NASHVILLE, Tenn. – Brian Daboll didn’t think twice about whether his New York Giants should go for the 2-point conversion or kick the tying extra point with 1 minute, 6 seconds remaining in his first game ever as a head coach. He was always going with the aggressive approach.
Daboll indeed went for two, which the Giants converted on a shovel pass to running back Saquon Barkley, to upset the Tennessee Titans 21-20 at Nissan Stadium. It was New York’s first Week 1 win since 2016, which also happens to be the last time it made the playoffs.
Why didn’t Daboll flinch when faced with the vital decision late in Sunday’s season opener?
“Go for the win,” he said. “We’re going to be aggressive. That is what we want to do. That is the mindset I want the players to have. If it didn’t work, I can live with it. I thought that was the right decision.”
Daboll even went up to some of the defensive players on the bench during the game-winning drive and asked their opinion.
“I said, ‘Hey … if we score, I’m going for two. You good with that?’ They said, ‘Heck yeah!’ “
The Giants players were completely on board, even though there was still a minute remaining and the Titans had time to drive down the field and win the game. They did, but Tennessee kicker Randy Bullock missed a 47-yard field goal as time expired.
“When we scored, I was on the field and I saw him put up the ‘two’ sign and we kind of made eye contact,” Barkley said. “He gave me that look, and I knew what the play was going to be. He gave me that look and I kind of looked back at him and said, ‘F — yeah.’
“We called it up and we were able to execute the play and get in. He’s a man of his word. He told us he’s going to be aggressive. He told us he’s going to lean on the players to make plays. In that situation , he did exactly that. When you have a coach like that, it’s definitely going to make you go out there and fight for him and execute in those situations. “
The 2-point conversion turned out to be the difference in a game the Giants never led until the final minutes.
“He was like, ‘You all cool with [going for two]? ‘”safety Xavier McKinney said.” We were like,’ Hell yeah! ‘ We weren’t going to say no. We wanted to win the game. We were glad we called it. “
As a result, the Giants (1-0) now have a winning record for the first time since 2016.
It wasn’t a surprise that Daboll showed that type of aggressiveness late in the game. He also called a naked bootleg for quarterback Daniel Jones to run on a fourth-down play with two minutes remaining.
Daboll has been saying this would be the way he’s going to coach since he was hired in January. He reiterated it to his players di lui Saturday night.
“I knew that before the game even started,” wide receiver Sterling Shepard said of the decision to go for two. “He told us he wasn’t going to coach scared. That is exactly what he did. We all knew it. We all knew we were going for it because he told us [Saturday] night.
“He told us, ‘I’m not going to coach scared.’ I believe everything the man says. “
Shepard later added: “He has trust in us. That just shows it. We appreciate that. We want to be put in those pressure situations. We have guys that really want to be in those positions to make that play. Everyone in that huddle , I asked them who is going to make that play. So we were all ready to make it. “
In the locker room after the win, the players presented Daboll and new general manager Joe Schoen with game balls.
It was a special win for Daboll, and not only because it was his first game as coach. The last time he had been to Nashville was last October when he was the offensive coordinator for the Buffalo Bills. He learned about his grandfather’s death of him upon landing for that trip.
Daboll, 47, was raised in upstate New York by his grandparents. He had lost his grandmother di lui three weeks earlier. Returning to Nashville brought back memories of that afternoon his grandfather di lui died at 95 years old.
Daboll remembers before he left for that trip his grandfather telling him, “We’re gonna win.” He always told him: “We’re gonna win.”
Daboll told his grandfather he better be there when he got back from Nashville. His last encounter of him ended with his grandfather of him giving him a fist pump and wink.
Daboll got choked up as he told some reporters this story Sunday afternoon in Nashville after perhaps the biggest win of his coaching life. He explained that as the Titans were attempting the game-winning field goal, he was holding the pendant with his grandparents’ ashes, hoping for a miss.
“This is what I was doing during the kick,” he said. “I held the ashes of my grandmother and my grandfather. I just held them and looked up. That’s what I did.”
Buffalo lost 34-31 when it faced the Titans last year following the death of Daboll’s grandfather. This time it ended differently.
“It’s a special moment because it’s my first win,” he said. “Last year coming here for the Buffalo game, I lost my grandfather on the airplane as I was landing. It was weighing heavy on my after the game [Sunday].
“When he missed it, I thought about them. I don’t come from much. Those two people helped me get to where I am.”
The head coach of the 1-0 Giants after a game he’s surely never going to forget.