Who knew that Brian Daboll would revive the New York Football Giants and win Coach of the Year as a rookie?
Who knew that Daboll would help transform Daniel Jones into the franchise’s $40 million quarterback?
Who knew that after all the young hotshots who were jumped to the head of the head coaching hiring line, this polished diamond who had paid his dues as a football lifer and been overlooked over a two decade-long career as an assistant coach would be the answer to John Mara’s post-Tom Coughlin prayers?
Who knew that Daboll would be the driving force behind the restoration of Giants Pride?
General manager Joe Schoen hired him, but even he couldn’t possibly have known, not in their first year together, when there were all those salary-cap and personnel potholes.
No one who watched how Daboll made coming to work fun again and built relationships with everyone in the building and repaired a broken culture and not only led the Big Blue horse to water but made it drink believes he will prove to be a one-hit wonder. Or be two-and-done like Ben McAdoo and Pat Shurmur and Joe Judge were before him.
So now, with the Cowboys in his crosshairs when the regular season begins Sunday night at MetLife Stadium, a team that has won 11 of the last 12 games against the Giants and swept them in 2022, we ask:
What can Brian Daboll do for an encore?
Why not this? Show us what The Next Great Giants Head Coach looks like.
After leading the Giants to their first playoff win in 11 years, Daboll surely recognizes that he has raised expectations for 2023 to playoffs-or-bust. Robert Saleh was joking on Monday that the expectations every year in this town are 17-0 (especially when Aaron Rodgers is your quarterback). Bill Parcells used to call New York a euphoria-or-disaster town, and it remains the truth, even if it might feel that way everywhere else nowadays.
It is every head coach’s reality that this is a what-have-you-done-for-us-lately? NFL with impatient owners, although John Mara has grown to recognize that patience is a virtue … with the right head coach.
And of course it is not lost on a fan base that Daboll has spoiled that he has better players and faster players than he did a year ago.
And while Schoen filled needs at cornerback, middle linebacker, interior run defense and No. 1 passing game option, there remains a gap to be closed with the Eagles and Cowboys.
Giants fans do not want to hear that just because their team has improved, it doesn’t guarantee another step forward and a better win-loss record than 9-7-1.
They can trust that Daboll will do more with less because that is what he does.
But the NFC East landscape demands that he does more with less than the Eagles and Cowboys.
And yet the NFC is filled with enough mediocrities for Daboll to capture another wild-card berth in a division formidable enough on paper to send three teams to the postseason.
There can be no sweet, innocent climb now for Daboll and the Giants. They won’t be sneaking up on anyone this season. But a second year in the same system will help everybody, most notably the $40 million quarterback. The Giants kept offensive coordinator Mike Kafka and defensive coordinator Wink Martindale. The Eagles lost their OC and DC to head-coaching jobs. Cowboys head coach Mike McCarthy will be calling the plays following the departure of OC Kellen Moore to the Chargers. So there’s that.
McAdoo reached the playoffs as a rookie head coach but then everything collapsed for him the following season, and he couldn’t weather the storm of adversity that does not rattle Daboll. Shurmur was a highly respected offensive coordinator who was not a leader of men. I thought Judge, who arrived as the commander CEO John Mara craved, had a chance to be The Next Great Giants Head Coach and was dead wrong.
Daboll won’t mind one bit that Aaron Rodgers has commandeered the hype in this town for the Jets. He can make Bill Belichick sound like one of the great orators of our lifetime, and ought to market T-shirts that read Next Play, Next Day. “Hard Knocks” wouldn’t have fazed Blue Collar Brian in the least. He’ll just coach his team. And do it better than any Giants head coach since Coughlin.
Daboll in his first game as head coach in Tennessee last season administered tough love to Jones on the sidelines following an interception, and showed his team that he was playing to win when he called for that shovel pass to Saquon Barkley for the two-point conversion with 1:06 left that gave the Giants their 21-20 win.
Who knows what he can do for an encore?
Show us what The Next Great Giants Head Coach looks like.