Brian Daboll wasn’t trying to be a wiseass. He honestly wasn’t.
It’s simply the way the Giants first-year head coach is wired.
That was his straight-faced response when asked, some 30 minutes after the Giants survived and advanced in a bizarre and wild 20-12 decision over the Bears at MetLife Stadium to raise their record to an unlikely 3-1, how he felt about his team handling the adversity of not having a heathy quarterback to play the final 8:35 of the game.
“Both of your quarterbacks got hurt,” was the reminder/clarification the reporter offered to Daboll, referring to the moment when starter Daniel Jones was limping on the sideline with an injured left ankle and his backup, Tyrod Taylor, was laying on the turf with a concussion, leaving the Giants with no healthy quarterback on the game-day roster to play the final 8:35 of a game they were leading 17-12 at the time.
“Oh, no … sorry,” Daboll responded apologetically, realizing his response may have come off accidentally arrogantly. “I didn’t mean to … oh … yeah, you just move on. I mean look, you feel for the players that get injured that give everything they have during the week to get their bodies and their minds right. And if somebody’s out, that’s why you have other players on the roster that you have confidence and faith in.”
The story to this game — and very much this Giants season — is about the confidence and faith the Giants players have in Daboll and his uncanny preparedness.
This is, indeed, a new era for the Giants, who in the second-to-last game last season lost to the Bears, 29-3, in Chicago in what was a low-point to a dismal season.
Jones was out with a neck injury and his backup, Mike Glennon, completed 4 of 11 passes for 24 yards in the game in one of the most anemic offensive performances in the history of the game. Afterward, head coach Joe Judge went on a bizarre, emotional meltdown of sorts in front of reporters, an episode that undoubtedly influenced his firing nine days later, paving the way for the hiring of Daboll.
In Week 1 on the road in Nashville, it was Daboll’s bold move to win the game by going for the two-point conversion late in the game instead of tying it with an extra point and hoping for the best in overtime.
On Sunday, Daboll put his stamp on the victory by the way he acted with calm amid the chaos of not having a healthy quarterback to put under center.
With Taylor in concussion protocol, Daboll asked Jones, who left the game in the third quarter with the injured left ankle after being sacked, if he could go back onto the field as a decoy. Jones was the only player with the helmet communication device to deliver plays from the coaching booth to the players on the field.
Daboll sent running back Saquon Barkley behind center in the Wildcat formation with Jones on the outside as a receiver for three consecutive plays before putting Jones back behind center to hand the ball off the rest of the game.
“When [Taylor was knocked out], we just sat down and I said, ‘Where’s the grease board?’ ” Daboll said. “Five people gave me an iPad at the same time [and] I said, ‘I want a grease board,’ which is rarely used nowadays. The discussion was, ‘Do we just put Saquon back there and forget about the quarterback?’ ”
Barkley said, “The way that the coaches reacted, brought us all in and started drawing it up, it felt like you’re back again as a little kid in the backyard playing football.”
“Next man up” is the NFL’s default mantra when a player is injured.
The thing is, the Giants didn’t have a “next man” to play quarterback.
“When I saw Tyrod go down, I kind of realized I’m up next, I’m the quarterback,” Barkley said.
“We didn’t see any panic from anybody,” cornerback Adoree’ Jackson said. “I feel like with the coaches that we have we know their minds are trained to think, ‘What if? What if?’ What if?’ ”
It’s a pretty rare “what if?’’ not to have a healthy quarterback to play, something Daboll said he can’t recall ever happening to him before.
“He is ready for every scenario, and that trickles down to the entire team,” guard Ben Bredeson said.
Daboll afterward refused to bask in any credit, because that’s who he is and it’s a reason he’s revered by his players.
“Give the players, first-and-foremost, all the credit, and give the assistant coaches and coordinators the second part of it,” Daboll said.
Sure, this was about the players and assistant coaches. But this was very much about the head coach, too.
“We follow his lead,” center Jon Feliciano said.