Why Brian Daboll's Taking on the Play Calling Would Be a Good Thing for Giants

Brian Daboll plans to take control of the offensive play calling this year. Why that's a good thing.
New York Giants head coach Brian Daboll and offensive coordinator Mike Kafka.
New York Giants head coach Brian Daboll and offensive coordinator Mike Kafka. / Danielle Parhizkaran/NorthJersey.com /
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Perhaps it was always the plan all along of New York Giants head coach Brian Daboll to one day become the team’s main offensive play caller—after all, his creativity as the Bills play caller is a large part of what got him the Giants job.

The problem is that when Daboll was hired as head coach, he had never been a head coach. 

So rather than heaping a double helping of stress on his plate—the stress of being a first-time head coach and the play-caller—Daboll hired young assistant coach Mike Kafka from Andy Reid’s Chiefs staff to do the play-calling while Daboll acclimated to his new world.

The two-year arrangement had its highs and lows, most recently the lows given the team’s 6-11 record last season and the offense’s downward trend. 

This is probably why, with the pressure to start producing as they did in 2022, Daboll’s first season as head coach, Daboll will likely reclaim what he does best while Kafka, the newly appointed assistant head coach, will likely hold different responsibilities on game day.

“Mike is a good teammate,” Daboll said when asked how Kafka might take the play-calling duties away from him. “Provides a lot of value, has a lot of good insight.”

Providing insight is what Daboll expects not just of Kafka but also from the rest of the staff. From Day 1, Daboll has preached the importance of a collaborative process, which isn’t going to change with him taking on the play-calling, which he has done all spring.

“I’m just complementary to Dabs, helping out with offensive drills,” Kafka said of his role this spring.

“You'll see me walking around and being an asset to the coaches and the players wherever I can. Whether it's fundamentals, technique, whether it’s thoughts and ideas on routes or protections, stuff like that.”

Kafka, who aspires to be a head coach, isn’t worried that having the play-calling duties taken away from him will hurt his chances. He’s too focused on helping to get the Giants right while continuing to grow.

“I'll lean back on my experience in Kansas City a little bit where Coach Reid is the primary play caller, and then the coordinators that were under him, whether it's Eric Bieniemy or Matt Nagy like those guys, are super involved. So, I have that experience of being in a system like that,” Kafka said of dealing with the change.

So far, the experiment—Kafka pointed out that Daboll has not made a final decision, though again, all signs point to the switch having already been made—has yielded positive results, namely a calmer demeanor shown by Daboll on the practice field. 

“He's always kind of been the fun, joking guy. I think now that he's calling plays, he's a little bit more intense with us and making sure we're on top of everything,” receiver Wan’Dale Robinson said of Daboll calling plays.  

“It's been fun to have him in my headset,” quarterback Drew Lock added. “You can tell he's been doing it for a long time.”

The behind-the-scenes stuff will likely see the coaches—Daboll, Kafka, newly promoted passing game coordinator Shea Tierney, tight ends coach Tim Kelly, and offensive line coach Carmen Bricillo and their respective assistants all contribute to the weekly game plan, which is what Daboll wants.

But with a looming change of this magnitude, progress is never linear. Daboll, who has already had to navigate the ups and downs of change and progress, believes that experience is the best possible teacher, regardless of whether it’s a success or a failure.

“I think every experience that you get, you should learn and grow from,” he said. “I think the times it's more down at this end are the times you -- it's easy to be up, and things are great. You're going to have tough times. 

“There is always a lot to learn, a lot to self-evaluate. You don't have all the answers. You do everything you can do every year to try to be as good as you can be. You leave everything on the table. 

“You lean on a lot of people and try to grow and build the team you have for this year, whether that's in the leadership department, the plays, schemes, whatever it may be the chemistry. 

“But certainly those lows, you're going to have them, particularly in this league. They're never fun, but they are very good learning tools if you use them the right way.” 

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Patricia Traina


Patricia Traina has covered the New York Giants for over three decades for various media outlets. She is the host of the Locked On Giants podcast and the author of "The Big 50: New York Giants: The Men and Moments that Made the New York Giants" (Triumph Books, September 2020). View Patricia's full bio.