Are the Giants succeeding because they are not afraid to fail?
This might be too deep of a thought a day or two after the second game of the season and could be the basis for the introductory lecture in the class entitled “Overthinking 101.” But there might be something to this.
The Giants are 2-0 and a fast start is already secured. It is too soon to stamp this as anything other than the byproduct of two inelegant wins over the Titans (21-20) and Panthers (19-16), but it is not too early to notice the way new head coach Brian Daboll is building his first Giants team.
He is determined to get as many players involved as possible, regardless of age, salary, NFL pedigree, name, rank or serial number. He is pressuring the team to prepare the right way while refusing to harp on the final result. He said he was absolutely at peace with going for the two-point conversion in Nashville even if it failed.
Daboll knows this is not the roster that will lead the Giants to big things in what he hopes is a prolonged stay as the man in charge. He likes his first team but understands the limitations. He is setting up the program to reflect his priorities and beliefs. He knows about the losing aura that hovered over the franchise he stepped into. Through two games, he has coached loose, not tight, coached to win, rather than not to lose. There is a difference.
“The guys we have on our team aren’t afraid of failure,” safety Xavier McKinney said. “We’ve been at the bottom, we’ve experienced all that so we’re not worried about messing up. We know we’re gonna have a breakthrough at some point.”
Is 2-0 a breakthrough?
“I don’t know, I guess,” McKinney said. “We got to keep working. I’ve learned in this league things can go south really fast.”
Adversity will hit at some point and when it does another line will be added to the Daboll résumé, referring to how he handles a loss, or two, or five. He has kept his ledger clean heading into Week 3, which is quite a feat.
The way Daboll has rotated his wide receivers is further proof he is unafraid of the consequences of going against the grain. Richie James gets 42 snaps on offense in the opener and only seven for Kadarius Toney? David Sills gets 67 snaps against the Panthers and only two for Kenny Golladay? This is a head coach unencumbered by whatever criticism may come his way.
True to the form he has shown, Daboll entrusted his defense to Wink Martindale, a grizzled veteran Daboll says “is not afraid of failure.” On cue, Martindale in Week 2 started rookie Dane Belton, making his NFL debut, on the back end of the defense, playing deep safety for 46 of the 58 snaps. The last line of defense, literally. Trepidation has no place at the table with Daboll and his staff.
Unafraid to fail? Here’s one definition:
“For a team, you just want guys to send it,” safety Julian Love said Monday. “You want guys to play fast, play free without worrying about being perfect. That’s something guys might have fallen victim to in recent years. Now, it’s just from top down, and it’s coaches too, being open and willing to send it and make mistakes.”
Love played as a rookie for Pat Shurmur and then for Joe Judge. He did not say it but he certainly implied that there was a fear of failure the past two years. He thought of a play he made — eventually — in the first quarter, as he tracked down Christian McCaffrey on a screen pass after a 6-yard gain. Love, in pursuit, slipped and fell to the turf. He ended up making the tackle.
“You just get up, you just play free,” he said. “Maybe in the past I might have thought, ‘My gosh, they’re gonna hate that on film,’ but there is none of that. You get up and you make a play because the team is depending on you to play loose and to play free.”
Daboll wants his players to know he has their backs, as long as they adhere to his three tenets of being smart, tough and dependable.
“You can get bogged down in this league pretty quick,” he said, “by making a mistake and letting it linger into the next play and the next play.”
The only feeling Daboll hopes will linger is a familiarity with winning. Through two games, it is all these Giants know.