EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. – Brian Daboll loves his job, but one day each year is disliked by the Giants coach more than most.
"I would say, to be completely honest, cutdown day sucks," Daboll said.
After years with two or three days with mandatory roster cuts, the NFL this summer has only one – next Tuesday, Aug. 29. Because there's only one, a record number of players will be affected in a single day. Each team must reduce its roster by 37 players, from 90 to the regular season limit of 53.
Daboll will speak to a steady parade of players, thanking them for their hard work, wishing them well for the future and offering several of them slots on the 10-man practice squad (if they're not claimed by another team). It's a mostly unpleasant exercise, which is why Daboll used that short but accurate description.
"It really does (suck) because you develop relationships with players, you see how hard they work and to bring a player up to your office and let them know that we're going in a different direction or they didn't make the team, you get a lot of different reactions and I completely understand it," he said. "They've laid everything they have on the line and it's a sports business but it's a people business. If you have relationships with people, that's not easy. It's not easy for me."
Or for general manager Joe Schoen, assistant G.M. Brandon Brown and the remainder of the team's football hierarchy who will have numerous difficult decisions to make after the Giants play their final preseason game Saturday night vs. the Jets.
The Giants could carry six wide receivers on their regular season roster. They currently have 13, including Wan'Dale Robinson, who is on the physically unable to perform list. Fifteen offensive linemen are on the 90-man. Seven or eight are typically in uniform on gameday. Less than half of the current 11 defensive lineman might be with the Giants at this time next week.
View photos of the New York Giants' 2023 roster as it currently stands.
In his 20 years as an NFL assistant coach, Daboll was part of the player evaluation process. Now he has a more influential voice but his opinion is one of several.
"It's such a collaborative process that we go through and the one thing that you don't want is – you just don't want, 'Yes sir, this is the way you see it this way, but I see it the same exact way,'" Daboll said. "You want people to have opinions, everybody does a lot of work on them. I think you have to give the scouting staff clear points that you're looking for on players. They're busting their tails out on the road away from their families, they do a fantastic job, but you need great collaboration, great communication between the coaches and the scouts. You want them to give, obviously, their honest evaluation and it's okay to disagree, you just can't be a disagreeable person where it's everything, 'I disagree with'. You have a good process and then you move forward day-to-day and if there is players that you disagree with, whether it's scout to scout, coach to scout, coach to coach, that's when you get in a room and if you identify certain players. You know, we might sit in there with like four or five of us, (General Manager) Joe (Schoen), Brandon, (Director of Player Personnel) Tim (McDonnell), (Assistant Director of Player Personne Dennis Hickey) Hick, myself, (Director of Pro Scouting Chris) Rossetti, and then maybe a coordinator, maybe a position coach and we might go through – I mean heck, we've went through entire seasons on players. All of us together. 'Hey, this is what I saw, this is what I think his strength is, this is what I think he can do.' "Well, this is kind of what I saw' and then you talk it through and at the end of the day make the best decision you can for the team."
In the not-too-distant past, an NFL axiom was that if a player wasn't a starter, he had to contribute on special teams to remain on the roster. But because of differences in how the game is played, all teams have more than 11 players who start at least semi-regularly.
"It's something (special teams) that they need to do if that's their role," Daboll said. "It's not really like back in the day where it was 'these are the starters.' There's so many different personnel groups, there's so many different defensive packages – you might have 15, 16 starters based on how you've got to play the game. You have however many receivers on a team, you might have five starters in a game, or you might have seven defensive backs in a game. Each game is different. You do your best to try to come up with the best 53 for the team but in terms of – everybody's got to contribute because you only get so many players to a game. There's a lot of players that are going to play special teams that play offense and defense. There's some that maybe are just special teams players that have a limited role on defense but that's all the decisions and discussion that we have really on a day-to-day basis, Joe and I.
"I'd say there's plenty of those players in the league that contribute in a positive way to your team whether that's they're a core special teams player, maybe not as much on defense or offense. You can't have too many of them because you only get a certain amount of players to go to a game. But definitely if they're very helpful in a certain phase of the game and contribute in the right way, you maybe give them a smaller package whether it's on offense or defense or vice versa."
Complicating the reduction process is that several players who are on the roster bubble are injured. Nine players missed practice today with injuries - wide receiver Cole Beasley, running back Gary Brightwell, tight end Tommy Sweeney, offensive lineman Jack Anderson, inside linebacker Cam Brown, defensive lineman Ryder Anderson, cornerbacks Nick McCloud and Cor'Dale Flott, and safety Jason Pinnock. Wide receiver Sterling Shepard and defensive lineman Leonard Williams received veteran rest days. Offensive lineman Tyre Phillips returned to practice on a limited basis.
In many cases, the absences complicate the roster verdicts to be rendered. So, how do Daboll and Co. factor them into their decisions?
"It's really just by past performance if we've had them or what we've seen out of them up to this point whether that's through OTA's, through training camp – if they can't go (practice or play), they can't go," Daboll said. "So certainly, a lot of discussion about those type of players that haven't been out there, so you have to kind of project a little bit and some of them you have experience with, some of them are new players, so a lot of discussions."
Daboll has been in the league long enough to know players who aren't guaranteed a spot on the 53-man roster can become anxious in this last week before the cutdown.
"Look, they're human, so you know that as it gets closer to a cutdown date, I'm sure some players feel that way," he said. "Again, you just try to be open and honest with everybody. The team is not cut down yet. There's plenty of opportunities for people to show what they can do, particularly in this last game. Again, empathy goes a long way, I think."
Even on a day the head coach finds exceedingly unpleasant.
Catch up on all the action from Tuesday's training camp practice at the Quest Diagnostics Training Center.