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Did Giants’ HC Brian Daboll make the right decision at quarterback?

The biggest concern for the coach shouldn’t be winning and losing games — it should be keeping support in the locker room

New York Giants v Dallas Cowboys Photo by Ron Jenkins/Getty Images

Was Brian Daboll’s decision to start undrafted cult hero Tommy DeVito at quarterback on Monday night for the New York Giants against the Green Bay Packers rather than returning veteran Tyrod Taylor the right one?

That’s debatable.

Daboll’s choice will certainly be celebrated at ESPN. The network broadcasts Monday Night Football, and DeVito starting offers them opportunities to jazz up the broadcast with all manner of DeVito content. You can bet they will.

Daboll’s choice is also going to be popular in a fan base that was looking for just about anything positive to latch on to when the Giants were 2-8. In a recent ‘SB Nation Reacts’ poll, our voters overwhelmingly said DeVito should remain the starter even when Taylor was healthy.

Daboll’s decision is also absolutely unfair to Taylor, whose only crime was breaking four ribs while trying to help the Giants win a game against the New York Jets.

This is not the first time Taylor, a 34-year-old 13-year veteran, has gotten the short end of the stick when his play on the field had nothing to do with a decision to take him off of it. Or, in this case, not put him on it.

“I don’t think life is fair, so I think that’s an unfair question to be honest,” Taylor said Tuesday when asked if he had been treated fairly. “I don’t know if there’s fair in this business. Some stuff happens that’s out of your control and unfortunately this is one of them.”

Truth is, when you have a quarterback conundrum — I won’t call this a controversy — there is never going to be 100% agreement on what the right decision should be. In the fan base. In the organization. Or, and probably most importantly, in the locker room.

There isn’t a single player in the locker room who will say out loud “I wanted DeVito to start, so that’s the right call,” or “Tyrod got screwed. He should be the starter.”

You can bet that most, if not all, feel some sort of way about the decision. They all respect both players, DeVito for what he’s done lately and Taylor for his career and how he handles himself. They will play hard no matter which quarterback is behind center.

You can be sure, though, that privately many of the players have a preference.

What that preference is, I don’t know. Some would certainly prefer Taylor’s experience. Others love the DeVito story, love the energy he brings to the team and the home crowd, are happy to have won a couple of games in a row and will be happy the Giants aren’t messing with a winning ticket.

I did find it interesting on Monday that, when asked about the quarterback situation before the decision had been made public, wide receiver Darius Slayton and left tackle Andrew Thomas both spoke first about Taylor’s experience. Read into that what you will. Or, don’t read anything into it at all.

This is why it’s a tricky spot for Daboll.

The coach, whose relationships with his assistants has come under scrutiny in recent weeks, has one job over the final five weeks of the season. Winning games is not it, though he and the Giants will try to do just that.

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Daboll’s job is to keep the locker room from imploding; keep it from turning on him. Daboll has been praised for his relationship building, something that is now being questioned with speculation about behind the scenes discord on the coaching staff.

Daboll and GM Joe Schoen are tied at the hip and appear to be safe in terms of getting a third season — or more — to lead the franchise.

There is really only one thing standing in the way of that — the players turning on the coach.

The players turning — publicly — on him is the biggest reason Ben McAdoo did not last through his second season. Joe Judge lost the locker room at the end of his second season with his victory formation quarterback sneaks — while the team wasn’t winning — and his long-winded, bizarre answers to questions that made him seem divorced from reality.

That is the pitfall Daboll has to avoid.

There is already risk for Daboll in how his apparently rocky relationship with defensive coordinator Wink Martindale plays out. You can tell in talking to them that defensive players love playing for Martindale. If Daboll pushes Wink out the door, that risks ill will from those players.

If you polled the locker room the way we poll readers, I don’t know which quarterback the majority of players would prefer. I do know that Daboll, with his Week 14 decision made, has to be flexible.

In the end, players with their careers, their bodies, their paychecks on the line want to play with the quarterback who gives them the best chance to win games and showcase their own abilities.

If DeVito continues to play well enough to do that, great. If he doesn’t, Daboll has to be willing to turn back to Taylor.

The head coach is, in my view, walking a tightrope with the quarterback situation. We’ll see if he can stay on the wire.