Chiefs’ defensive staff full of Giants connections02/07/2021
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It was the day after the Chiefs beat the Bills in the AFC Championship. Monday morning. Dave Merritt, the Kansas City defensive backs coach, walked into the office of his boss, defensive coordinator Steve Spagnuolo, and closed the door behind him.
Staying six feet away, as per social distancing protocols, Merritt wanted to share a special moment with someone he had worked with and grown close to during the course of their NFL journeys — journeys that ran directly through the Giants.
“I said, ‘Spags, here we are again, we’re going back to another Super Bowl together,’ and he just started chuckling,’’ Merritt said. “It’s just so thrilling. You stop and think about the friends you have in this business, We all have associates, but those people who you can call true friends, I can probably put up one hand and start dropping fingers. Spags is one of those guys I call a true friend and to be able to be here to go to another experience in the Super Bowl with Spags has been unbelievable.’’
Merritt, Spagnuolo and Sam Madison — who works with Merritt, coaching the Chiefs’ cornerbacks — bring a Giants flavor to the Kansas City scene. They all were together for the 2007 season, which ended with the Giants upsetting the Patriots in Super Bowl XLII, Madison as a starting cornerback, Spagnuolo running the defense and Merritt as the defensive backs coach on Tom Coughlin’s staff.
Merritt, 49, spent 14 years with the Giants, the first 12 working for Coughlin and two more when he was retained by Ben McAdoo. In the Super Bowl victory following the 2007 season, Merritt, specializing in the play of the safeties, got Gibril Wilson and James Butler to perform at a high level. In the Super Bowl victory after the 2011 season, Merritt directed more high-profile safeties — with Antrel Rolle, Kenny Phillips and Deon Grant often on the field at the same time for the Giants.
Merritt said he showed film of all those former Giants players to his current crop of Chiefs ahead of last year’s Super Bowl triumph over the 49ers and again in the past few weeks.
“You always try to draw up on the past and educate these young men, far as what they are about to embark on is going to be something special, and it’s not just you becoming a winner, but it’s your entire family, your entire community,’’ Merritt said.
Madison, after a 12-year career as an NFL cornerback (the first nine with the Dolphins, the last three with the Giants), left the game for business ventures. He did not really contemplate going into coaching, despite cajoling from Merritt.
“Here’s a guy that I told while he was playing, ‘Sam, you’re gonna become a coach one day,’ and Sam looked at me and was like, ‘No I’m not, coach,’ ’’ Merritt said. “I said, ‘OK, I’ll wait 10 years and then I’ll come and get you.’ I think it was probably 12 years later he became a coach, and all of a sudden here he is as DB coach here with me.’’
Madison, who earned a Super Bowl ring in 2019 with the Chiefs in his first year in coaching, credits Spagnuolo for kick-starting his coaching career, giving him three internships in St. Louis when Spagnuolo was the Rams’ head coach and one with the Ravens, when Spagnuolo was a defensive assistant.
“It’s just a testament to him believing in the skills I was able to portray to him,’’ Madison said. “It’s just been a really special ride and I’m really grateful for him.’’
Amid the two weeks of preparation for yet another Super Bowl together, Spagnuolo, Merritt and Madison found a few minutes to look back at their shared successes together.
“All the stories looking back on the Super Bowls have been wonderful but every year is different,’’ Merritt said. “We pinch ourselves and we definitely have that conversation of ‘Here we go again.’ ”
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