The Saints' hiring earned universally good reviews:
Pat Yasinskas, ESPN.com: "This is a big victory for the Saints because I'm pretty sure Spagnuolo is the guy Sean Payton had targeted for the job, probably before previous coordinator Gregg Williams left for St. Louis. If you a want a picture of a Spagnuolo defense, don't think too much about the St. Louis team he had been the head coach of since 2009. Think more of the New York Giants, when Spagnuolo was their defensive coordinator in 2007 and '08. The Giants won the Super Bowl in the 2007 season. Prior to that, Spagnjuolo had a long run as an assistant with the Philadelphia Eagles, who played in four NFC championship games during his tenure. Spagnuolo worked for the Eagles from 1999 through 2006. In short, his defense -- in theory -- is a lot like we've seen out of the Giants this postseason. It relies on a lot of pressure from the front four and not much blitzing. Spagnuolo prefers tall/angular cornerbacks that can play man-to-man coverage and also playmakers at safety.
Gregg Rosenthal, NBCSports.com: "It's a great fit for both sides. Spagnuolo is a talented defensive mind that knows how to create a pass rush, something the Saints can certainly use. He kept New Orleans' 4-3 attacking defense in place. It's an ideal landing spot for Spagnuolo because he can rehab his coaching reputation during games in the national spotlight with a chance to compete for the Super Bowl. A lot of Saints fans will feel like they've upgraded their defensive coordinator spot significantly. We have a lot of respect for Williams and don't think it's that simple, but New Orleans did well to land Spagnuolo before a team like the Eagles or Colts tried to hire him."
Clark Judge, CBSSports.com: "Spagnuolo's reputation was enhanced in Super Bowl XLII when his defense an d his game brought down Tom Brady and the undefeated New En glad Patriots. The Saints are not in need of a fix, but they had to have a suitable stand-in for Williams to oversee their defense. Spagnuolo is more than that. This was a big catch for a team that needed one."
Jason La Canfora, NFL Newwork: "Spagnuolo's Rams were one of three teams to beat the Saints during the 2011 regular season. Spagnuolo's defense in St. Louis ranked 22nd this season, but the unit was stellar against New Orleans, sacking Drew Brees six times and intercepting him twice in the team's most lopsided loss of the season. Before taking over St. Louis, Spagnuolo had top-10 defenses with the Giants. His 2000 defense led the NFL with 53 sacks and the 2008 unit was sixth in the league with 42."
This assignment should give Spagnuolo every opportunity to reposition himself for things down the road, should head coaching again interest him.
Cameron Jordan and Mark Ingram
Khaled Elsayed of Pro Football Focus has graded the first-round 2011 draft picks and their performances this season. Here's how he judged Cameron Jordan and Mark Ingram's performances:
Cameron Jordan, defensive end (24th pick): "When you watch Jordan you can't help but notice he looks incredibly strong. Not dynamic, he plays like a prototypical left end. So essentially he'll make the Saints' run defense get better in the long run, but is he the guy to help them pick up pressure by sending four? I have my doubts."
Mark Ingram, running back (28th pick): "Had the 13th lowest elusive rating the league, largely as a result of forcing just nine missed tackles on his 93 touches. After a slow start, Ingram seems like he is finding his feet at the NFL level. That's far more preferable to his finding the backs of offensive linemen with his first three games seeing him perfect the art of running into offensive linemen as if they were tacklers. Already has a role carved out in New Orleans, even if he is yet to make the impact last year's rookie Chris Ivory was able to."
Chris Paul has missed five consecutive games for the Clippers with a strained hamstring. His return is undetermined...Saints ring has been voted one of the top five Super Bowl ring designs of all time...Peyton Manning said he's not retiring any time soon. "I never thought 'Soda Pop Curtis' would announce my retirement," said Manning, laughing, referring to Rob Lowe's character in a 1983 movie "Outsiders."...
Three LSU players will plan in the Senior Bowl on Saturday at Mobile. Safety Brandon Taylor, tight end Deangelo Peterson and guard Will Blackwell are working out this week for NFL scouts for the 3 p.m. game on Saturday. The game will be televised by NFL Films...Joe Horn is one of 12 former NFL players who have filed a suit against the league about its concussion policies saying there was widespread use of an anti-inflammatory drug that put someone with a head injury at increased risk...Horn has a new barbecue sauce, Bayou 87, that's available at local food stores...Former LSU running back Stevan Ridley, the Patrots' second-leading rusher this season with 441 yards on 87 carries, was inactive for Sunday's game against the Ravens. He lost two fumbles late in the season.
Four former LSU football players will be after Super Bowl rings in two weeks when the Patriots face the Giants at Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis.
The Tigers have two former players on each roster. Cornerback Corey Webster and wide receiver Michael Clayton play for the Giants, while running backs Kevin Faulk and Stevan Ridley are on the Patriots squad. Webster, Faulk, and Ridley are on active rosters, while Clayton is on injured reserve and will not dress out for the game.
LSU has had at least one player win a Super Bowl ring dating back to 2002. With players on both teams, that streak will be extended to a Southeastern Conference leading 11 consecutive years.
Faulk, who has won three Super Bowl titles, will be making his fifth appearance in the game. The five appearances are the most of any former LSU player, one better than the four appearances by Roy “Moonie” Winston. Winston played in four Super Bowls during his 15-year career with the Minnesota Vikings from 1962-76.
We have a pretty good idea just how twisted some Alabama fans are with the allegations against Harvey Udyke (poisoning the trees on Toomer's corner) and Brian Downing (placing his testicles on a passed-out LSU fan). Need more proof? How about a spot in the Elmwood Cemetery where legendary Alabama Bear Bryant is buried is going for $2,200. There are five plots available for $2,200 each OBO...
by Ed Staton