EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. – Dabs' Digest, Giants.com's weekly conversation with head coach Brian Daboll:
Q: How did you spend your bye week?
Daboll: "I got to spend some time with my wife and kids. Really, that's all I did. I went to flag football games. I went to the horse farm with my daughter. But you're never too far away from it (coaching). I have a little office at home that I was able to get some stuff done. But I got a little bit of rest, and I look forward to the second half of the season."
Q: Do you enjoy the short break from the weekly and daily routines, just getting away from it a little bit?
Daboll: "I think it's a good thing for everybody. You're going long hours, and you're competitive every week. Again, it's hard as a coach to get away from it fully. I don't think you ever do that."
Q: So, you do spend some time working at home?
Daboll: "Yeah, absolutely."
Q: Do you watch football?
Daboll: "I do. I'm fortunate because my five-year-old loves to watch football. So, I watch it on television. I'll do some work on the computer system that we have with the games. You never get too far away from it."
Q: Are you able to watch at any point in your life now as a fan? Or you're always watching as a coach?
Daboll: "Pretty much as a coach. Always trying to learn."
Q: I think every coaching staff spends the bye week self-scouting. What is the focus?
Daboll: "I've said this plenty of times: I think our staff – not just the coaches, but the younger coaches who look at it week-to-week that present stuff, analytics guys – each week we're trying to improve things that maybe we haven't done the last week well enough or a cumulative three weeks well enough. This particular bye week, you've got an eight-game sample size. So, there's certain things that pop up that you want to make sure you address, but we address those every Monday and Tuesday when we're looking (at the previous game). I think before you get on to the next opponent, you need to look at your strengths and weaknesses and make sure you're doing a good job of correcting those things."
Q: We're basically halfway through the season now. Have you settled into a routine as far as when you watch the opponent's tape, meet with the coaches, etc.? What does your typical week look like?
Daboll: "It's pretty consistent with what I do. The night of the game, I watch all three phases of our team. If it's a road trip back, I'll watch it on the bus and the airplane. If it's a home game, I go right home. Whether my wife has people over or not, I go into my office and I watch the game in its entirety. I make my points of things we need to get corrected, pull out some good plays, pull out some teaching plays. So, that's Sunday night. Monday, I come in here and get started on the next week's opponent. I have a staff meeting. I talk about the stuff that I saw on the tape. We watch a lot of the stuff together – all of us. So, we're evaluating our players. We're also looking at scheme, anything we need to talk about. It's a whole staff.
"And the players come in. We have meetings with them. Give them my team meeting and split up individually. They go through their stuff. We have media obligations. I meet with the doctors and the trainers and really get back onto the team that we're playing. Tuesday is a great day for me because it's all football. There's nothing else to do besides what I'm used to doing as a coordinator. All day Tuesday is watching tape of who you're playing, game-planning, meeting with the offense, meeting with the defense, meeting with the special teams. We have pretty in-depth meetings later in the evening when the game plans are put together a little bit. I have my questions and thoughts and things that I want to put in and just good discussions. And then Wednesday, Thursday, Friday (are) normal practice days. Your other obligations – the press conferences and things like that – show up on some of those days. All that's been pretty consistent."
View photos from the life and career of Brian Daboll, who has 20 years of NFL coaching experience.
Q: I asked you after the first game how you watch the game. Do you still watch from beginning to end instead of offense, defense and special teams separately?
Daboll: "I watch it all the way through. Whether it's kickoff or kickoff return to start the game and then however it goes, I watch it straight through."
Q: When you first watch a game, are you looking at player performance or scheme?
Daboll: "Everything. It's all encompassing."
Q: As you prepare for the next game, do the three coordinators come up with their game plans, and then meet with you to discuss?
Daboll: "I meet with the entire staffs. I'll give the coordinators thoughts that I have early in the day, whether that's Monday or early Tuesday, so they don't sit there and meet as a staff and then I come in there five or six hours later and say, 'Hey, think about this.' I try to give them my thoughts before they start their meetings or at the introduction of those meetings. And then we meet after they come up with the game plans, but I always try to give my input as early as I can for the coordinators because I know how hard it is doing that job. And when you're getting things last minute from the head coach, and you see it one way, I think you do it before all that stuff happens to give them the best chance to put the plan together."
Q: You alluded to this, how much you enjoy Tuesdays because it's just all football. As the head coach, you have a lot of obligations that you didn't previously have, many of them media related. Do you enjoy that?
