Brian Daboll runs with the QBs at training camp
Brian Daboll hasn't always been a friend to quarterbacks. Daboll, the Jets' first-year QB coach, played free safety at the University of Rochester and pulled off a memorable trifecta his final season.
"I guess that was my defining moment in college — three picks in one game against Case Western my junior year," Daboll said today. "The most important thing is we won that game, because we didn't win a lot in college."
After he suffered a neck injury, Daboll was done playing football. He began to help out the Rochester coaches and then found himself at the right place at the right time down in Virginia.
"I went down to William & Mary. It was kind of a fluke deal there. One of the quality control guys — basically, it was a restricted-earnings position — decided he was going to law school," he said. "I happened to be down there just on a little visit and I walked in there and talked to one of the guys. I just found out that the guy went to law school was Erin O'Brien's brother."
O'Brien is the Jets' current assistant to head coach Eric Mangini.
When they say restricted earnings, they mean it. Daboll didn't get paid, but he got a start in college coaching.
"It was tough," he said of the financial hardship. "I got a lot of support for my grandparents. They took care of me, helped me out. I wouldn't have been able to do that without them."
Daboll is a very proud grandson. He grew up in Buffalo and was raised by his grandparents and his mother. He didn't have to look far to find a role model.
"My grandfather was a custodian. He was a groundskeeper at a local high school," Daboll said. "He never made a lot of money but that sonofagun worked hard. He had to get up and shovel all the snow for the schoolbuses and do all the fields. I watched him work. He was a hard worker."
Born in Welland, Ontario, Canada, Daboll moved across the border with his mother when he was still a toddler.
"My Grams took care of the family. She was kind of the matriarchal figure. My mother and I actually lived with my grandparents," he said. "My father left us when I was young, so they took us in and without them we would have never made it."
The William & Mary experience opened another collegiate door for Daboll. He moved on to Michigan State in 1998 and worked two seasons under Nick Saban as both an administrative assistant and a graduate assistant/defense.
"Those graduate assistantships are not easy to get. They are not high-profile gigs or anything, but they are really hard to get," he said. "Luckily, I fell into that one."
When Bill Belichick was searching for a defensive assistant in 2000, Saban raved about Daboll. In an October 2006 Boston Globe article, Belichick recounted his conversation with the former Spartans head coach.
"He told me, 'I don't know who else you have for that position, but you should compare Brian to whoever you have, because I don't think you'll find anyone better than him.' "
Mangini was the Patriots DB coach when Daboll arrived in New England. The youngster kept his head down but also took note of Mangini's interpersonal skills.
"He is very, very smart and has great attention to detail," Daboll said. "He knows how to interact with the players, knows how to communicate with them, whether it might be a guy who might not talk a lot or a guy that's a little brash. You have to learn to deal with a whole lot of different players in this business and he did a good job."
The Patriots promoted Daboll to WR coach and he spent the next five seasons in that capacity. He was credited with the development of receivers such as Deion Branch and David Givens and he did a fine job last season with a corps featuring players such as Reche Caldwell and Jabar Gaffney.
"No matter what position you are in, people need to understand that everything works together. The names are just names," he said. "It depends on how hard you work and how committed you are to doing it. If you get a group who does that — and not just one particular unit but everybody — that is how you get success."
Mangini hired Daboll in the off-season to work under coordinator Brian Schottenheimer. One of Daboll's great assets is his unique perspective gathered from working on both sides on the ball and under some of football's great coaches.
"I really respected him," Mangini said, "not just as a person but what he did with the group he had this year and what he did when he was working directly with me."
Daboll returns home this weekend with the Jets for the game against the Bills. He attempts to go back as often as he can in the off-season. Both of his children — son, Christian, and daughter, Haven — live in western New York, as do his grandparents and girlfriend. Daboll, who is a big fan of the NHL's Buffalo Sabres, takes Christian to a number of games each year.
He'll have a group of 20 to 25 supporters at Ralph Wilson Stadium Sunday, but that won't include Grandma. She gets too nervous at the games, but she should take comfort knowing things are going well for Brian and his quarterbacks.
"I love it. First and foremost, they are great guys," he said of the Jets' QBs. "They work extremely hard, they're a pleasure to deal with every day, they're smart, they just want to get better, they're inquisitive on how to get better, and then they go out and try to do it every week. It's been great to work with all these guys."