After linebacker Mark Herzlich last week declared his intention to return to Boston College for his senior season, he moved to the next topic that has dominated his offseason. Herzlich called athletic director Gene DeFilippo and campaigned for Frank Spaziani to become the Eagles' head football coach.
"He was really, really polite about it," DeFilippo said. "He said, 'I know whatever you do, you'll have our best interest at heart. We all believe that. Could I just talk to you about Coach Spaz?' It wasn't an emotional call, but a call that he really felt with all his heart was the right thing."
DeFilippo fulfilled Herzlich's wish today, when BC named Spaziani as the replacement for the deposed Jeff Jagodzinski. Players reacted with joy and relief, happy for their coach and satisfied the Eagles went with an internal choice.
"This is the best-case scenario for the guys on the team, without a question," linebacker Mike McLaughlin said. "When I first heard about what was going on, I just thought, 'I hope they hire somebody in-house.' My first thought was obviously Coach Spaziani."
Each time DeFilippo consulted with a player, he placed his support behind Spaziani. DeFilippo also called former Eagles quarterback Matt Ryan, who won the NFL Rookie of the Year award this season with the Atlanta Falcons. Ryan joined the chorus of voices who said Spaziani would be the best choice.
Spaziani's familiarity with the program - and the current Eagles' fondness for him - should make for a smooth transition. The Eagles hired their third coach in four years today, "and you don't want that," McLaughlin said. But keeping the hire in-house made players feel as if hardly any change had taken place.
"It's not the same as when Coach [Tom] O'Brien went to [North Carolina] State," McLaughlin said. "You kind of get the feeling it's the same. Everybody is looking forward to Coach Spaziani. When a new guy comes in, they clean house. You never know what they're going to do. We're used to Coach Spaz."
McLaughlin was on vacation when he heard Jagodzinski might be fired, after having contacted the New York Jets. He was surprised and disappointed, but he harbored no hard feelings toward Jagodzinski.
"I was definitely surprised," added wide receiver Rich Gunnell. "But you've got to do what you've got to do. It's business. I'm not really going to knock him for his decision. Wish him the best of luck."
Both players chose to look forward instead. McLaughlin thought back to the 2006 Meineke Car Care Bowl, when Spaziani gathered the Eagles, still reeling from O'Brien's departure, and led them to a victory over Navy. Now Spaziani will coach them for an entire season, a development his players more than welcome.
"His intensity and his passion for the game - just watching him from the sidelines, he's always going crazy for us," Gunnell said. "He just has a passion for our team. He's going to keep that same passion."
"He's a BC guy," McLaughlin said. "He epitomizes a BC coach. He's just kind of a down-to-Earth type of guy. But, at the same time, he has an unbelievable football mind. I just can't wait to see how he is as a head coach."