Brian Daboll had jokes. Lots of jokes.
He picked on one media member’s Brooklyn accent, asking if he was from South Carolina as he stammered his way through a question.
When a reporter made mention of the number of bearded, balding reporters sitting closely together Daboll asked if they had saved him a seat.
When one reporter asked a question while standing up as everyone else in the media was seated, Daboll chided him for showing up late.
Daboll kiddingly told reporters when he opened up the press conference for questions that they got one each. When the first questioner said he had two questions, Daboll said “Already?”
Daboll picked on his four-year-old son for nodding off during the press conference. “This is going great, my four-year-old fell asleep, he did not listen to one word I said,” he quipped.
When Daboll began to answer a question before a reporter was done speaking, he deadpanned “did I interrupt you?”
Daboll pulled up to the Quest Diagnostics Training Center alone, in his pickup truck.
“People’s Court” theme music on top of the Daboll entrance video wins the day pic.twitter.com/pw5UXjNHV3— Will Brinson (@WillBrinson) January 31, 2022
He told reporters he couldn’t wait to get the press conference over with, get out of the suit he was wearing, get into a pair of sweats, and get to work.
In some form or fashion, nearly every brand new head coach or general manager “wins” the introductory press conference. Joe Judge said all the right things two years ago, making it obvious why he had wowed Giants’ ownership during an interview process that landed him a head coaching job no one expected him to get. Ben McAdoo’s suit didn’t fit, but he said things that made it sound like he was ready to take over for Tom Coughlin. Considering the way 2017 went for the Giants, all Pat Shurmur had to do when he was introduced is sound like a grownup. He did.
Daboll didn’t make promises. He didn’t say he and Schoen could get the Giants turned around quickly, or make a grand prediction that they would do so at all. He didn’t paint some grand portrait of how the team would practice, what characteristics it would display and all of that.
He just rolled up in his truck, introduced himself, cracked some jokes and promised to get to work.
“Well, I’m comfortable in my own skin. Look, I don’t have all the answers. There’s going to be some things that come up that I’m going to have to lean on a lot of people – Joe, the support staff, the coaches,” Daboll said. “But my personality and how I treat people and my expectations and values, I hold those true to my heart. I was raised by two grandparents, old school, I lost both of them this year. That’s who I lean on. My formative years, 20 something years of – look my grandmother is harder than Bill [Belichick] or Nick [Saban] could ever be. So, you talk about you lose a game and you want to hear all the people talking, she got me ready for this the best I can.”
In the end, nothing Daboll, GM Joe Schoen or co-owner John Mara said on Monday really matters. What matters is whether Schoen and Daboll together can bring some of the success they experienced in Buffalo to New Jersey with them to help resuscitate a proud organization that has lost its way.
“Day-by-day” with Daniel Jones
Much of the success or failure of — at least — the first year of Daboll’s tenure as Giants head coach will have to do with what he is able to get out of fourth-year quarterback Daniel Jones. Co-owner John Mara was clear last week that the Giants had “done everything possible to screw this kid up.”
Is is Daboll’s job to fix that, and to find out once and for all if the Giants can go forward with Jones as their long-term quarterback.
“We’re gonna take it day-by-day. We’re not going to make any predictions. I wouldn’t do that to Daniel or really any player. I don’t think that’s fair to compare him to another guy I was working with.
“He’s himself. We’re going to find out what he does well, we’re going to try to implement a system that suits him, and then it’s our job to bring pieces in that help him to be the best version of himself and the best quarterback for us.”
Daboll said that when he arrived at the Giants’ facility on Saturday one of the players who greeted him was Jones.
“I came up here up on Saturday after I was offered the job. I drove through the snowstorm. There weren’t many people in the building, but one of them was Daniel Jones. That’s a good thing for a young player. I know he’s excited,” Daboll said.
“There’s a lot of things to like about Daniel. We’ll just take it one day at a time, we’ll work with him, we’ll help him get better.”
Daboll said Jones had been tasked with identifying concepts he likes, even if he has to go all the way back to his days at Duke. Daboll called them “foundational pieces” the Giants could begin to structure an offense with.
“It takes a lot to raise a quarterback, if you will. He’s been around the block these last three years with some different pieces. We’re going to try to get him some stability and take it from there.”
Co-owner John Mara said getting the most from Jones is obviously part of what the organization wants from Daboll.
“We have a quarterback that we have a lot of confidence in, who has had some issues here, mostly due to the way we’ve handled him,” Mara said on Monday. “A big part of Brian’s job is going to be to try to get the most out of (quarterback) Daniel (Jones) and put us in a position where we can make a fair evaluation of him. We haven’t been able to do that so far because of the way we’ve handled him.”
Why is he ready?
Daboll has been around for a while, and he said it felt like it took him “50 years” to get a head coaching job. He has been in coaching since 1997, and doing it in the NFL since 2000. He has worked for a number of coaches, including Nick Saban and Bill Belichick twice. He has been an offensive coordinator four times.
One of the issues faced by McAdoo and Judge was, in retrospect, that each had singular experience. When McAdoo came to the Giants, his only real NFL experience was in Green Bay. He knew only one offensive system. Judge knew only the Saban-Belichick way, and unless you win — and win quickly — we have seen again and again around the NFL that Belichick is the only one who can do Belichick.
