Brian Daboll seemed surprised that anyone would be surprised.
“I’ve said it since when?” he noted when asked about his decision to leave Kenny Golladay out of the game plan for what turned out to be Sunday’s win over the Panthers. “I’m not being a jerk. I’ve said it since the middle of camp, right? It hasn’t changed. It’s going to be a continual competition.”
He’s right, he has been saying that.
But so do a lot of coaches at all levels of play, from high schools to the NFL. The difference, and what has made Daboll’s personnel calls so intriguing and newsworthy, is he has followed through on that.
“We have high standards in terms of going out there and preparing well and practicing well,” Daboll said on Monday. “The thing we want to create is as competitive a team as we can regardless of where you were drafted, how you got here, how much money you make. We believe that everybody goes out there and competes [in practices] and we play the guys who earned the right to play that week.”
Call it the Daboll Doctrine.
The Giants are 2-0, which is really good news for this season. The Giants also are a meritocracy, which seems as if it will be really good news for years to come.
“We’re at the introductory stages of our program and what we are trying to do,’’ Daboll said, “and I think competition is best for everybody.”
It’s why former first-round pick Kadarius Toney played seven snaps in Week 1 and Golladay, the player with the highest base salary on the team and largest salary-cap hit of any receiver in the NFL, played only two snaps in Week 2. It’s why two league minimum-makers have gotten to play so much; Richie James is second on the team in targets (12, two behind Sterling Shepard) and David Sills (a former practice squadder) is second among wide receivers in snaps played (94, behind Shepard’s 107).
It’s why some of the most important moments of the season have been touchdowns by the likes of Chris Myarick and Daniel Bellinger and a third-and-1 run by Gary Brightwell on Sunday.
“He always talks about smart, tough and dependable guys,” Bellinger said after scoring the only touchdown for the Giants on Sunday. “You have to be there and show up. I just think that’s football. You have those guys who are super-athletic and super-explosive, but at the end of the day, it’s who can play football and who can the coaches trust to play football and make the plays when the time comes.”
We’re all learning that. So are the players, even if they took Daboll’s early sermons on the topic with some skepticism.
“When something is said like that, you could see it as lip service,” safety Julian Love said. “Yeah, OK. We get it.”
Now there is no denying it as policy, not propaganda.
“He’s stayed true to his word,” Love said. “We want guys to be prepared, want guys to be ready so we have as much confidence in them in games as we can. So practice is important and he puts an emphasis on it. You have a bad day, you have to get it turned around, you have to get it corrected . . . I respect that.”
If Daboll is willing to essentially bench Toney and Golladay for not meeting his standards during the week, imagine how easy it will be for him to pull the plug on someone with far less of a pedigree. Those players hear his words, they have seen his actions and they get the message.
Not playing such high-profile and high-salaried players requires an entire organization, and Daboll said he has the full support of general manager Joe Schoen and co-owner John Mara in this area.
As for dealing with the players who find themselves on the sideline because of his decisions, Daboll said the key is to be forthright.
“You just are open and honest with the players of what their role is, what they need to improve, and let those guys go out and compete it off each week,” he said.
At least now when he tells them those things, there’s concrete reason to believe him and no more surprises.