Daboll: "I do. Look, I enjoy everything about this job except losing. Talking to different departments in the building, eating lunch with different groups, meeting with different sides of the ball, the media obligations, the leadership part of it, the adversity part of it – it's not the easiest thing – but I enjoy every part of this job. I feel very fortunate and blessed."
Q: You've shown me the detailed lists you make and highlight. Do you make those as you watch the upcoming opponent's tape and get ideas what you want to do?
Daboll: "I go through the tape and evaluate the personnel and the way I see the strengths and weaknesses of each of the guys that are on the tape and then schematically things that I think would give us a good chance or things I think we need to make sure we get. (I'll say) 'This is a priority this game. This is what they're really good at, and if we let them do this, it's probably not going to get the result that we want.' It's just the way I see the game. I certainly don't have all the answers. That's why I have a lot of trust and faith in my staff, and there's a lot of good give and take.
"The most important thing is come up with a plan that we – not I, we – think is best for that game. But I think as a head coach, you've got to have a good idea in your head of how you think the entire game has to be played. When you're an offensive coordinator, you're just trying to score a million points. Again, I love to score a million points, but there's a way to play each game that gives your team the best chance. I think you have to communicate that amongst the different units – the special teams coaches, the defensive coaches, the offensive coaches – how it all works together. Because when you're a coordinator, you're just focused on your side. I think the job of a head coach is to give everybody a good understanding of how you believe the game needs to be played."
Q: You've had some experience on defense and a lot on offense. Have you enjoyed getting more involved with the defense and special teams?
Daboll: "I love every aspect of it. I have a tremendous amount of confidence in (defensive coordinator) Wink (Martindale) and the defensive staff and T-Mac (special teams coordinator Thomas McGaughey) and the special teams staff. I played Division III defense (as a safety at the University of Rochester). The first five years (coaching), I was on defense. Again, I certainly don't have all the answers; that's why it's a collective effort. I owe it to those guys to give them my thoughts of how I really think the game is going to played or (say), 'These are the three things that I think we need to make sure we got a handle on for this week. You guys come up with a design and structure of it, but we can't let this guy get us. We got to be able to do this.'
"And as we're playing the game, there's a lot of things that go into the general game philosophy: situational, how you need to play. I think that's where I've learned some of (what I've learned); you take a step back, and you learn from some of your bosses that you think are good at doing that. It's not just one side of the ball. You're the head coach now. You have to figure out how to play that game – strategically."
Q: Julian Love has probably been the most versatile player in the secondary. And now he's going to get the green dot (calling the defensive signals). He seems to have a calmness about him that makes no responsibility too big.
Daboll: "I think he prepares the right way. He practices the right way. He trusts his preparation. When he goes out there, he's able to play fast and confident."
Q: From a football standpoint, losing (safety) Xavier (McKinney, who is sidelined after suffering fractured fingers during a bye week accident) - he's a productive player, a leader, someone who never misses a snap. I would imagine losing someone like is difficult.
Daboll: "You never want to lose a player. But that's the game we play. Leo (defensive lineman Leonard Williams) has been out particular games. We've had guys in and out. You can't do anything about it. You've just got to move on to the next. Again, empathy and communication with the player that is out for that game or multiple games. But you really have to get the next guy ready to play."
Q: Since he got hurt, Shep (wide receiver Sterling Shepard) has been here a lot with the team. Do you encourage the injured players to stay here, be involved, contribute?
Daboll: "Absolutely. They miss it. To see them, since OTAs all the way through, you become very close – a close-knit group as a team. You have a tremendous amount of respect for the players that you coach. Each week, it's a tough sport. There's a lot of things that happen, whether that's an injury, whether that's a loss. There's just a certain closeness that you develop throughout the season. And that's part of my job is to do that. When those guys go down or something happens, you just have a tremendous amount of respect for watching the players and how they handle it. I mean, (former Giants head coach Bill) Parcells said it in his Hall of Fame speech. - carrying the IVs on the plane, people don't see those types of things, or a person that's rehabbed back. So, guys like Shep that are around, he loves his teammates. He's a great teammate. Even though he's not out there to participate, he adds value to our team because of the type of leadership, the type of person that he is. And the guys that are injured and can't be out there right now, they're not out there. But if guys want to continue to be out there and help the team, I think that's important for team chemistry."
