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Saquon Barkley nominated for Comeback Player of the Year; Brian Daboll up for Coach of the Year


EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. – Saquon Barkley and Brian Daboll are finalists for an Associated Press 2022 NFL award.

Barkley is one of three players nominated for the Comeback Player of the Year award, while Daboll is the only rookie head coach among the five finalists nominated for Coach of the Year.

In 2022, Barkley started each of the first 16 games before he was inactive in the season finale when Daboll rested most of his starters with the team's playoff seeding secure. It was the first time since his 2018 Rookie of the Year season that the fifth-year pro did not miss a game due to injury.

Barkley finished with career-high totals of 295 carries for 1,312 yards -- the NFL's fourth-highest total -- and scored 10 touchdowns, one less than his rookie total. He had 133 more attempts, 719 more yards and eight more rushing touchdowns than he produced in 13 games in 2021. Barkley rushed for more than 100 yards in a game four times, just one less than his combined total for the three seasons from 2019-21. 

In addition, he caught 57 passes for 338 yards after he had 41 receptions for 263 yards the previous season.

Barkley finished seventh in the NFL with 1,650 scrimmage yards, almost double his 2021 total of 856.

The other Comeback Player of the Year finalists are San Francisco running back Christian McCaffrey and Seattle quarterback Geno Smith.

View photos of Giants running back Saquon Barkley's time with the New York Giants.

Daboll, 47, could become the first Giants coach to be selected Coach of the Year since Jim Fassel in 1997. Like Fassel, Daboll took over a team that was last in the NFC East the previous year and led it to the playoffs in his debut season.

The Giants finished 9-7-1 and qualified for the playoffs as a wild card team. It was the Giants' first winning season and first postseason berth since 2016. The Giants won just four games in 2021, the year prior to Daboll's arrival, and the five-game improvement is their largest in one season since they jumped from six victories in 2015 to 11 in 2016.

The Daboll difference was evident early in the season. The Giants had not won their season opener since 2016 and beginning that season through 2021 never won more than two of their first five games, In 2020 and 2021, they started 0-5 and then 0-3. But in their first game under Daboll, the Giants overcame a 13-0 halftime deficit to defeat the Titans in Tennessee, 21-20, on a touchdown and Barkley's two-point conversion reception with 1:06 remaining.

Daboll became the first Giants coach to win his debut with the team since Ben McAdoo in 2016. He was the first Giants coach to win five of his first six games since Dan Reeves in 1993, and his 6-1 start was the best for a coach in his first Giants season since LeRoy Andrews was 6-0-1 in 1929.

In the first five weeks of the season, the Giants defeated Tennessee and Green Bay, the 2021 No. 1 playoff seeds in their respective conferences.

Daboll is the fifth coach in Giants history to lead the team to the playoffs in his debut season, joining Allie Sherman (1961), Reeves (1993), Fassel (1997) and McAdoo (2016). Rookie coach Earl Potteiger led the Giants to the 1927 NFL championship in the era before playoffs.

Daboll was one of three first-year head coaches to lead his team to the postseason in 2022, joining Minnesota's Kevin O'Connell and Miami's Mike McDaniel. Daboll was the only one of the three to advance to the divisional round, and he did so with a Giants victory against O'Connell's Vikings.

Daboll was the first Giants coach to win his postseason debut since Reeves in 1993. He joined Jim Lee Howell, Ray Perkins, Bill Parcells and Reeves as Giants coaches who were victorious in their first playoff games.

The Giants' season ended Saturday with a loss to NFC East rival Philadelphia in a divisional playoff game.

The other finalists for the Coach of the Year award are Buffalo's Sean McDermott, Jacksonville's Doug Pederson, San Francisco's Kyle Shanahan and Philadelphia's Nick Sirianni. Daboll and Pederson both took their teams from last place to the playoffs in their first seasons, but Pederson was not a new head coach. He previously coached the Eagles for five seasons and won a Super Bowl in 2017.

The winners of these and the other AP awards will be announced at the 12th annual NFL Honors ceremony on Feb. 9, 2023, and will air live on NBC, Peacock and NFL Network.