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Protect the players.
That is what runs through the mind of Brian Daboll each and every time he steps behind a microphone and questions are lobbed his way. There is a steadfastness to this mantra, creating a deadpan aura around the head coach of the Giants. He is far from dull by nature, but he is dull-ish by choice.
It is as if Daboll takes a Valium after a game, turning the three-hour sideline raging bull into a docile orator incapable of getting riled up. A snapshot immediately after a loss and another immediately after a victory needs careful inspection to decipher which is which. Unlike many of his peers, who arrive to these daily and postgame media sessions with a few prepared words to start things off, Daboll prefers to stay on the baseline, rather than come to the net. “How’s everybody doing?’’ he asks, sometimes barely looking up. And away we go.
What does any of this mean, with the Giants sitting at 3-8, having ended a three-game losing streak with a Tommy DeVito-inspired (yep) 31-19 victory over the Commanders? Daboll was 7-4 at this point last season in his debut as the man in charge and all that fire and passion as he worked the games was embraced as everyman Dabes doing his thing. The second time around, every glare and vein popping from his neck and “What the f–k was that?’’ query to a player is not quite as beloved. Win, and it is gumption. Lose, and it is unraveling.
This is a time to look ahead and figure out who is a keeper and who is a goner. Daboll, the 2022 NFL Coach of the Year, is a keeper, of course, and will return for a third year on the job unless he pulls a Costanza and drags one or two of the franchise’s four Lombardi trophies through the parking lot.
If Daboll, 48, got this job 10 years ago, he likely would not have been able to deal with it. He has done it all in a coaching career that spans 26 years and includes hirings, firings, championships, good quarterbacks, bad quarterbacks, lots of points, scoring droughts, lots of disappointments. He has been hardened by all this, and by his hardscrabble background, raised by his grandparents, no fast-riser who took the high-speed elevator to the top.
Daboll is unconcerned with winning the press conference. It is all about limiting distractions and never, ever ripping his players in public. In the back of his mind, the players are all youngsters to some degree, many the same age as some of his oldest children. His tolerance for what they do is parental, to a degree.
It is safe to assume he was not thrilled when his defensive coordinator, Wink Martindale, turned a minor disturbance in the force — Xavier McKinney’s nonspecific critique about lacking communication with the defensive coaches — into a larger controversy by revealing how hurt he was by the insinuation. For Daboll, these embers of unrest are to be extinguished not with a stomp of the foot but with a gentle brush aside, saying as close to nothing as possible and hoping the insipidness of the response puts the issue to bed.
At times, Daboll’s zeal for the vapid is amusing in its brevity. His breakdown of how this most recent victory helps team morale: “Winning is good, losing’s not.’’
There was this heartwarming peek behind the curtain by Daboll, asked if DeVito received a game ball: “No.’’
If you want embellishment, hire a decorator. Daboll is all about getting in, getting done and not giving much of anything in between.
“The roller coaster is the outside, honestly,’’ safety Jason Pinnock said Monday. “He keeps us all, everybody within the room from upstairs to downstairs to chefs to everybody in the building, he keeps us all right here. Just keep it going. Never get too high; never get too low. Just stay within the building is how you avoid being on that roller coaster so much.
“The biggest thing for me from a coach and when you gain that respect from your players, your leaders, and your captains, is composure. That’s something he has.’’
Daboll at times tries a bit harder to give something here or something there. He can be stiff as a board when the cameras are rolling and then, as soon as he steps away, can make a wisecrack to lighten the mood, careful with the reminder “that’s off the record.’’ After a loss, he refuses to appear defeated. After a win, he will not exult. No deflation, no elation. No one will be able to accuse Daboll of quitting on his team when times are bad or hitting the gas pedal on the bandwagon when things are rolling.
“You can see how fiery and how competitive he is,’’ Saquon Barkley said.
At times, yes. At times, not so much. Daboll could curry favor by dabbling in the popular coaching practice of playing nice and playing favorites with the media. He is by no means a boor, but he can be a bore. By design.