No one has any earthly idea whether Brian Dabol would be a good NFL head coach. Even the people who hired him can’t say with certainty that Dabol would do better with the Giants than the previous three men who took over their jobs, all at the end of Season 2. Voted by island.
Co-owner John Mara called naming a head coach “the hardest decision I’ve ever made in this business, because you just don’t know.” It is a game of guessing based on available evidence, much of it circumstantial, that a candidate can motivate a team and persuade its members to always put collective goals ahead of the individual.
That candidate also has to set aside his personal ambitions in pursuit of the objectives of the group.
In that context, it’s an encouraging sign that Dabol, 47, decided to delegate play-calling responsibilities to his 35-year-old offensive coordinator, Mike Kafka, the former Travelman NFL backup who had received the break of a lifetime. Andy Reid in Kansas City. Kafka became the position coach for Patrick Mahomes II, which would have been like being the voice coach for Luciano Pavarotti I.
Dabol was hired for his offensive expertise, for his development of Josh Allen at Buffalo, and for his play-calling, which turned the Bills into an AFC power that ripped the former from the grip of Bill Belichick’s death. . He had earned the right to retain full control over the Giants’ regretful excuse for a crime, if he so desired.
And why not? Dabol named his first head-coaching job a dream come true. He had been an assistant for a quarter-century, starting as a volunteer worker at William & Mary, and then as a grad assistant at Nick Saban’s Michigan State. Belichick hired him in New England for two decades. Started his NFL career more than a year ago. “So it’s not like I was a coach for five years and was on the hot swing,” Dabol said over the summer. “It’s 25 years in the making.”
Twenty-five years of victories and defeats, heart-wrenching victories and heart-wrenching defeats, of getting some jobs and losing some. Dabol was part of the five Super Bowl-winning Patriots staff, and yet it wasn’t all wine and rosé at Foxborough. Belichick once selected Josh McDaniel as his offensive coordinator, even though Dabol had effectively brought McDaniel into the organization.
Dabol would leave New England for the Jets’ quarterback job under Eric Mangini, and yet Belichick valued his job enough to forgive that mortal sin and reappoint his former assistant years later. In between, Dabol struggled to find his footing as an offensive coordinator in Cleveland, Miami and Kansas City, for teams that were 18–46 combined. Dabol found the right place at the right time with the right player Allen before his second job with Belichick in Alabama with Saban, and made 40-25 plus three playoff trips as a coordinator at Buffalo.
The Giants saw enough to believe he could fix the broken Daniel Jones. And one of Dabol’s first important moves was to give something valuable to a less-experienced hand, Kafka, who probably wouldn’t have accepted the offer without it.
“It was a part of the interview process where [Daboll] Wanted his offensive coordinator to call the plays,” Kafka said. “But he reserved the right to take the reins over that too, and I respect that. … I think the opportunity to work with Dubs was very exciting.”
Kafka cited his boss’s Super Bowl pedigree and see-it-all NFL life as a reason for the inaugural appeal. “He’s been through the highest highs and the lowest lows,” Kafka said. “He’s gone through a lot as a coach … that you can certainly pull off.”
Before making his decision on calling plays, Dabol consulted with retired NFL coaches. He has in the past reached eminent leaders inside and outside of pro football. He has come to understand that being CEO for the first time, he cannot be consumed by a part of the operation. If Dabol is buried sideways in his play menu, and will forever spend most of his practice time with the more aesthetically pleasing side of the ball, what message does this send to the defense, not to mention special teams? for?
So as much as the rookie head coach may have been tempted to assume the role of control freak, Dabol took a selfless, big-picture approach.
“We all work together,” he said on Wednesday, “but one person is going to call [the plays]And that would be Mike.”
The players certainly noticed. The Giants veteran has been vocal privately and even publicly about how much they like Dabol’s more collaborative, user-friendly style than Joe Judge, with one organizational source saying that the player “has a chance to hide it”. Not making any effort.”
Of course, it won’t matter if the Giants don’t get to the final field on Sunday in Tennessee. But if nothing else, with a smart and selfless move, Brian Dabol gave his first team his best chance to score.