Daboll has been part of good teams, and bad ones.
“I don’t know if there’s ever a perfect time. I’ve been doing this for 25 years, 21 years in the National Football League. I’ve been around the block. I’ve experienced a lot of different things. I’ve witnessed different head coaches and how they do things,” Daboll said of his first head coaching opportunity. “To sit up here and say that we’re going to do this or we’re going to do that, like look, all I know how to do is work, work with people, try to build a culture, unite a building, inspire players, coaches, support staff, listen, learn and then ultimately develop the people in our building.
“I think we’re just going to try to do things the right way. There’s pressure with every job in this business. Obviously, we’re here in New York. We understand the market, but the pressure is going to be put on ourselves, too. We’re going to do everything we can do to, like I talked about before, build an organization, which we feel is the right way, unite the building, inspire some people, listen, learn and develop. If you’re prepared, the pressure is less. We’re going to do everything we can do to try to put together a good product on and off the field.”
“Lockstep” with Joe Schoen
The Giants’ new GM said last week that he wanted a head coach he was in “lockstep” with as they tried to build a winning program. He and Daboll worked together in Buffalo for four seasons. Did having a GM he was already familiar with make the Giants job more appealing to him?
“I think there’s some foundational pillars that help an organization. That’s not necessarily going to make you win. It’s hard to win in this league, as we all know. The leadership group between ownership, management, general manager, head coach, I think, is a really important piece. Those guys have to be aligned. When you’re not aligned, that’s when things start going astray,” Daboll said. “Again, 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 well with one another and you can develop a plan, and that plan’s going to be important. We’re starting from scratch and there’s a lot of things that we’ve got to get done and after that plan, now we’re looking to bring in the right kind of people. To answer your question, yes. I think it’s absolutely important that we have shared alignment, shared vision, shared core principles and values of the type of people we want to bring in.”
How will Daboll and Schoen handle personnel decisions? Will the GM ask for specific players, or simply specific types of players?
“I think it’s important that both the general manager and head coach listen,” Daboll said. “And then at the end of the day you’re not going to get every player that you might want or a coach might want but when you leave that draft room that we’re all unified in who we selected and we’re ready to help him improve. It’s OK to disagree, it’s just not OK to be disagreeable on every single statement.”
Daboll said he would “probably not” travel to Mobile, Ala., with Schoen for the Senior Bowl. Instead, he will stay in New Jersey and try to assemble a coaching staff.
Kevin Abrams is sticking around
There was a time when many thought long-time Giants Assistant General Manager Kevin Abrams would simply ascend to the GM job when Dave Gettleman was done. Then, when Gettleman retired, Abrams didn’t even get an interview for the job that went to Joe Schoen.
That led many of those same people to wonder if Abrams had a future in the organization.
It certainly seems as though Abrams isn’t going anywhere.
“Kevin’s been really good … he’s been a tremendous resource for me,” Schoen said on Monday. I will continue to lean on him.”
Abrams has been with the Giants since 1999 and has held the assistant GM title for 20 years.
Schoen said that Abrams could end up with a different title.
“Kevin is very humble and selfless,” Schoen said. “If for some reason we decide that we need that assistant GM title to get someone else, he has offered that up. We haven’t crossed that bridge.”
The culture question
Every coach talks about it. The Giants have talked about it far too much in recent years as they have tried again and again to turn a losing program into a winning one. Here is Daboll’s take on culture and getting players to trust him:
“I just think build relationships, work together. Again, the type of people we’re going to bring in, coaching staff, support staff, Joe, it’s a collaborative effort. You have to have honest conversations, truthful conversations, and you’re not going to gain trust from a player, I’m not going to sit there and gain any trust from those guys back there by saying, ‘Hey, you’ve got to trust me,’” Daboll said. “I think if you have good integrity, if you have good loyalty, I think that leads to trust, which is a foundational pillar for any successful organization, regardless if it’s football or anywhere else. Trust leads to respect and then respect leads to accountability, which is what we all want to be to one another when you’re working for a common goal.
“I just try to be me. That’s all I try to do. Again, I care about my guys. A coach a while back told me players don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care. I care about them. I care about their families. I want to see them do well. I want to see them earn new contracts and make money. I genuinely care about those guys. You’re in this building with the support staff and your coaches more than you are with your family and then the players throughout those six months. There’s got to be a mutual respect and I think if they know you care about them, genuinely care about them, not what you can do for me, and I know this is a results business, I got it. But to me, it’s a relationship business and it’s important that not just the players, but everyone else in the building can work together in a trusting manner.”
A quick turnaround?
The Cincinnati Bengals are in the Super Bowl after winning four games a season ago. The Giants, coincidentally, just finished a four-win season. Daboll wasn’t promising any 2022 magic.
“Right now, I’m just trying to hire a staff,” he said. “You’re going to try to get me early on that right now. Look, we’ll cross those bridges when we get to it. Obviously, that’s impressive, those numbers that you gave me, but let’s just start crawling before we walk.”
If the Giants finally start crawling uphill rather than digging themselves a deeper and deeper hole to climb out of, that will be a good start.