Giants head coach Brian Daboll reacts to a play during the...

Giants head coach Brian Daboll reacts to a play during the first quarter against the Eagles at Lincoln Financial Field on Dec. 25, 2023, in Philadelphia. Credit: Getty Images/Dustin Satloff

ORLANDO, Fla. — The last time Brian Daboll spoke to reporters before Tuesday was the day after the regular season ended when he expressed a strong desire for Wink Martindale to return as defensive coordinator.

Later that day the two engaged in what sources characterized as a fierce shouting match over other changes to the defensive staff. Martindale stormed out of the building, and after several days of uncertainty regarding his contractual status he and the team euphemistically “parted ways.” The Giants eventually hired Shane Bowen as their new defensive coordinator and Martindale, unable to land any of the open NFL jobs, was hired as the defensive coordinator at the University of Michigan.

So yes, things have changed quite a bit since mid-January.

But Daboll, more than two months removed from the incident, offered little insight on the matter in his first public remarks since that conflagration, the ugly details of which helped to paint both him and the organization as being strangled by dysfunction less than a year after they had won a playoff game and he was named NFL Coach of the Year.

“There is change every year,” he said at the NFL’s annual meetings Tuesday. “I’m excited to have Shane here and some of the new coaches.”

He did not mention Martindale by name.

Daboll may want to consider the issues over, but they certainly did catch the attention of Giants co-owner John Mara. And while Mara isn’t close to thinking about changing head coaches, he would like his head coach to change . . . if just a bit.

After giving Daboll a strong vote of confidence this week, Mara said he’d prefer to see a little less fire from his highly combustible employee. That would include the red-faced rants and glowering staredowns that took place on the sideline during games this past season, but also to a lesser degree his interactions with staff throughout the week that seemed to precipitate the very public and embarrassing divorce from Martindale.

“There are times where I wish he would tone it down a little bit,” Mara said, “but I'm also in the team meetings, and I see how he acts around people and his coaches in the office. He always maintains his cool there. Does he get excitable during the games sometimes? Yeah. So do I. I don't think it's a major issue.”

This is not the kind of intervention Mara once had to have with Tom Coughlin before the 2007 season when he issued an ultimatum for him to change his tyrannical ways or else. Still, when the boss — even one whose most infamous internet meme shows him flinging a chair in disgust during a Giants game — says to chill out, it’s wise to chill out. And Daboll said he will try to do so.

“Every year there is a self-evaluation process that goes on whether I was a position coach, a coordinator, in this case a head coach,” Daboll said at the NFC coaches’ breakfast on Tuesday. “I’m a very passionate person and yeah, there are times where I will say I should have handled things a little bit differently, certainly. You continue to grow, continue to evolve. That’s what I try to do every year.”

Add it to the list — a long list of items really – that Daboll and the Giants will attempt to improve upon in order to have a more successful 2024 than 2023 season.

“My focus always is what can I do better? How can I be a better coach? How can I be a better leader?” Daboll said. “I try to do the best job I can, try to improve, focus on the things that I can focus on to be the best version of myself to help the team, help the players, and help the coaches. Do everything I can do to help us win. That’s the joy I get out of it, winning football games. That’s why we all do this.”

As for Martindale’s departure, Mara said he was not expecting that end result even though it was preceded by reports of an untenable rift between the two coaches throughout the final month of the season.

“I was surprised when that came out because I think it was overblown,” Mara said of the reported animosity. “I mean, were there some times they had some disagreements? Yeah. But not to the point where it became an issue. After the season did it blow up? Absolutely it did, as you know, but I never felt like it was a big issue during the season at all.”

Mara said he would have preferred not to have as much turnover on the coaching staff this offseason and certainly wishes the bitterness between Daboll and Martindale hadn’t become as public as it did. But he also put much of the blame for their tensions on the team’s 6-11 record rather than the coaches themselves.

“When you are going through a losing season, there's always going to be disagreements among coaches,” he said. “I've been around a long time, and you see that. If there's not when you are losing games like that, well, then something is really wrong with what's going on.”

He quickly added: “I don't think it affects the culture that we have in the building at all… I still very firmly believe that Brian is the right guy for us going forward.”

Daboll said he appreciated that sentiment.

Whether or not it leads to a different demeanor on the sideline and in the building this season may help determine how long the sentiment lasts.

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