On Thursday night, the Baltimore Ravens returned to the scene of their Super Bowl XLVII victory against the San Francisco 49ers — that infamous league-title game Feb. 3, 2013, when the lights inexplicably went out at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome.
The evening also marked the return to the Superdome for Ravens assistant head coach/secondary coach Steve Spagnuolo, who will be forever linked to one of the most controversial and dysfunctional seasons in Saints history.
In 2012, Spagnuolo found himself smack dab in the middle of the Bountygate season as a first-year coordinator in New Orleans in charge of a defense in the absence of suspended coach Sean Payton.
That season, the Saints defense under Spagnuolo yielded yards (an NFL-record 7,042) and points (454) by the bushel, ultimately leading to his dismissal upon Payton’s return to the team in January 2013.
A veteran coach of 16 NFL seasons, including three as head coach of the St. Louis Rams from 2009-11, Spagnuolo accepted his fate and moved on without the first peep of an excuse or ill will toward his former employer.
In May 2013, Spagnuolo joined the Super Bowl champion Ravens in the role of senior defensive assistant. Earlier this year, Ravens coach John Harbaugh promoted Spagnuolo to assistant head coach in charge of the secondary.
Spagnuolo, still Marine-fit at 54 and sporting his signature goatee and buzz cut, spoke briefly before departing the Superdome following the Ravens’ 22-13 victory. Baltimore returns to the Superdome on Nov. 24 to face the Saints on “Monday Night Football.”
“The adage is true,” Spagnuolo said. “Usually, when you go through the rocky times, you learn more than you do through the good times. Next time, when I get the chance to do it again, I’ll have a better idea what to look for, or stay away from this or that.”
Asked whether he was aware of the Bountygate situation or the potential for league sanctions against the franchise before he joined the Saints in January 2012, Spagnuolo replied: “No. I wasn’t aware of (Bountygate). It happened. I had to deal with things when they happened and move on. That’s the business we’re in.”
Spagnuolo said he was grateful for the opportunity to be associated with good players and better people, such as Cameron Jordan, Junior Galette, Akiem Hicks, Curtis Lofton and David Hawthorne, among others.
“(Second-year defensive coordinator) Rob Ryan does a great job here,” Spagnuolo said. “They’ve done a great job turning over their roster here. They’ve got some good, young defensive players whose careers are going upward. It’s great to see these guys doing so well.”
Spagnuolo also mentioned the relationship that he and his wife, Maria, have forged with David Bottner of New Orleans Mission, which assists homeless in the area.
“Maria sits on the board,” Spagnuolo said. “If we hadn’t been here, we wouldn’t have been able to tie into those kind of people. My wife and I are very much into helping people. I believe we get put in this world in certain places at certain times in our lives for a reason, and one of the reasons we came here was to help people.
“There was a learning process being here, yeah, but there was a lot to gain, and I’m grateful for that. Look — I’m a blessed man. I’ve been able to still be in this league. I’ve had a lot of really good things happen to me in this league, and one of the good things is I came to New Orleans.”