PHOENIX – Brian Daboll's first season with the Giants resulted in a resurgence for the team and a prestigious award for the coach.
Daboll received the Associated Press 2022 NFL Coach of the Year here Thursday night at the 12th annual NFL Honors ceremony. Being so honored was not on his mind when he was named the Giants' 20th head coach little more than year ago.
"I had a lot of work to do, still have a lot of work to do," he said. "I just think it's a testament to the coaches, players and really the people in the building from the ownership down. That's why I'm here – because of all those other people."
View photos of head coach Brian Daboll's time with the New York Giants.
The other finalists were Jacksonville's Doug Pederson and San Francisco's Kyle Shanahan.
When he was Buffalo's offensive coordinator in 2020, Daboll was voted the AP NFL Assistant Coach of the Year after the Bills finished 13-3 and unseated longtime powerhouse New England atop the division. Daboll is the first person to win both Coach of the Year and Assistant Coach of the Year.
Daboll, 47, is the first Giants coach to be selected Coach of the Year since Jim Fassel in 1997. Like Fassel, Daboll took over a team that was last in the NFC East the previous year and led it to the playoffs in his debut season.
Daboll took the team one step further by winning a postseason game.
"I think it's just a lot of people trying to do the job the best they can, seeking out some wins," Daboll said. "Obviously, the wins help. But it's really a collective effort. I know I'm the head coach, but there's a lot of people in our building, everybody in the building, that contributed to our success this year. And I'm very thankful for the people that I get to work with every day."
Daboll is the fifth Giants coach to be selected Coach of the Year since it was first awarded in 1957. Allie Sherman was honored in 1961 and 1962, Bill Parcells in 1986, Dan Reeves in 1993 and Fassel four years later.
Daboll was an NFL assistant coach for 21 years before the Giants gave him an opportunity to run his own program.
"I've been with seven different teams, I think," Daboll said. "I'd rather be playing down here (in Super Bowl LVII). It's a tremendous honor, but again, I appreciate our ownership, (general manager) Joe (Schoen), all the staff and most importantly the coaches and the players. You don't think about that when you take a job. You're thankful that you have an opportunity to lead a team and try to build a culture. That's what we try to do.
"There was a lot of good, and there was a lot of hardship. Again, I'm just thankful where my feet are right now and the opportunity that I have. We have a great organization with great ownership, general manager and support staff. Again, I'm just a piece. There's a lot of great people in our building. You wish you could give awards out to a lot of people because a lot of those people in the building deserve it a hell of a lot more than me."
The 2022 Giants finished 9-7-1 and qualified for the playoffs as a wild card team. It was the Giants' first winning season and first postseason berth since 2016. The Giants won just four games in 2021, the year prior to Daboll's arrival, and the five-game improvement is their largest in one season since they jumped from six victories in 2015 to 11 in 2016.
Daboll was considered the favorite to win the award because he took a team few outside the Giants' headquarters expected to succeed and led it to the playoffs. What were his expectations?
"Just to come in, work hard and try to get better every day," he said. "Each year is a new year. Next year will be a new year. I'm thankful that I got to be part of this team, along with everyone else in our building. And it was a special year. You wish you were continuing to play, but expectation-wise, just come in and work hard. We're going to have to redo it starting now and build a new team for the 2023 season."
The Giants defeated the Vikings in Minnesota in an NFC Wild Card Game, 31-24, for their first postseason victory since Super Bowl XLVI 11 years ago.
The Daboll difference was evident early in the season. The Giants had not won their season opener since 2016 and beginning that season through 2021 never won more than two of their first five games. In 2020 and 2021, they started 0-5 and then 0-3. But in their first game under Daboll, the Giants overcame a 13-0 halftime deficit to defeat the Titans in Tennessee, 21-20, on a touchdown and, after Daboll's gutsy decision, Saquon Barkley's two-point conversion reception with 1:06 remaining.
Daboll became the first Giants coach to win his debut with the team since Ben McAdoo in 2016. He was the first Giants coach to win five of his first six games since Reeves in 1993, and his 6-1 start was the best for a coach in his first Giants season since LeRoy Andrews was 6-0-1 in 1929.
In the first five weeks of the season, the Giants defeated Tennessee and Green Bay, the 2021 No. 1 playoff seeds in their respective conferences.
Daboll is the fifth coach in Giants history to lead the team to the playoffs in his debut season, joining Sherman (1961), Reeves (1993), Fassel (1997) and McAdoo (2016). Rookie coach Earl Potteiger led the Giants to the 1927 NFL championship in the era before playoffs.
Daboll was one of three first-year head coaches to lead his team to the postseason in 2022, joining Minnesota's Kevin O'Connell and Miami's Mike McDaniel. Daboll was the only one of the three to advance to the divisional round, and he did so with a Giants victory against O'Connell's Vikings.
Daboll was the first Giants coach to win his postseason debut since Reeves in 1993. He joined Jim Lee Howell, Ray Perkins, Parcells and Reeves as Giants coaches who were victorious in their first playoff game.
The Giants' season ended on Jan. 21 with a loss to NFC champion Philadelphia in a divisional playoff game.
Receiving the Coach of the Year award was not the only, or even the greatest, highlight of Daboll's evening. He also had the opportunity to re-connect with Buffalo safety Damar Hamlin, who has made a remarkable recovery since suffering cardiac arrest during a game in Cincinnati on Jan. 2. Hamlin delivered an emotional speech at NFL Honors with the medical staffs of the Bills and Bengals and physicians and nurses from the University of Cincinnati Medical Center standing behind him.
Daboll and Hamlin worked together in Buffalo in 2021.
"I just talked to him," Daboll said after taking the stage for his news conference. "I said, 'Hey man. Love you, buddy. So proud of you. And glad you're doing okay.'
"I thank God every day that he's supposedly healed. To come through something like that, tremendous young man. And he's come back here to talk to y'all, and I got to see him here in the back. So, that was a special moment."