The Buffalo Bills’ OC is overseeing what’s arguably the hottest offense in football while keeping an eye on a potential future elsewhere.
Buffalo Bills fans in the new century are used to seeing coaches come and go. Brian Daboll is the 12th man to hold the title of Buffalo offensive coordinator since Joe Pendry’s three-year term ended after the 2000 season. Among the names before him are Kevin Gilbride, Alex Van Pelt, and Greg Roman. Gilbride won a Super Bowl in the same spot with the Giants, while Van Pelt and Roman have opportunities to do in their respective roles with Cleveland and Baltimore. But they were unable to unlock the offensive potential Western New York had to offer and were subsequently bid farewell.
Daboll is likewise writing his Buffalo coda, but, from a personal standpoint, it comes under the sweetest circumstances on the precipice of football nirvana.
The 45-year-old Ontario, Canada native is not only partaking in one of the eight remaining active Super Bowl treks but he is also on the forefront of the minds of those seeking to reopen their championship windows. As one of the most popular candidates for an open head coaching spot, Daboll has interviewed with the New York Jets and Los Angeles Chargers and other teams have reportedly expressed interest. Per NFL procedures, Daboll can’t officially be hired until the Bills’ season ends. It’ll extend to at least Saturday night, as the Bills battle Roman and the Ravens in the opening leg of the AFC Divisional playoffs (8:15 p.m. ET, NBC).
While Bills fans may have come to grips with the likelihood that Daboll’s Buffalo career won’t make it to Valentine’s Day, they certainly hope that the outside attention won’t take his focus away from their magical season in progress. Under Daboll’s watch, Buffalo’s offense ranks at or near the top of almost every major statistical category, and franchise quarterback Josh Allen has become an MVP candidate in his care. Their 13-win season has snapped countless streaks of futility on the Bills’ ledger. For example, they won their first playoff game in over a quarter-century last weekend in the Wild Card round against Indianapolis.
Prior to the 27-24 win over the Colts, Daboll assured Bills Mafia that they had nothing to worry about when it came to his current mindset.
“(I’m) humbled by it, but (I’m) focused on what we have to do here,” Daboll said of the situation, per Nick Wojton of Bills Wire. “You have a tremendous challenge ahead of you. You better be focused.”
Buffalo earned 397 yards in their Wild Card triumph, a few tallies about their average of 396.5, second in the NFL behind only Kansas City. They ranked 23rd in total offense last season but have been energized by Allen’s breakout season as well as the arrival of former Minnesota playoff hero Stefon Diggs.
“I hate to keep giving him so much credit because I don’t want anyone to steal him from me,” Diggs said with a smile in a report from Marcel Louis-Jacques of ESPN. “He’s a guy that knows what he’s doing, he knows the flow of the game, knows when to call what. We just trust him, whatever he calls, I’m running it…He always has our back and I (haven’t) seen him miss yet.”
Daboll is a rare Bills representative who has tasted the finest nectars mainstream football has to offer. He was an active contributor to five of the New England Patriots’ six Super Bowl titles in a variety of assistant roles (most recently as the tight ends coach in 2013-16). During a brief college interlude, Daboll was the University of Alabama Crimson Tide’s offensive coordinator during their 2017 national title run.
The call from the Bills came shortly after the Tide rolled to an overtime victory in the College Football Playoff National Championship Game. Buffalo’s offense came home 30th in his first year as they struggled to a 6-10 mark. The move up to 23rd was quiet on paper, but general manager Brandon Beane was enthused by the progress.
“Going back to when Brian was here in ’18, obviously (we were) very young on offense and inexperienced at critical positions,” Beane recalled in Louis-Jacques’ story. “Then you go to ’19 and, all right, we helped the O-line, it’s Year 2 for Josh and we gave him a couple weapons in Cole (Beasley) and John Brown, but we still don’t have enough here yet. I thought what Brian did from 18 to 19 showed growth and it obviously starts with the most critical position. Look at Josh’s growth and what he did. Brian was hands-on in that.”
Daboll is well versed in the challenges ahead, despite his conversations elsewhere. The Bills (14-3) will have to navigate through the rest of the postseason without rookie Zack Moss, one of their top running backs. Baltimore (12-5) is also well known for their pressure and pass rush. They worked their way into the Divisional round with a 20-13 win over the Tennessee Titans on Sunday afternoon.
In their victory, the Ravens held the high-powered Titans offense to a mere 209 yards and 12 first downs. All-Pro rusher Derrick Henry tallied a mere 40 yards on 18 carries, with none of his rushes going beyond eight yards. Daboll also pointed out that Baltimore’s pressures and quarterback knockdowns top the league.
“They’re the top defense that we’ve played all year,” Daboll said, per Bills reporter Jordan LaBarber. “That’s what the playoffs are. Those are the moments that you live for. Highly competitive individuals playing in tough games that are meaningful games, and it will be a challenge.”
Geoff Magliocchetti is on Twitter @GeoffJMags