For starters, this was the Giants’ first season-opening victory since 2016 and only their second in the last 12 years.
It was a come-from-behind victory on the road against a quality opponent, the No. 1 seed in the 2021 AFC playoffs and the two-time defending AFC South champions. Maybe the 17-12 victory over the Seattle Seahawks in Week 13 of the 2020 season is comparable, but this one has the potential to be far more meaningful.
This one comes in the first game of Brian Daboll’s tenure as head coach. Could it be more than just a nice moment? Could it perhaps be an indication that maybe, just maybe, the Giants are on the road back after a decade spent largely in darkness?
There is really only one ‘thing I think’ we need to talk about. That is Daboll’s attitude, and his players’ reaction to it.
‘Trust your players’
You want one good reason to believe this might just — finally — turn out to be a new, positive era of Giants football. It’s not necessarily the stunning season-opening victory over the Titans, although that was obviously nice.
That belief comes from the three words in the sub-head above.
“TRUST YOUR PLAYERS.”
Brian Daboll not only spoke those words on Sunday evening after the Giants defeated the Titans.
Daboll went for the win after the Giants scored with 1:06 to play to pull within a point, 20-19. There was never a doubt. That decision had been made long before the situation arose.
“Go for the win. We’re gonna be aggressive. That’s what we want to do. That’s the mindset I want the players to have,” Daboll said. “And if it didn’t work, I could live with it. I thought that was the right decision.”
It was absolutely, 100 percent the right decision. Win or lose.
“I grabbed a couple of defensive players that have busted their tails out there, along with some of the offensive guys that went out there. And I said, Hey, we got the ball wherever it was. I said we score I’m going for two, you guys good with that? They said, eff, yeah.”
The players loved it. Appreciated it. Supported it. Definitely gave it an ‘eff, yeah.”
Daboll did the thing on Sunday that former coach Joe Judge refused to do for two years. Play to win rather than play not to lose, or to keep the game close. Trust the players to make plays, rather than handcuff them because they might make a mistake.
“He told us he wasn’t going to coach scared and that’s exactly what he did,” said veteran wide receiver Sterling Shepard. “I mean, we all knew it. We knew we were going to go for it because he told us last night. He said, “I am not going to coach scared,” and I believe everything the man says.”
Saquon Barkley echoed Shepard.
“When we scored I was out on the field and we kind of made eye contact, he gave me a look. I knew what the play was going to be. He gave me that look and I kinda looked back at him. And I said ‘eff, yeah,’” Barkley said. “He’s a man of his word. He told us he was going to be aggressive. He told us he was going to lean on the players to make plays and in that situation he did exactly that. When you have a coach like that it definitely makes you go out there and fight for him and execute in those situations.”
The Giants gave Daboll a game ball.
“It’s his first (victory) of many,” Barkley said. “Not only Dabs, but (Joe) Schoen, too. It’s exciting. It’s new here. We have a lot of things we can we can do better, obviously at the end of the day we were able to come out of here with a win. That’s the most important thing. So, we’re excited. We appreciate him. That’s why he deserved a game ball.”
Daboll said he did “appreciate” the game ball, “but I don’t I don’t play the game. It’s those guys that are hit. Get hit. Fight through it for 60 minutes.”
When Daboll was watching Randy Bullock line up to try the 47-yard field goal on the game’s final play, he called time out to ice him. He then just watched.
“How was I feeling? I was hoping the sumbitch would miss it,” Daboll said.
Afterwards, though, Daboll was emotional. He couldn’t help but think about two people incredibly important to his upbringing — his grandparents. They both died last season while Daboll was with the Buffalo Bills and did not get to see his first victory as an NFL head coach.
“It’s a special moment, because it’s my first win,” Daboll said. “But last year, coming here (MetLife Stadium) for the Buffalo game, I lost my grandfather on the airplane as I was landing. So you know, that was that was weighing heavy on me after the game.
“When he missed it I thought about them. I don’t come from much, and those two people helped me get to where I am.”
Where he is, of course, is head coach of the Giants. One game certainly doesn’t make a season, or a career. Maybe, just maybe, though, this one game provided a glimmer of hope that Daboll is the right man at the right time for a down-on-its-luck franchise that has been searching for something good for most of the last decade.