INDIANAPOLIS – Brian Daboll is using his time at the NFL Scouting Combine for more than just evaluating draft-eligible players.
At exactly 11 p.m. Monday, the Giants concluded their first day of player interviews in their suite in Lucas Oil Stadium. Several hours later, the sun was just rising when Daboll, the team's new head coach, and several of his assistants were back in Suite LS 23a participating in a different task.
"Today, we met as an offensive staff and we're just putting our playbook together now," Daboll said soon after the session ended. "We've got a lot of guys in there that have a lot of experience, but we're putting in the foundational pieces. It took roughly three, three and half weeks to put the whole staff together, so the last three and a half weeks weren't as much about football other than evaluating our roster and now the scheme stuff and the foundational pieces we're just really getting started out with."
Daboll conducted the tutorial without his full offensive staff.
"Today was just the skill guys, so we were doing pass patterns today, because all of our guys aren't here," he said. "The rest of the line coaches are getting in today. So, it was pass patterns, route combinations, just basic stuff, motions, formations. Basic stuff when you're trying to lay a foundation."
Daboll is instructing and melding a group of coaches who came to the Giants from several different teams. Quarterbacks coach Shea Tierney and offensive line coach Bobby Johnson were with him in Buffalo, where Daboll was the offensive coordinator the previous four years. Coordinator Mike Kafka was the Kansas City Chiefs' quarterbacks coach. DeAndre Smith (running backs) was a collegiate coach for 22 seasons, the last three at Texas Tech; Mike Groh (wide receivers) held the same position with the Indianapolis Colts; Andy Bischoff (tight ends) and Tony Sparano, Jr. (assistant offensive line) were with the Houston Texans and Carolina Panthers, respectively, in 2021. Offensive assistant Christian Jones spent the previous three seasons with the Minnesota Vikings.
Now they all must absorb Daboll-speak – the offensive system's terminology.
"It's like learning a different language," Daboll said. "Most of the concepts people have seen in one form or fashion. Maybe there's a few that haven't or vice versa, but it's getting fluent in how to speak the Giants language and what we're using."
The lesson today was one in a series that began in the team's Quest Diagnostics Training Center headquarters.
"We started it out a few days ago before we came to the combine," Daboll said. "As soon as we got the whole staff together and were able to sit down and it's the same thing in all three areas – special teams and defense. It really hasn't been much of an offseason. It's just been jump right into it and we're just grinding away here one day at a time."
Teaching a group of coaches – and later the players – a complex offense is a process. Where, exactly, does the coaching begin? With the terminology? Broad philosophy? Base plays?
"We start with the stuff that I've been familiar with for a long time," Daboll said. "Again, base foundational things. The tough part is when you're in the first year you can evaluate your roster like we have, but at the end of the day, until we get out on the field and we're able to sit down with the players and teach them those things and talk to the quarterback about things he likes and do football things – right now, you're just putting up plays that you like that you have a lot of confidence in as a play caller. And I think we have a really good staff. We're adding different pieces from different areas and just kind of taking it slow.
"I'd just say it's a foundation. Until you're out there doing it with the guys and being with them day to day and, really, 'Hey, this is what they're good at. Let's do this instead of this. Let's change this instead of this.' That's really the most important stuff."
Daboll has attended numerous combines, but this is his first as a head coach. Like the man who hired him, general manager Joe Schoen, he has many more responsibilities at this combine. Both Daboll and Schoen said the adjustment has been accelerated because they spent the last four seasons together in Buffalo, where Schoen was the assistant general manager.
Daboll has hired coaches, evaluated the roster he inherited, is preparing for free agency and the draft, has many more media obligations and is installing his offense.
So, how's it going?
"It's been great," Daboll said. "You do a great job of managing your time, but you just take it one day at a time. You try to get 20 things done one day, but at the end of the day, there's 40 more things that pop up. You just keep plugging away at it and make good use of your time and hire good people that you have a lot of confidence in and let them do their jobs, but it's been a good move."
Daboll has much more knowledge about the current roster than he did a month ago, but only from a single source.
"As much as you can get off the tape, which is what we have right now," he said. "The best evaluation is when you're asking the players to do the things they need to do and what you're running and get a feel for them. Yeah, as best we can, we've done a good job. The coaches have done a good job taking our time evaluating our guys. There's a lot of work that needs to be done."
The moment he took the job, Daboll arguably became the NFL's most engaging and affable head coach. He has an outgoing personality and laughs easily. Daboll likely set a combine record today for fist bumps. And while many coaches view media obligations as distractions or nuisances, Daboll is happy to help if it doesn't interfere with his job.
"I always like meeting new people and after being in the league for – this will be 22 or 21, one of those, over 20 years – you come across a lot of different people I've met in different spots," he said. "I've just got a lot of respect for the people that work in our industry, whether that's the scouting side, coaching side, media side, the support staff. It's the same thing. Everybody aspires to work and work at the highest level and the people that you deal with on a daily basis in whatever role that they have, have all gotten to this level because of their talents and I always appreciate meeting new people and talking football."
It's particularly enjoyable as a first-time head coach.
"I love it," he said. "I'm blessed. Twenty-five years it took me to get to this spot. I'm very fortunate and I look forward to everything that comes along with it. There's always a plan, but you can't look far down the road or you get too far ahead of yourself. But staying in the moment and doing what you need to do for that day with a plan in mind down the road is really what's served me well in my career."
View photos from Giants Media Day as GM Joe Schoen and Coach Brian Daboll spoke to the media from the NFL Combine.