Q: Shep was out at practice with a brace on his leg (after undergoing surgery to repair a torn ACL).
Daboll: "Absolutely right, and he's in the locker room before the games. And he's on the sidelines. He does whatever he can do to help his teammates. And I've just got a ton of respect for guys like that who care so much about the team. There's no greater feeling than being part of a team."
Q: (Outside linebacker) Tomon Fox was your leading tackler in Seattle. Like all rookie free agents, he kind of came in with long odds to make the team. Now, he's a consistent contributor.
Daboll: "That's why he made the team. He earned the right to be out there and play. Everybody that we put out there, we have confidence in, regardless of if they're a rookie free agent, a high-priced free agent, a first-round pick, a seventh-round pick; it really doesn't matter to us. If you earn it, then you get the opportunity. And he's made the most of his opportunities."
Q: This week, you play the Texans. With Lovie Smith and you, this might be the best matchup of head coaching beards in NFL history.
Daboll: "I shaved my beard over break."
Q: Did you really?
Daboll: "Yeah, a bunch. Lovie's got some good flow on his face."
Q: Houston's won one game. They lost their last three. You're a coach, so you're going to tell me how good they are. How about some of their players? (Rookie Dameon) Pierce has 678 rushing yards. They may get their best wide receivers (Brandin Cooks and Nico Collins) back this week. You played (quarterback) Davis Mills last year. What is your opinion of some of their guys?
Daboll: "(General manager) Nick (Caserio) has done a great job of bringing young players in (and) signing some veteran free agents, whether it's (defensive back Jalen) Pitre, (cornerback Derek) Stingley (Jr.), (Dameon) Pierce. Those are three guys that play a lot of football that have been, I'd say, significant in the success of their team when they play. (They have) a lot of tackles, cover players, hard runner. Then they have some free agents. I said this earlier: (defensive lineman) Jerry Hughes is just, he doesn't age. He's looked really good on tape.
"To me, there's no records in the NFL when you're playing in a regular season. You try to do the best job you can to string things together, and wherever you're at when you get to the end, that's where you're at. You need your best effort every week, whether you're playing a team that's undefeated or you're playing a team that doesn't have the record that they'd like to have. There are a lot of good players on those teams. If you play well, you give yourself a chance. It doesn't guarantee you a win. If you don't play well, you're probably going to lose. And there's a lot of things that you need to do during the week to get ready to play a game. And obviously on Sunday, you have to go out there and make the plays when they come your way to give yourself a chance. And still, that doesn't guarantee you anything.
"Each week, that's kind of where our focus is. We focus on the things that we need to do, first and foremost. And then we focus on the team that we're playing each week. Records and all these other things, that doesn't mean (much). I've been part of teams that have had really good records and lost to teams with not good records. I've been part of teams that haven't had good records that went out and beat (teams with great records). The records, again, this is the NFL. Everyone's good. Every coach is good. Every player is good. And that's our approach each week, regardless of who we play."
Q: Houston seems in some respects similar to the Giants. They have a very good running back, they're plus-two in turnovers, low in both takeaways and giveaways.
Daboll: "They don't have the record they want, and we don't have the record we want, either. It's going to come down to how we play on Sunday and how we coach – the plays we make or the plays we don't make."
Q: You mentioned Jerry Hughes. Not many players have a renaissance in their 13th season. He already has more sacks this year than he had in the last two years combined, when you were with him in Buffalo.
Daboll: "Yeah, but he can rush the passer good. Whether he gets a sack or not, he gets the quarterback off the spot, he strip-sacks. He's a really good football player. He's a good person. I've got much respect for Jerry (and) his family. We're going to have to do a good job against him. He's a good player."
Q: They're last in the league in defending the run. Your offense, obviously, has been a very good running team with a terrific runner (Saquon Barkley). The prevailing wisdom entering the game is, 'The Giants should be able to run on these guys.' How come prevailing wisdom doesn't always work that way?
Daboll: "Because you play good teams every week. The numbers are what the numbers are. We play teams that weren't supposedly great at stopping the run that stopped our run, too. And each week, the coaches, the players and the team that you're playing are going to do everything they can to stop the things you do well. And it's hard. It's hard every week. It's not easy, regardless of what the number is or their rank or this or that. Just look at the games last week when we were on our bye week. You watch them. That's why you play the games, because everything's built to be fairly even in this league. So, if you're not doing everything you can do each week, you're probably not going to win."