Packers Head Coach Candidate: Brian Daboll
When the Packers hired Mike McCarthy in 2006, he was an unheralded candidate who had just completed his first season as the 49ers offensive coordinator. There, he guided rookie quarterback Alex Smith and the offense to the third-worst season by an offense in modern NFL history. San Francisco finished 2005 last in the league in total offense, passing offense and third-worst in points scored.
Buffalo Bills offensive coordinator Brian Daboll is in his first season on the job as well. Daboll has coordinated a putrid offense that in mid-October was on pace to be the worst offense in modern NFL history. Much can be attributed to dreadful quarterback play – Nathan Peterman started Week 1 and rookie Josh Allen has dealt with injuries amidst growing pains – but Buffalo has improved to rank second-worst in total offense, passing offense and points scored.
The day after the Packers fired McCarthy, Daboll had the fourth-best odds to be named the Packers’ next head coach. Could history repeat itself again?
The details on Brian Daboll
Most recent job: Offensive Coordinator, Buffalo Bills (2018-present)
Record as a head coach: 0-0
First job: Graduate Assistant, Michigan State (1998-1999)
Packers connection: Worked with Packers inside linebackers and run game coordinator Patrick Graham in New England. Served as the Jets quarterbacks coach in 2008 when Brett Favre started at quarterback. Coached former Packers tight end Martellus Bennett as tight ends coach for New England. Coached at Alabama in 2017 while Packers corner Tony Brown and punter JK Scott were on the team.
The background on Brian Daboll
Daboll broke into coaching thanks to a resume mailing campaign that earned him a spot on Nick Saban’s staff at Michigan State in the late 1990’s. Two years later, Saban recommended Patriots head coach Bill Belichick hire Daboll as a defensive coaching assistant. In his second season with New England, the Patriots made an unlikely run to win the Super Bowl behind Tom Brady.
Initially, Daboll was tasked with diagramming grainy VHS film for Belichick. Without high definition recordings, Daboll tried his best to decipher and guess what players were on the field for a given play. After two seasons, he transitioned to working on the offensive side of the ball under Charlie Weis – a coach Daboll credits with shaping his offensive philosophy.
From 2006 to 2012, Daboll bounced around the NFL. He followed Patriots assistant Eric Mangini to the Jets for two seasons as quarterbacks coach, then followed Mangini again to spend two seasons as the Browns offensive coordinator. By 2011, he moved to Miami and was offensive coordinator under Tony Sparano, and then spent 2012 as the Chiefs offensive coordinator under head coach Romeo Crennel.
Belichick hired Daboll back in 2013, and he spent the next four seasons working under Josh McDaniels as an offensive assistant and coaching tight ends. In 2017, he left New England to join Saban in Alabama as offensive coordinator. There, the Crimson Tide won their fifth national championship under Saban.
Daboll finished his season with Alabama and likely had exploratory conversations with Belichick about returning to New England as the Patriots offensive coordinator when McDaniels had all-but-accepted a position as the Indianapolis Colts head coach. McDaniels stayed in New England, and so Daboll joined the Bills as their offensive coordinator.
Brian Daboll’s biggest moment
Daboll has had quite the championship pedigree in his coaching career, as he has won five Super Bowls as a Patriots assistant and won the national championship last season as the offensive coordinator for Alabama.
His work at Alabama in 2017 culminated in a dramatic national championship game. The Crimson Tide were trailing 13-0 after two quarters, and their offensive was struggling mightily. Daboll had been lobbying head coach Nick Saban for three months to bench starting quarterback Jalen Hurts in favor of freshman Tua Tagovailoa. Saban had vetoed Daboll’s requests for months, but finally relented during halftime. and made the change at halftime.
Tagovailoa threw for 166 yards and three touchdowns, including the game-winning 41-yard touchdown pass on a 2nd and 26 in overtime.
That game would be the final for Daboll as Alabama’s offensive coordinator, as reports surfaced he was frustrated by his lack of control on personnel matters.
In Brian Daboll’s own words
A day after the Packers lost a dramatic game to the Los Angeles Rams this season, the New England Patriots traveled to Buffalo to face off against the Bills on Monday Night Football. The game pitted two expected candidates for the Packers head coaching gig – Daboll and Patriots offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels – against each other.
Daboll has known McDaniels since the pair worked together under Saban at Michigan State, but the Bills offensive coordinator acknowledged his playbook was significantly different than McDaniels.
"Will the [Patriots] recognize some things on tape?” Daboll said before the game. “I’m sure they will. Just like we do. But at the end of the day, none of that matters. It matters how you go out and execute."
What are the chances Brian Daboll is the next Packers head coach?
Jon’s Rating: 1/5
Stupid things matter in the NFL. People get hired, fired, drafted, cut, and traded for so many things that have nothing to do with actual football. Perception matters way more than it should, and that’s the biggest reason I don’t think someone like Brian Daboll will get a real shot at becoming the next head coach of the Packers.
As Gary astutely lays out below, Daboll has made a lot of chicken salad out of the chicken… uh… byproduct he’s had to work with over the course of his coaching career. Unfortunately, I don’t think that’s going to matter when it comes to the perception of Daboll’s career.
The Packers have shown over the last year that they’re hyper-aware of the perception of their staff and the franchise as a whole. After a long period of apparent complacency, Mark Murphy has quickly pulled the trigger on changes related to personnel widely considered outside the walls of 1265 Lombardi Avenue to be holding the Packers back.
In the wake of those changes, I think it would be hard for the Packers to sell the idea of hiring a head coach who, outside of his work with the Patriots, has never been of an NFL team that’s won more than six games in a season. Daboll may be a transcendent offensive mind, but getting Packers fans on board with the hire would be tough.
Gary’s Rating: 1/5
Brian Daboll has had just about the worst luck as an offensive coordinator in the NFL. In stints with the Browns, Dolphins, and Bills, Daboll’s offenses have started the following quarterbacks: Derek Anderson, Brady Quinn, Colt McCoy, Jake Delhomme, Seneca Wallace, Chad Henne, Matt Moore, Matt Cassel, Nathan Peterman, and Josh Allen.
A Rochester, New York columnist suggested Daboll has been handed a near-impossible task as an offensive coordinator, “like asking Michelangelo to paint the Sistine Chapel wearing oven mitts.”
Daboll’s eight NFL seasons as a coach away from Belichick and the Patriots have resulted in no playoff appearances and just one winning season. That lone winning season was 2008, when he coincidentally wound up as the Jets quarterbacks coach after New York traded for Brett Favre. Injuries hampered Favre’s play that year, as the Jets missed the playoffs but finished 9-7.
There are glimpses of hope buried in Daboll’s resume; he was the architect of the Browns offense when Peyton Hillis exploded onto the scene, for example. His players call him a “genius,” and he might be… but he hasn’t had even a decent supporting cast around him.
As Jon mentioned when discussing Josh McDaniels, Belichick’s former assistants have made lousy head coaches. Six former assistants – Weis, Crennel, Mangini, McDaniels, Bill O’Brien, and Matt Patricia – have a combined record of 175-225 as head coaches. That’s an average season record of 7-9. I don’t think the Packers are willing to risk the final years of Rodgers on being the team to hire a coach that reverses the trend.