New York Giants head coach Brian Daboll likely would have been forgiven had he taken time to boast at the annual NFL Owners Meeting on Tuesday. He just wrapped up the most successful season by a Giants head coach in recent memory, culminating with an AP Coach of the Year Award and the franchise’s first playoff win in 11 years.
Instead, Daboll was quick to recount the Giants’ 38-7 loss to the Philadelphia Eagles in the divisional round of the playoffs, in which New York totaled 227 yards of offense.
“Got smoked in the playoffs,” Daboll said. We have a long way to go in terms of time, and we have a long way to go in terms of improvement. You all know this: What you do one year has no correlation to what you do the next year. What you do one game has no correlation to what you do the next game.”
None of that is to say that Daboll is still mired in defeat. He made some noise on Twitter by busting out a Coors Light at 11:30 a.m. during the meetings. But now that the playoff bar has been set, the Giants are focused on avoiding the same fate next season. Daboll and General Manager Joe Schoen have been a bit more active in free agency this time around, trading for tight end Darren Waller and adding some depth at wide receiver.
“After every season, you sit down and you try to evaluate your roster, personnel-wise,” Daboll said. Then we get into looking at our stuff and writing up some needs and writing up some wants. I do that with all three of the coordinators and their staffs, and we put together a list. We give that list to Joe [Schoen] and his staff ... There might be some coach that was with a certain player that will say, ‘Hey, I think we should look at this guy.’ It’s a really good, collaborative process.”
But even with the new additions, “run it back” seems to be the theme of the Giants’ offseason. Offensive Coordinator Mike Kafka and Defensive Coordinator Wink Martindale are both back after interviewing for head coaching vacancies around the league. Saquon Barkley will return after being franchise tagged.
“When you first come in, and I can only talk about last year for a minute, no one knew anything about how we even operated as a coaching staff, our personalities, let alone the playbook where you’re starting with day one, page one of the playbook,” Daboll said. “You can move on from that a little bit ... I think that helps based on learning, processing, those types of things.
That continuity provides a few advantages for the Giants aside from the bitter taste of the Eagles loss. Firstly, it’ll give Daniel Jones the chance to build on the best season of his career so far. Jones is used to a revolving door of offensive coordinators, but he’ll get another year with Kafka.
“I’d say with Daniel, we’ll have a lot of the same guys he threw to back,” Daboll said. “We’ll have some new guys. We’re going to have to keep evolving on what we do as a coaching staff. And he’s going to have to keep getting better on the things he can get better at. It starts all over again.”
The coaching staff will also have a better handle on their NFC East opponents, something the Giants struggled with last year. New York went 1-4-1 in divisional matchups and ended up as the No. 6 seed in the playoffs after a 7-2 start to the year.
“You’re with each other for a year,” Daboll said. “I do know that you can draw on experiences that you’ve had, good and bad, ‘Hey, remember when we did this Week 4 last year? Maybe we should tweak this here.’ There’s just some kind of language that you have that you maybe didn’t have starting out, but the biggest thing is getting better as a staff, getting better as players. That’s really what’s going to matter the most.”
The one thing that hasn’t remained constant is the expectations now placed on the Giants. After a 9-7-1 season and a $160 million contract for Jones, the playoffs are now an expectation instead of an end goal.
“We added some pieces,” Daboll said. “But we haven’t stepped foot on the practice field yet. So, how we do things, our structure, playing together, you can probably ask me that August 20 or something like that.”