Brian Daboll can fix the New York Giants
This franchise has been an unmitigated disaster but, in the former Bills coordinator, there's reason to believe better days are ahead.
There are nine new head coaches in the NFL. All are selling hope and culture and making their fan bases believe, too. Of course, the fired coaches they all replaced said many of the same things, too. Regardless of how many “well respected” stamps of approval you see and hear this time of year from the powers that be in sports media, nobody knows if these coaches will win any more than mock-drafters know who’ll be the first five players selected in the NFL draft. There are too many variables.
Is the head coach in lockstep with the GM? What’s the salary cap situation? When it’s nut-cutting time will this same tough-talking coach go for it on fourth and 2 at midfield?
And, most importantly, Who’s playing quarterback?
Now, that the 2021 NFL season is officially wrapped up — and the Los Angeles Rams are Super Bowl Champions — optimism will steadily build from this day forward, in all 32 markets, until September. Anybody declaring any team “the next Bengals” is grifting. Teams do not elevate from 4-11-1 to a 15-yard gain from forcing overtime in the Super Bowl so easily. The initial thoughts here? Doug Pederson was the right hire to clean up the filth Urban Meyer left behind in Jacksonville. Everyone burnt far too many calories debating Mike McDaniel’s race. The Denver Broncos’ chances at landing Aaron Rodgers skyrocketed with the hire of Nathaniel Hackett. The QB loves him. And here’s a sentence we never imagined gracing this space in December:
The New York Giants are on the right track.
While they could’ve done without the medium soda “fan appreciation,” the absolute best outcome for John Mara’s organization, in retrospect, is that it fell directly into a pile of horse manure.
Such public embarrassment down the stretch, it turns out, was exactly what these Giants needed to acknowledge they had a problem. That’s the beauty of rock bottom, right? A quarterback sneak on third and 9 set the sport back a minimum 58 years in New Jersey and, honestly, Joe Judge should’ve waved a literal white flag and quit at that point. But, hey, to our knowledge it didn’t set Mara back $100,000 per loss. Sadly, those Giants were trying to win. Those Giants, mired in denial, were still all-in on Judge. Reports don’t leak out of Giants Land for no good reason. When it comes to public relations, this is an extremely calculated franchise. Reports that the Giants were planning on moving forward with Judge in 2022 and that longtime exec Kevin Abrams was a strong contender to be general manager were very real.
The Maras whistled right through the graveyard and thankfully — for their sake — the bottom fell out. Judge gave his bosses zero choice but to reset by getting outscored 85-20 the final three weeks. Risking fan mutiny, Mara finally rehauled the football operation with outside voices. Out was Dave Gettleman (and his “Assholes need not apply” sign), albeit with everything but a kiss on his cheek out the door. In was Joe Schoen, a true scout’s scout of a GM who has lived out of a Marriott most of his NFL life. Out was Judge, and his ridiculous delusion. In was Brian Daboll, possibly the best head coach hire of them all. Nobody should hold their breath for the owner’s brother to be demoted. Chris Mara’s perch above the Player Personnel org chart remains. Same for the owner’s nephew. As much as John Mara tells you that his family members don’t have a say, don’t forget that it was his nephew (Tim McDonnell) texting Brian Flores in that bombshell report a couple weeks back. New York did reassign Abrams, declaring him “indispensable and versatile.” The new assistant GM is Brandon Brown, who has spent the last five seasons with Philadelphia.
All in all, the Giants deserve credit for bringing in outside eyeballs to assess the rubble. There’s quite a bit of rubble, too, icymi:
Part I: How it all got so bad, so fast for the New York Giants
Part II: Bad turns to worse
Part III: Will John Mara do the right thing?
The bet here is that the owners finally did hit the bull’s eye with Brian Daboll.
Everyone should be skeptical of introductory press conferences. Joe Judge earned high marks all around a short two years ago but, unlike Judge (unlike a lot of head coaches, if we’re being honest), Daboll came across as incredibly sincere. The Giants have held four of these introductory press conferences since 2016 and Daboll was — by far — the most authentic and realistic of them all. He said plenty without making any promises.
His press conference is worth watching in its entirety. There was a lot to like.
On Daniel Jones: “We’re going to find out what he does well and try to implement a system that suits him and then it’s our job to bring pieces in to help him be the best version of himself, the best quarterback for us. He’s got the right mindset. He’s got good size. There’s a lot of things to like about Daniel. We’ll take it one day at a time, work with him, help him get better, help him be a better leader, help him be everything. That’s our job as a coaching staff. And, as an organization, it takes everybody. It’s not just me. It’s the rest of the coaches on this staff. It’s the scouts. It’s the support system. It’s the ownership group. It takes a lot to raise a quarterback, if you will. And he’s been around the block these last few years with some different pieces. We’re going to try to give him some stability and just take it from there.”
On if this is his time to be a head coach: “All I know how to do is work. Work with people and try to build a culture, unite a building, inspire players, coaches, support staff, listen, learn and ultimately develop the people in our building, and that’s not just the players. That’s the QCs. That’s the people underneath the head trainer. Do I feel prepared? Yes. Do I know there will be some obstacles and challenges? Of course. That’s this league. You’ve got to be resilient in this league. Certainly here you’ve got to be resilient, right?”
