Brian Daboll was not favored to end up dancing with his team in the Giants locker room. The Eagles arrived at MetLife Stadium with an 11-1 record and with buses full of more talented players than they would face on a wet and grim December afternoon.
But that’s just it – the Giants didn’t compete. In their own building, facing a hated division rival in proper NFC East weather, the Giants failed to seize the opportunity and honor the playoff stakes at hand. It was meant to be a heated fight that would ultimately go to the top Eagles, not a glorified melee between colleges and jayvees with mercy rule concessions made at the end.
It’s about the rookie head coach. It’s about Brian Daboll.
“It all starts with me,” he said.
The the final score was 48-22, though Daboll said it better when he called it “forty-eight to whatever”. Whatever it was, in the end, it wasn’t good enough. The most famous fan in the house, former President Bill Clinton, wore a Giants cap at the start of the day and no cap at the end of the day. Clinton hadn’t seen a blowout like this since he pancaked Bob Dole in 1996.
Most alarming for the losing team, of course, is the advancing southward trend. The Giants, who stunned the entire league with their 6-1 start, have gone 1-4-1 since and are now 0-3-1 in the division. They could still salvage their playoff bid with a win in Washington, but if they couldn’t beat the Commanders at home, it’s hard to convincingly prove they’ll beat them on the road.
Four days after the Thanksgiving Day loss to Dallas, Daboll told his team, “The season starts now.” The following day, the Giants coach explained, “When you play meaningful games in December, I think that’s why we all do it.”
He needed to dig deep and inspire his players to reach the next level, and that didn’t happen. As aggressively as Daboll coached in the triumphant season-opening victory at Tennessee, he coached just as conservatively — he was scared of his own team, in other words — in the tie against Washington. On Sunday, the Giants didn’t appear to have been coached too conservatively.
They looked like they hadn’t been coached much.
A safety, Julian Love, sniffed out a fourth pass that should have been knocked down or intercepted before landing in the hands of DeVonta Smith for a 41-yard touchdown. A punter, Jamie Gillan, fumbled the ball and kicked it illegally for a devastating penalty who set up Jalen Hurts’ 33-yard touchdown to AJ Brown on the next snap.
The Eagles scored touchdowns on their first three possessions, and the Giants kicked (or attempted) on their first four possessions. Philly rushed for 253 yards and on the other side of the ball beat Daniel Jones, an important giant who came on to play. Even with a blocked punt in their favor, the Giants’ special teams appeared about as empty as their exhausted secondary.
“Sometimes you get your ass beaten; it’s as simple as it gets,” Love said. “But we can’t let this escalate, really. … Our morale must remain high, because it has been high all year.
Daboll still deserves a ton of credit for that. He remains the main reason a team that many thought would go 5-12 this year, if lucky, can still make the franchise’s first playoff appearance since 2016. Daboll earned near-miss approval universal throughout the organization – from the locker room to the cafeteria. at the front office — for a friendly approach to leadership.
Love, a four-year veteran who is on his third Giants head coach, recently told The Post that Daboll’s willingness to “allow us to be ourselves” has been “refreshing compared to what we had before”. It’s an open secret that the remnants connect to Daboll in a way they didn’t connect to Joe Judge.
But truth be told, what Daboll put on the field against Philadelphia was taken from Pat Shurmur’s playbook. It was unacceptable football, and the Giants coach knows it. He worked for Bill Belichick and Nick Saban, and he was raised by a grandmother who was tougher than both of them. All three would have told him that he had to do better.
“They outplayed us, they outplayed us,” Daboll said in his post-match press conference, before confirming that “losing sucks”. He maintained that he had no problem with his players’ effort, just their execution, a tough demand to buy.
“You lose like that, you own it,” Daboll conceded. “You make no excuses.”
Not even with Saquon Barkley knocked out, and with Leonard Williams out. The Eagles have what Daboll called “a star roster,” including two point guards in Hurts and Smith who helped them win a national title with Saban at Alabama. They’re the best bet to win the Super Bowl for a reason.
But the Eagles lost to Washington, which meant the Giants should have found a way to compete with them at home. The failure to do so in a big December game belongs squarely to Brian Daboll’s office.