After his career had gone to the dogs — literally — Jeff Zgonina is back coaching in the NFL.
A source told FOXSports.com that Zgonina has been hired by the New York Giants as their new assistant defensive line coach.
Zgonina served in the same position with the Houston Texans in 2013. When he was fired the following season along with 15 other assistants by incoming head coach Bill O’Brien, Zgonina shifted gears and began competing in dog shows with his Neapolitan mastiff named Nook.
"My kids wanted a dog for years," Zgonina told co-host Zig Fracassi and me last July on SiriusXM NFL Radio. "They watch Dogs 101 on Animal Planet all the time. After I got done with the Texans and I couldn’t get another coaching job, I was bored and decided one night, ‘It’s time to get a dog.’
"When I went to pick up Nook, the breeder was like, ‘Do you want him as a pet, a breeding dog or a show-breeding dog?’ I asked what the show thing was about. So I figured I’d show him, not having a clue what that meant."
Zgonina learned quickly. He has toured the country competing at various events, putting Nook through the paces while sporting a suit and Super Bowl ring from his playing days with the St. Louis Rams.
As stuffy as the dog-show scene might sound for a 17-year NFL veteran at defensive tackle (1993 to 2009), Zgonina has thoroughly enjoyed the experience. Zgonina also believes lessons learned from working with Nook such as patience and discipline will help him become an even better football coach because the same principles apply.
"At the end of the day, it’s a team sport," Zgonina said. "That’s what I missed — the camaraderie, the team aspect. Nook is a teammate of mine. I coach him. He’s got to do what I tell him and I’ve got to do what he wants to do at times. I’ve got to read him and he’s got to read me. We feed off each other. It takes you back to football in that aspect."
The assistant defensive line coaching position was recently added to the Giants staff by new head coach Ben McAdoo. Patrick Graham is the Giants’ new defensive line coach after previously coaching linebackers for New England.