On being in lockstep with the GM: “There are some foundational pillars that help you as an organization. It’s not necessarily going to make you win. The leadership group between ownership, management, general manager and head coach is a really important piece. Those guys have to be aligned. When you’re not aligned, that’s when things start going astray. I’m not guaranteeing that we’re going to do anything. I just think that alignment is so critical because when you’re aligned, you can communicate with one another and you can develop a plan. And that plan’s going to be important. We’re starting from scratch. There’s a lot of things we have to get done. After that plan, then we’re looking to bring in the right kind of people. Yes, it’s absolutely important to have a shared vision and shared core values of the type of people we want to bring in. This is a people business, too. It’s about leading, it’s about cultivating and it’s about inspiring.”
On if he asked for patience from ownership: “No, no. The NFL is an unstable world. Regardless of where you’re at. So your job is to do the best you can do, build relationships and try to build a good program. It’s not about me sitting up here. It’s about us collectively as an organization, from top to bottom.”
On what he’s learned from all of the coaches he’s been around: “One, you have to be authentic. Joe spoke to the mentors I’ve had, and I owe those guys a lot. I’ve learned you have to be yourself in this business. That’s what I aim to do. I’m a people person. I think I’m a good leader. The second thing I’ve learned is you have to be consistent in this position. To get up in front of a room as an offense, you guys are all the players out there, after a bad game and own it and talk to those guys and give them the things we didn’t do well and the things I didn’t do well on a consistent basis, I think that helps. And not riding a roller-coaster. Which, in my younger days, I was on that coaster. Clearly communicating your expectations and standards goes a long way with these men. And, at the end of the day, relationships. I’m a big relationship guy. I love my players. I want to get to know them off the field. I think that’s where it starts.”
This resume is deeper than most realize. Daboll has been in the NFL for 21 years.
He has learned from the two best coaches in the sport (Bill Belichick and Nick Saban), coached one of the best quarterbacks ever (Brett Favre) and, equally important, he has witnessed Giants-level trainwrecks before with the Chiefs (2012) and Browns (2009-10). He knows how things can go sideways. Of course, the reason Daboll was getting interviews to be a head coach the last two seasons was the development of Josh Allen. Understandably, the question is how much Daboll had to do with Allen’s meteoric rise. This is a quarterback who also worked a ton with Jordan Palmer in the offseason, was surrounded with weapons in Buffalo and is a diligent worker in his own right.
This rise is also statistically historic. No quarterback ever improved his accuracy this much.
Daboll undoubtedly had a colossal influence and can apply this blueprint to another quarterback.
How easily we forget that, in 2018, Allen was a bad NFL quarterback. It’s strange to see WNY’ers mock Mac Jones with so much vitriol when Allen, the seventh overall pick, was objectively much worse as a rookie. He completed 52.8 percent of his passes for 2,074 yards and 10 touchdowns with 12 picks, 28 sacks and eight fumbles through a 5-6 rookie season. Nobody had a clue if Allen had a future after that rookie season. He was a wild, inaccurate, raw-as-hell QB. Steadily, he improved and is now unquestionably among the NFL’s elite. All Allen has known is Daboll as his OC. From creative play design… to how Allen reads the field… to how he was even used as a runner late last season, Daboll’s fingerprints are all over his ascent to superstardom.
The playcalling wasn’t perfect. The Bills did abandon the run at times, drawing the ire of the head coach, but shudder to think where the Bills would be right now if Sean McDermott didn’t have Daboll.
None of this means that Daniel Jones is destined to turn his career around, but he’s got as good a chance as he ever will. And if he struggles? It’s not like Schoen and Daboll are tied to Jones beyond 2022. The Giants can slow-play the quarterback position this offseason while simultaneously taking a wrecking ball to the roster Gettleman destroyed. With the fifth and seventh overall picks, they should be able to land two starters at premium positions. A tackle. A cornerback. An edge rusher. They’ll have options, and it’s not like this draft has a can’t-miss prospect at quarterback anyways.
If Jones is salvaged, great. Through the injuries and the turnovers and the disastrous personnel moves, he has at least shown an accurate deep ball and speed. There is a chance a new GM can fall in "full bloom love” here, and for the love to lead to full-blown marriage.
If not, then the Giants can make their quarterback move in 2023. Jones has never been an outright star at any level. Long ago, he generated minimal interest out of college and he was mostly so-so at Duke. Is there really a switch in him. He may be little more than a C-minus quarterback who gets you to seven wins.
It sure seemed like John Mara was going to make the same mistake he did the last time he hired a GM, too, when the Giants missed Josh Allen themselves. That GM search in December 2017 was a joke, of course. They interviewed one person not associated with the franchise, TV analyst Louis Riddick, and the understanding then was that the Giants would be rolling with a 37-year-old Eli Manning. While Schoen and Daboll are saying all of the right things about Jones, their careers are not tied to him.
It seems like both have legit control to build a team in their vision, which is all any new GM and head coach can ask for.
Jones was a Gettleman pick. They’ll get their own bite at the apple, if needed. Don’t be surprised if a few more Bills head east, too. Similar to the Tennessee Titans bringing Ryan Tannehill in to back up Marcus Mariota, these Giants could usher in some cost-efficient competition. Signing Mitchell Trubisky next month makes all sorts of sense for New York.
First, expect a flurry of cost-saving moves. Gettleman left the Giants in a state of salary cap hell. There were so many bloated contracts on the books in 2021 that the Giants didn’t even bother filling roster spots down the stretch. “Over the Cap” estimates the Giants are $23.292 million over a projected $208.2 million cap into 2022. Schoen wants to cut about $40 million to have $20 million to work with.
Demolition comes first. The Giants cannot spend like the Bills have been spending the last few years. It’s time to clear those books.
A few years from now, though, I think we’ll see a team in a much better state than the current division champs.
The Giants needed true football people, and they found them. This head coach won’t speak to everyone like a kindergarten teacher, either.