The head coach “adamantly denied that he took over the play-calling from offensive coordinator Mike Kafka in the second half despite him being shown speaking with the play sheet covering his mouth repeatedly on the FOX broadcast,” according to Dan Duggan of The Athletic.
Daboll may not have taken the reins from Kafka, but the Giants’ offense was a different unit after getting shutout during the first half at State Farm Stadium. Jones was able to produce a litany of big plays, both through the air and on the ground during the third and fourth quarters.
Subtle changes to the scheme bore fruit for Jones and his supporting cast. Those changes also fuel speculation about who was actually calling the plays.
Daboll Appeared to Take the Lead
Not everybody is convinced Daboll wasn’t setting the direction for the Giants’ offense during the second half against the Cards. Among the doubters, Justin Penik of Talkin’ Giants highlighted every shot of Daboll speaking behind his play-sheet that appeared on the FOX Sports broadcast.
Those shots, compared with how Daboll conducted himself on the sidelines during Week 1’s humbling 40-0 shutout loss to the Dallas Cowboys, led Penik to claim the head coach “was calling plays on Sunday.”
It’s not a stretch to think Daboll took the lead in Week 2. He built his reputation as one of the NFL’s best play-callers during a four-year stint as offensive coordinator for the Buffalo Bills.
His time with the Bills got Daboll the job with the Giants and prompted many to think he would continue calling plays as a head coach. Such speculation was refuted when Daboll hired Kafka and turned over play-calling duties to the former quarterbacks coach for the Kansas City Chiefs.
Perhaps Daboll changed his mind after watching the Giants endure a scoreless run not seen since 1934, according to Ralph Vacchiano of Fox Sports.
While expecting another Championship is a stretch, maybe Daboll acted to stop this season from coming completely off the rails. Or perhaps he simply began applying a verbal checkmark next to every one of Kafka’s calls.
Micro-managing from head coaches doesn’t always find favor with coordinators, but a more collaborative approach can discover solutions a sole play-caller may struggle to find.
Perhaps the best indication of a change in play-caller came from how the Giants featured one particular personnel grouping more often after halftime. The change was detailed by Duggan, who noted how the “Giants used 12 personnel on 11 plays in the second half: 6-7 passing for 160(!) yards, 4 carries for 29 yards.”
Maybe Daboll didn’t usurp Kafka completely, but instead he asked to see more one running back, two-tight end personnel groupings. The switch helped Jones get back to his best form from last season.
Giants Sparked Offense With Winning Formula From 2022
It would have been natural for Daboll to assume play-calling responsibility after Kafka’s unit initially failed to improve following Week 1. Fortunately for Kafka, last season’s winning formula came to Big Blue’s rescue after a sixth-straight quarter without troubling the scoreboard,
Forcing defenses to gang up on running back Saquon Barkley, then exploiting those same opponents with designed running from Jones and big strikes off play-action passing, worked wonders for the Giants in 2022.
Those things helped Jones deliver a historic second-half showing against Arizona, per OptaSTATS.
What changed for Jones and his offense? One difference was obvious. The Giants began pushing the ball vertically and stretching the field early in the second half.
This new emphasis was summed up by Jones’ 58-yard connection with rookie wide receiver Jalin Hyatt. The play was highlighted by NFL Network’s Brian Baldinger, who focused on how the Giants used play-action passing to target underneath receivers for big gains after Hyatt’s grab.
This was the Giants of last season when Kafka was calling plays that helped Jones enjoy a career year and get paid. Seeing Jones revert to type strengthens the belief Kafka was still dialling things up in Arizona, but Daboll looked heavily involved in the whole process as his team continued their comeback.
James Dudko covers the New York Giants, New England Patriots and Baltimore Ravens for Heavy.com. He has covered the NFL and world soccer since 2011, with bylines at FanSided, Prime Time Sports Talk and Bleacher Report before joining Heavy in 2021. More about James Dudko
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