I know this sounds elementary but it’s not easy to identify how and when a head coach can make a difference. It took Giants coach Brian Daboll one day to move ahead of his cross-town rivals in a race for franchise HOPE.
Coaches get measured for many things at the NFL level. Leadership, culture, team building, etc. But at the end of the day in order to gain the respect and confidence of a locker room, front office or even a fan/media base, they must show that their football acumen on gameday can go a long way toward producing wins. Does anyone doubt what Rams coach, Sean McVay brings to the table on any give game day? How about the 49’ers Kyle Shanahan or Steelers Mike Tomlin?
It comes in many forms but it has to be tangible. Players want answers and for the coach to make a difference. Maybe it’s teaching or communicative skills, planning, strategy or game management but it has to be tangible and produce results in the win/loss column.
These periods under the microscope determine perception as well. It is what makes the Bronco’s new coach Nathaniel Hackett and his peculiar decisions on Monday night in Seattle really hard to overcome- that first impression sticks with us for a long time. As a player in their locker room, I would already have some questions.
I thought new Giants head coach Brian Daboll was outstanding in his first game. He found a way to use three rookie offensive lineman effectively to rush for 238 yds on 58 offensive snaps. And more particular, he used a now clearly healthy, RB Saquon Barkley in a roll that now defines the identity of his team. He also impressed me with the little things such as the ability to get the ball in the hands of a young receiver (Kadarius Toney) that has struggled to stay healthy and adapt to the NFL passing game by “handing it to him” on a jet sweep. This helped do two things, 1. Utilize his rare quickness and burst and 2. Get him involved so that his development is now obviously worthy of his role to all who pay attention. Small things like that matter. That’s called coaching.
Oh, and by the way, of course he showed the guts to go for two and steal a game that his team had stayed in, long enough to gain momentum, on the road, I might add. He created confidence in a young group that now thinks they can beat anyone. Even if they had lost, it was the time and place to make that call.
I realize that it was only one game for Daboll but after a full year of coaching the NY Jets we all, Jet players included, wondering what Head Coach Robert Salah can do to create an identity for a rebuilding team in a similar fashion. The Jets are in a never-ending battle to retool and if what we see on Sundays could be measured quantifiably, Salah is still trying to make a difference on game day. When/if he does, then coach Salah’s grip on his own job status would be much firmer.
I love Roberts enthusiasm and his story but new tee shirts, keeping notes on who the doubters are is not going to calm the masses. He needs to make a difference on Sundays. I am rooting for him but his job just got harder now based on one week of what the new Giants regime is bringing to the table in the same city.
Other coaches who made a difference in their first test were Kevin O’Connell with the Vikings, Mike McDaniel and his Dolphins and even Todd Bowles in Tampa. O’Connell’s relentless attacking offense that already has his own players giddy, as evidenced by their comments and Mc Daniels unorthodox style off the field along with his dismantling of the NE Patriots, defensive genius’s on Sunday went a long ways to proving he can make a difference. That’s what players want. Bowles dominating plan and execution by his defense vs the leagues number one offense from a year ago will make a Buc organization sleep easy after the departure of Bruce Arians in the off season.
This group of coaches in new and upgraded rolls, seems to have made an impression FAST. That first impression will carry plenty of weight going forward. Brian Daboll clearly leads the race for NYC. I know it’s a long season but at first glance the league is headed in the right direction with this group of new hires.