Should Brian Daboll Win NFL Coach of the Year?

Should New York Giants head coach Brian Daboll win the 2023 NFL Coach of the Year Award? We break down his argument as the Giants come off a 9-7-1 year.

The 2023 NFL Coach of the Year Award has one of the deepest fields of competition we’ve seen in recent years. Since 2017, it’s seemingly favored first-year head coaches as they’ve made a clear impact on their team’s win-loss record. But this crop has several veteran coaches alongside younger leading men who deserve the nomination.

The lone first-year head coach with top-six betting odds is Brian Daboll of the New York Giants. He’s up against Nick Sirianni of the Philadelphia Eagles, Kyle Shanahan of the San Francisco 49ers, Doug Pederson of the Jacksonville Jaguars, Zac Taylor of the Cincinnati Bengals, and Dan Campbell of the Detroit Lions. Though they’re not placed as highly, this list could easily feature Mike Tomlin of the Steelers and Mike McDaniel of the Dolphins.

We’re focusing on Daboll after he led his Giants to a 9-7-1 regular season and Divisional Round appearance in the NFC playoffs. Our friends at DraftKings Sportsbook have Daboll at +350 to win the award, trailing only Sirianni and Shanahan. Let’s also dive into whether that bet makes sense.

Should Brian Daboll Win Coach of the Year?

The easy answer here is that Daboll absolutely deserves to win the NFL Coach of the Year Award. The Giants were projected to have seven wins this season, and outperforming that mark by two full games and a playoff appearance is a massive jump. Similar feats earned Kevin Stefanski, Sean McVay, and Matt Nagy the award in their inaugural season.

Whether Daboll deserves it more than Sirianni and Shanahan is a tougher question. They’re all coming off fantastic seasons in their own right.

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I generally think it’s easier to highlight an individual who exceeded expectations, but it’s also unfair to not reward those who meet or exceed high expectations when they also faced adversity.

Here are three main cruxes of the argument as to why Daboll should win the 2023 NFL Coach of the Year Award.

Reason 1: Outperforming Expectations

It turns out that winning at least two games over expectation is a good thing. The Giants entered Week 18 of the regular season at 9-6-1 before resting their starters, as they had already locked up an NFC Wild Card berth. Their trip to the playoffs ended a five-year drought where the team had no more than six wins in any season since.

Several revelations came forth during Daboll’s first season with the team, and we’ll dive into a few of those later.

Most notable is how well the Giants covered the betting spreads laid against them. They covered 14 of 18 spreads and seven of their last eight, including their Wild Card round win against the Vikings. Going 11-2 in their last 13 games as an underdog is extremely impressive, and that includes five straight road covers.

Of course, winning the franchise’s first playoff game in 11 years is also notable, even if this is a regular-season award. The Giants posted a minus-six-point differential this season, meaning they were often on the winning side of close games despite being one of the worst teams just a year ago. That’s a sign of great coaching.

Reason 2: Building a Sustainable Offense

The Giants made only two notable free agent signings last offseason, and one was backup quarterback Tyrod Taylor. They were able to add a great set of rookies thanks to their two top-10 picks, but this wasn’t a roster suddenly injected with veterans to help them win right away. The onus to improve upon what was the 31st-ranked scoring offense in 2021 was on this staff.

Getting Saquon Barkley healthy was a boost that they undoubtedly needed. Barkley finished the year with 1,650 yards from scrimmage and 10 touchdowns. He should’ve earned MVP consideration for his role as the workhorse of the unit.

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Daboll’s pedigree as an excellent offensive architect was earned in Buffalo but shined through this season. The Giants’ offensive line is fine but young, and quarterback Daniel Jones had to be protected from himself much more often than not. New York’s receiving crew was again decimated by injuries before finding playmakers in Darius Slayton and Isaiah Hodgins, who now look like two long-term potential contributors to the franchise.

There’s little sexy about the league’s 15th-ranked scoring offense, but that mark is impressive considering the limitations at hand. Jones was reckless with the ball and a scattershot passer prior to Daboll’s arrival. Even if stripping down his responsibilities kneecapped the upside of the offense a little, it raised the floor of the unit and helped the defense tremendously.

Reason 3: Assembling a Star-Laden Staff

In a world where most coaching staffs are filled with nepotism and friends who fail to challenge the head coach effectively, Daboll assembled a staff of stars. Both of his coordinators have impressive backgrounds and few ties to Daboll himself. It’s not a surprise that after their respective units played well, they each interviewed for head coaching jobs this postseason.

Offensive coordinator Mike Kafka is a potential wunderkind candidate. After spending five years under Andy Reid in Kansas City, the former Northwestern quarterback has proven to be a problem-solver in New York. The Giants have quickly adopted Reid’s ability to scheme open receivers by maximizing their skill sets, and this has, in turn, made seeing the field easier for Jones.

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The success of Hodgins and Richie James highlights this better than anyone. These were two forgotten pieces that stalled out elsewhere. Kafka is a sneaky candidate to earn a head coaching job sooner than later, and I think it’s deserved as he shows off his bag of tricks and talent.

Defensive coordinator Wink Martindale has much more experience than Kafka. The 59-year-old spent four seasons in Baltimore and one season in Denver as the defensive coordinator prior to coming to New York. The blitz specialist has helped get the most out of castaways like Jaylon Smith, Fabian Moreau, and Jihad Ward to build an average defense.

Does all of this equal a Coach of the Year Award for Daboll? It might not compare as favorably to his peers, but it’s been an impressive first campaign in the Big Apple. Either way, Giants fans should be thrilled to have the 47-year-old entrenched for years to come.

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