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Brian Daboll mulls decision to make with Giants starters

If you talk to Tom Coughlin, one of his great moments in his 12 years as the head coach of the Giants — and, don’t forget, he won two Super Bowls in that span — was the voicemail left by John Madden the day after the Giants ended their 2007 regular season with a 38-35 loss to the Patriots. 

The Giants were locked into their playoff position and the Patriots were 15-0 and going for the first 16-0 regular season in NFL history. Coughlin opted to play all his starters and nearly pulled off the upset at Giants Stadium. Madden was so taken by this that he called Coughlin to revel in the decision to compete as if the game mattered to the Giants. 

“I think it’s one of the best things to happen in the NFL in the last 10 years,’’ Madden said. “I believe so firmly in this: That there is only one way to play the game, and it is a regular-season game and you go out and win the darn game.’’ 

Brian Daboll
Brian Daboll must now decide whether or not he wants to rest his
Giants starters vs. the Eagles.

Madden, admitting “I’m a little emotional about it’’ went on to tell Coughlin “We’ve gotten too much of ‘Well, they’re going to rest their players and don’t need to win, therefore they won’t win.’ Well, that’s not sports and that’s not competition.’’ 

Move 15 years into the future and the Giants, this time with a new head coach, Brian Daboll, find themselves in a similar — but hardly identical — situation. The Giants are the No. 6 seed in the NFC and cannot move up or down. They face the Eagles (13-3) at 4:25 p.m. Sunday at Lincoln Financial Field, with the Eagles needing to win to secure the No. 1 seed and the first-round bye. The Giants (9-6-1) can rest any or every starter if they wish and then gear up for their wild-card playoff game, most likely at Minneapolis and less likely at San Francisco. 

Daboll on Monday, the day after his team clinched the first playoff berth for the franchise in six years with a resounding 38-10 pummeling of the Colts, said he was still formulating a plan for the Eagles game and did not see much of a connection with Coughlin’s go-for-it approach against the unbeaten Patriots. 

“I think every situation is different,’’ Daboll said. “That’s a pretty unique circumstance that year — the record that the Patriots had. And every year’s different. So what happened in 2007 doesn’t really have any effect on what’s happening in 2023 for the decisions that we need to make. 

“We’ll do what we think is best for the team and sit down and have conversations. By the end of the week, we’ll have our plan dialed in. Would they have done that [in 2007] if a team was 10-6? Who knows? I don’t really know the answer to that.’’ 

Players are off Monday and Tuesday and will have a better sense of what comes next when they return to work Wednesday. 

“He’s gonna make the right call whatever it is,’’ safety Julian Love told The Post. “Dabes has been in this situation many times in his career, whatever he says we’re gonna do, we trust him. He’s led us in the right way all season long.’’ 

Yes, Daboll has been a part of many playoff teams in his time in the NFL. Most recently, Daboll was the offensive coordinator in Buffalo working for head coach Sean McDermott. When the Bills late in a season (2019) could not improve their playoff positioning they rested their starters. The next year, they played their starters one half to try to retain the No. 2 seed. In 2021, they played their starters the entire game in order to clinch the AFC East. Daboll might or might not follow this script. For the first time, he calls the shots. 

“I think you draw from all your experiences,’’ Daboll said. “We’ve got to make decisions on … what’s best for our team, not any other team that I’ve been part of.’’ 

It is likely that Daboll will decide that any player with a nagging physical issue will sit this game out. Defensive lineman Leonard Williams (neck) comes to mind. The workloads of Daniel Jones and Saquon Barkley have been heavy and the risk of tweaking an ankle or knee is always present. The risk-reward in who plays and who sits is one of those tough calls a first-year head coach wants to be in a position to make. 

“It’s only right if it works, right?’’ Daboll said. “So, if you do one thing and it doesn’t work, you do the other thing and something happens, you’re wrong no matter what. So, if you go out there and lay an egg, it’s the wrong decision. If you win, it’s the right decision.’’ 

Players have praised Daboll’s competitive fire and it would be a departure for him to push back on anything. 

“I anticipate we play, for the most part we give ’em a run,’’ Love said. “You want to keep momentum going. Analytics and things nowadays you never know it could shake out. For my way, I want to play.’’

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