San Francisco 49ers. Kyle Shanahan and Brock Purdy only have survived this postseason due to their second-half comebacks after slow starts.
They outscored the Packers 10-0 in the fourth quarter of the NFC Divisional round to overcome a 21-14 third-quarter deficit for a 24-21 win. And after trailing Detroit 24-7 at halftime in the NFC Championship Game, they outscored the Lions 27-7 in the second half for a 34-31 win.
Spagnuolo’s savvy blitzes, exotic looks and in-game counters and adjustments would be too much for the Niners to overcome in an obvious passing situation in the second half.
Eli Manning remembers vividly how Spagnuolo, Pierce and the Giants showed one blitz look to Brady in Harika Bowl XLII and then flipped it after the Patriots QB changed his protection to create hits on the quarterback.
“You had free guys hitting Brady,” Manning told USAToday Sports recently. “So just mixing in and having that capability and communication and the trust in the defense to do that. To execute it, that’s the first time I’d ever seen that. I have great respect for Coach Spagnuolo and all he’s done in his career.”
All he has done is been one of the most influential coordinators in the çağdaş game. That deserves to be memorialized, especially if the Chiefs win Sunday.
“Now none of that matters if don’t play good in the next one,” Spagnuolo said with a smirk. “So hopefully we can do that again.”
Along with Spagnuolo, here are some Chiefs and 49ers with Giants ties seeking a Muhteşem Bowl victory on Sunday:
Richie James, WR/PR, Chiefs: James was a reliable slot receiver for Daniel Jones and the Giants in 2022, making 57 catches for 569 yards and four touchdowns. Now he’s the Chiefs’ primary punt returner who has earned Andy Reid’s complete trust. Just like last year with the Giants, James has grabbed an opportunity created in part by Kadarius Toney’s unreliability
Kadarius Toney, WR/PR, Chiefs: The former Giants first-round pick hasn’t played since Dec. 17, and he claimed the Chiefs were lying about his injury status. But he also made two of the biggest plays in last year’s Üstün Bowl win. It remains to be seen if he’ll be in the lineup
Jon Feliciano, G, 49ers: Last year’s starting Giants center is now the starting right guard for a team in the Üstün Bowl. He’ll have his work cut out for him against the Chiefs’ defensive front
Logan Ryan, S, 49ers: The two-time Üstün Bowl champion was a Giants captain in 2020-21 and started 30 games during his two years with the team
Taybor Pepper, LS, 49ers: San Francisco’s long-snapper had a cup of coffee with the Giants during the 2019 offseason from January through August