I have been clear this week that Brian Daboll, despite whatever mistakes he has made during this 2-7 debacle of a season for the New York Giants, should return as the team’s head coach next season.
There is only one thing that could change my view of that, and it wouldn’t necessarily be the Giants failing to win another game and finishing 2-15. Injuries have left a roster that was thin to begin with seriously undermanned.
The one thing that could derail Daboll is a locker room implosion. I don’t see one coming, but in the wake of Xavier McKinney’s comments after Sunday’s loss to the Las Vegas Raiders the possibility is worth discussing.
Here are some of the things McKinney said to Jordan Ranaan of ESPN:
“I think that from a leadership standpoint, I don’t think they’ve done a great job of letting the leaders lead, and listening to the leaders and the captains.”
McKinney appeared frustrated by defensive adjustments he seemed to indicate were asked for and not made vs. the Raiders.
“It was one of those things where you have some of your leaders, captains from a defensive standpoint, trying to switch things up. And just not really being heard.
“I don’t know. There are other things too that we could’ve done. Like I said, the execution stuff could’ve been better. But when you got guys out there that are playing and seeing different things and are being vocal and communicating that with the coaches and whoever and are not being heard, it’s hard to go out there and be able to make plays and do things of that nature.”
I know that veteran wide receiver Sterling Shepard is frustrated by his lack of a role on the offense. He’s a proud, accomplished player and that is understandable. McKinney, though, is to my knowledge the only player who has voiced this type of frustration. In my weekly forays into the locker room along with my post-game visits after home games, I have not felt or heard similar frustrations from anyone else.
That doesn’t mean it isn’t there. Or that it can’t happen.
A quick history lesson.
Ben McAdoo lost his job as Giants head coach before his second season ended for two reasons. He was poor at building relationships and the locker room turned on him, and each other, during a miserable 2017 season. Ownership also turned on him after his bungling of the Eli Manning benching.
At this point in Joe Judge’s second season, no one thought Judge was going to be fired. Then the Giants lost seven of their final eight games, including the last six. Judge lost faith in his players, exemplified by the two victory formation quarterback sneaks against the Washington Football Team. The players, consequently, lost faith in him. Judge issued two non-sensical post-game rants over the final few weeks, one of six minutes and one of more than 11 minutes. He lost ownership along the way. Judge more or less wrote his own ticket back to the New England Patriots.
You can draw a parallel between where Judge’s Giants were in 2021 and where Daboll’s Giants are in 2023, if you want.
There are, though, major differences. Daboll has the equity of a stunning 2022 playoff appearance, and the franchise’s only playoff victory since the 2011 season. He also has poured considerable time and effort into relationship-building with players, coaches, front office staff, pretty much everyone around the facility.
McKinney’s comments were surprising because for two seasons players have talked about how much this coaching staff seeks, and values, their input.
I do wonder if McKinney’s comments are borne out of personal frustration. He is in the final year of his contract. He watched players like Daniel Jones, Andrew Thomas and Dexter Lawrence get big pay days while the Giants refused to negotiate an extension with him. Under the direction of defensive coordinator Wink Martindale, who asks for more pressure and more man coverage, McKinney has not been the impact player he was under Patrick Graham, who allowed him to roam in zone coverage and face the quarterback more often.
Giants radio announcer Carl Banks addressed this on a recent podcast:
On his pod @CarlBanksGIII says there’s a captain’s meeting every Friday with the coaches and he spoke with a number of captains and “to a man they said we don’t know where that came from” referring to McKinney’s comments. #TellAFriendToTellAFriend— NYGfaninCLT (@clt_ny) November 7, 2023
Regardless, I would be surprised if Daboll loses the locker room. It is, though, something he needs to be wary of and that needs to be monitored as this miserable season winds to a conclusion for the Giants.
Darius Slayton emotional about Daniel Jones’ injury
Giants’ wide receiver Darius Slayton and quarterback Daniel Jones have been together their entire NFL careers, both having been drafted by the Giants in 2019. Slayton has long been one of Jones’ most vocal supporters, often taking to the platform formerly known as Twitter to defend the quarterback.
Slayton was emotional Monday when I asked him for his reaction to Jones’ season-ending torn ACL.
"Being here my whole career with DJ...for me, it's a bit personal"— Giants Videos (@SNYGiants) November 6, 2023
Darius Slayton reacts to Daniel Jones' ACL tear: pic.twitter.com/JShvVX7k4J
Whatever you think of Jones the quarterback, Slayton isn’t the only player in the Giants’ locker room who loves the guy.
Interesting perspective from Andrew Thomas
This is a lost season in many ways for the 2-7 Giants. These games, though, are important for the team’s future.
The Giants are one of the youngest teams in the league. By snap-weighted age rankings they are the second-youngest team in the league behind the Green Bay Packers, per @Doug_Analytics.
-— Doug Analytics (@Doug_Analytics) November 7, 2023
(2023 | Weeks 1-9)
1) Packers: 25.8 years old
2) Giants: 25.9
3) Bears: 26.0
30) Broncos: 27.4
31) Eagles: 27.6
32) Saints: 28.1 pic.twitter.com/axlKD1yjs2
With so many young players playing so much aren’t throwaway games. Snaps played provide opportunities to learn and improve, and learning to take your job seriously in adverse circumstances is also critical. Star left tackle Andrew Thomas knows this. Thomas was horrific during the first half of his rookie season as the Giants went 1-7, but his second-half turnaround began his rise to becoming one of the league’s best left tackles.
“If I recall, I don’t remember exactly what our record was, but I know having your starting quarterback out is never ideal. It was a similar situation – like we had some injuries on the offensive line, some moving parts and that was around when I started to turn around as a player,” Thomas said. “I feel like, especially for our young guys, every snap you get is an opportunity to get better, so we can use this as a time to get better, hone in our crafts and put the best product on the field.”
In the immediate aftermath of Sunday’s 30-6 loss to the Las Vegas Raiders, inside linebacker Micah McFadden did not earn a ‘Kudos’. He probably should have. In my defense, the play of an inside linebacker wasn’t exactly the most noticeable thing about the game.
McFadden had a season-high 11 tackles, one for loss, and an elite 91.1 Pro Football Focus grade on Sunday. He has posted grades of 87.9 or higher in three of the past four weeks. He has, in short, been one of the best linebackers in the league.
Micah McFadden: 90.6 PFF grade since week 6— PFF NY Giants (@PFF_Giants) November 6, 2023
3rd among all LBs in the NFL pic.twitter.com/q7KPOqzEK7
It has been quite a rise for the 2022 fifth-round pick, who was ranked 85th out of 90 qualifying linebackers by PFF a year ago. This season, he is 33rd. Over the last four weeks, only C.J. Mosley of the New York Jets has a higher grade.
Here are two plays by McFadden, via BBV’s Nick Falato:
As we turn the page on the 2023 season, it's important to see signs of development from the young players.— Nick Falato (@nickfalato) November 6, 2023
Micah McFadden is one of those young players, and he's certainly made an impression in his second season. pic.twitter.com/QJqFWRW6OH