EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. — A decade ago, Brian Daboll and Nick Sirianni were together on the coaching staff of the Kansas City Chiefs, enduring what still stands as the toughest season of their professional careers.
Daboll was the offensive coordinator and Sirianni was his wide receivers coach, hired by the former to his first position coaching job in the NFL. The Chiefs, under head coach Romeo Crennel, finished the 2012 campaign with just two wins, tied for the fewest in the league.
They scored only 13.2 points per game, the lowest output in the league.
And their quarterbacks (Matt Cassel and Brady Quinn) threw 20 interceptions. The entire coaching staff, Daboll and Sirianni included, was fired at season’s end.
“It wasn’t by any means a year that either of us probably want to remember,” Sirianni said this week.
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Yet in a season to forget, Daboll and Sirianni forged a coaching bond that, to this day, both view among the most influential in the journey that got them to this point:
Daboll, now the first-year head coach of the Giants, and Sirianni, in his second season as head coach of the Eagles, set to face off against one another for the first time in the NFC East rivalry Sunday at MetLife Stadium.
The Eagles are 11-1 and considered not only the class of the NFC, but at this point the best in the entire league.
The Giants are a surprising 7-4-1, fighting for a playoff spot that seemed unlikely when Daboll and general manager Joe Schoen took over a team that had lost the most games in the NFL since 2017. These next two games for Big Blue will likely define how Daboll’s first season as a head coach is viewed, with the Eagles in town followed by a trip for a prime time rematch against Washington (7-5-1) next Sunday.
For the 47-year-old Daboll, this is a chance to match wits against a peer who earned his respect, and vice versa, when they worked shoulder-to-shoulder, sharing strategy, secrets and advice on how to succeed in this business.
“You could tell right from the beginning, I thought his arrow was pointing up, and fast, and certainly it has,” Daboll said of Sirianni, 41. “He’s done a fantastic job with the Eagles, to no one’s surprise … He’s meant a lot to me in my career, just in the conversations that we’ve had. He’s competitive, got some toughness about him, and I think he shows enough empathy and cares about his players. Unfortunate we’re in the same division here.”
Daboll and Sirianni grew up in western New York outside of Buffalo.
Upon their exits from Kansas City, they went their separate ways. Daboll returned to New England, where he had started his NFL coaching career with Bill Belichick as a defensive assistant, winning three Super Bowl rings. He eventually went to Alabama to reconnect with Nick Saban, with whom he won a national championship as offensive coordinator coaching, among others, quarterback Jalen Hurts and wide receiver DeVonta Smith, both of whom are cornerstones for what Sirianni is building in Philadelphia.
Sirianni landed with the Chargers where he hooked up with Frank Reich, who eventually brought him to Indianapolis as his offensive coordinator. He was tabbed as Doug Pederson’s successor with the Eagles last season. Daboll, meanwhile, wound up in Buffalo for four seasons as Sean McDermott’s offensive coordinator, raising his profile yet again as one of the brightest offensive minds in the league.
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The Giants hired Daboll to replace Joe Judge in January, which meant Sirianni and Daboll were about to cross paths for the first time since that fateful season in Kansas City.
“That’s what we try to do with players: how can we get these guys to raise their game to another level,” Sirianni said. “Well, Brian Daboll did that for me as a coach. I felt like I was here and he took me to a couple levels higher because of the things he taught me about offense, about defensive football. I just have so much respect for him and really appreciate everything he has done for my career because he made me a way better coach just being around him for a year.”
Daboll shared details with Sirianni regarding how to attack defenses, initially from his understanding of defensive schematics having played safety in college and served as a defensive assistant with the Patriots as his first NFL gig.
“We were 2-14, probably one of the hardest years professionally that I’ve had,” Sirianni said. “But it was one of the years I grew the most as a coach because of Brian Daboll, the things he taught me about, about the game of football, things I use to this day.”
Daboll raves about how Sirianni’s fingerprints are all over his team, praising the Eagles for their toughness and ability to attack opponents in every facet. He admitted this week that, had circumstances played out differently in the stages of their quest to become head coaches, Sirianni would’ve been on a short list of those he would have loved to work with again.
Now, Sirianni has the Eagles at the top of the division, with Daboll and the Giants chasing not only their lead, but the foundation that has been established in Philadelphia. Sirianni already sees Daboll and the Giants as worthy adversaries, even if they are touchdown underdogs and facing a considerable talent disparity in what they hope is the first of many meetings with the stakes only continuing to increase moving forward.
“I can’t say enough good things about [Daboll],” Sirianni said. “I can see why his team is playing so well, because they are sound [and] because they have a really good head football coach over there in New York.”
Story Credit: usatoday.com