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Brian Daboll on setting high bar: 'It starts all over'


PHOENIX – During his news conference at the NFL Annual Meeting here, Brian Daboll was reminded by a reporter that he set a high bar in his first season as a head coach, leading the Giants to a playoff victory and being named NFL Coach of the Year.

Daboll was unimpressed.

"Got smoked in the playoffs," he said of the Giants' 38-7 divisional round loss in Philadelphia.

So, what must he do to ensure the Giants don't experience the same fate in 2023?

"It starts all over," Daboll said. "I don't get that far down the road. Just focus on today. Try to get better at the things we can get better at. 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. I'm not saying we're starting at ground zero, because they know our system and there's a lot of things they know more than they knew last year, but in terms of where we're at and the things we've got to do, we've got a long climb ahead of us."

View photos of head coach Brian Daboll's time with the New York Giants.

He knows exactly how far it is, saying "we've got 163 days until the first game. It's over 160, somewhere around there. We'll figure it out."

In a 30-minute conversation with reporters, Daboll characteristically avoided specifics and when possible, responded to inquiries about individual players with responses that covered a broader territory.

The pattern began developing in the first few seconds, when he was asked how recently re-signed quarterback Daniel Jones can take the next step in Daboll’s offense.

"I'd say this is probably the first time he's had a little bit of consistency," Daboll said "We can all do a better job. In terms of all the pieces, every year, you add pieces in free agency. You add pieces in the draft. And you add them for a reason because you think they can help your team. We haven't even had our first team meeting yet on April 17 (when the offseason conditioning program begins). … Certainly got a lot of work to do. I'd say with Daniel, we'll have a lot of the same guys he threw to back. 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."

Mike Kafka interviewed for head coaching jobs, but remained with the Giants, giving Jones the opportunity to work with the same offensive coordinator for two successive complete seasons for the first time in his career. That continuity should help him and enable to offense to expand its capability.

"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, and he's got some stuff to draw back from, from what we did last year. I think that helps based on learning, processing, those types of things.

"But now it's throwing - read the body language of some new guys that we have. What can we improve on from what we did last year? There's a lot of things we need to get better at, starting with me. It's good to be with players that you had before. It's good to be with coaches. But really, when it comes down to it, it just matters what you do from here moving forward once OTAs start, into training camp obviously. That's what really matters."

In addition to Kafka, defensive coordinator Wink Martindale was a head coaching candidate elsewhere and quarterbacks coach Shea Tierney interviewed for an offensive coordinator position. But they also remain on Daboll's staff.

"Same type of thing," Daboll said. "You're with each other for a year. Does it matter that game that you want to win on? I don't know about that. But 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."

Daboll can build off a successful season. He was hired 14 months ago after the Giants finished 4-13 in 2021. He led the team to a 9-7-1 record and a wild card playoff victory in Minnesota. Daboll and his staff are far ahead of where they were a year ago.

"Last year it was different," Daboll said. "Last year it took a long time to hire people. We were there. It wasn't much of an offseason. We were there pretty late. Wink had ordered a lot of pizza every night. So, I'm thankful for him. This year, it's a little bit different. I'd say that the coaches are out a little bit more - pro days. The evaluation process of your team, which is most important, we did that right away and talked about things that we needed to improve on.

"Now, whether it's free agents, on the road, then we do staff development, system development. But there's a lot of guys that have been out on the road looking at college players right now during the free agency period."

The process of creating a stronger roster in 2023 began almost immediately after the Giants' season-ending loss to the Eagles.

"After every season, you sit down and you try to evaluate your roster, personnel-wise," Daboll said. "That's the first thing that we do. Then we get into looking at our stuff and writing up some needs and writing up some wants. We definitely need this, or we want this. 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, the general manager) and his staff. We start working together; he'll give us a few players to look at. 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 every year, it's the same when you get done: evaluate your roster."

The Giants have added several players this month, trading for tight end Darren Waller and signing nine free agents: wide receivers Parris Campbell, Jamison Crowder and Jeff Smith, linebacker Bobby Okereke, safety Bobby McCain, cornerbacks Amani Oruwariye and Leonard Johnson, defensive tackle Rakeem Nunez-Roches and tight end Tommy Sweeney.

Does Daboll feel better about the roster he has now than the one he had a year ago?

"We added some pieces," he 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."

View photos of every move made by the Giants during the 2023 offseason.