Skip to main content

Daboll's approach rooted in preparation and flexibility


Trying to pin an NFL play caller down on what kind of scheme he likes to run is in many ways the same cat and mouse game that coordinators play against one another on Sundays. Who can outmaneuver who? Who can adjust to stay ahead of their opponent?

For Bills new offensive coordinator Brian Daboll, asking him about his plans for Buffalo's offense is just as fruitless. But not so much because he wants to be evasive. It's because his approach to offense is as adaptable as they come.

"You have to be multi-dimensional. You have to be able to throw it when they know you're going to throw it and run it when they know you're going to run it," he said. "That's the toughest thing in the National Football League because each week is such a demanding amount of time in terms of preparation, going through the week and then getting to play a really good opponent.

"Regardless of who you play, every team in professional football is good, so at the end of the day whether it's gap schemes, zone schemes, drop back passes, play action passes, you need to have all of those things. Then you go in each week and evaluate the team you're playing and what you have and try to put the best plan you have together to try to give yourself a chance."

In 2017, Buffalo's offense had trouble at times giving their team a chance to win. The Bills ranked 22nd in the league in scoring and had seven games in which they scored fewer than 17 points. They averaged less than 19 points per game (18.8).

The 11 other playoff teams besides the Bills averaged 25.6 points per game, more than a touchdown better.

"You have a variety of schemes that you can use, every offense does, week to week it should be different based on who you're playing and who you have," said Daboll. "But your ultimate goal is to score as many points as you can and that's a job of an offense."

Working at the elbow of Bill Belichick for the majority of the last 19 years, Daboll has been schooled on the value of preparation, and finding what will give his team the edge each week. That game plan is then formulated into play calls that should carry out the plan in the most effective way possible.

"You have to understand what your players do well, the strengths of your players," he said. "Then you have to try to understand the strengths and weaknesses of the team that you're playing. There's no secret recipe to a good call. You need to put in the time and the work just like the players do to give yourself a good chance."

Determining the strengths of his players will need to be on hold for the most part. Rosters turn over 25-30 percent on average year over year. And with a good deal of roster construction still on the horizon for GM Brandon Beane and head coach Sean McDermott, having a flexible scheme is essential.

Flexibility was also a problem for Buffalo's offense last season. Often times a strong first half could not be duplicated in the second half. The Bills scored a total of 19 points on the first possession in the second half for the 2017 season. It ranked 28th in the league.

As troublesome as halftime adjustments may have been, Daboll's approach to making changes within a game are wholly different.

"I've come from a school that adjustments start the minute that the game starts," he said. "It's not just at halftime. It could be after the first series, it could be after the third series. Until you get a feel for how the game's going and what you need to do and how you're getting played, there's no sense in waiting until halftime. You have to try to adjust as fast as you can."

Those adjustments apparently still take place after the game is over for Daboll, and not just in the bye week.

"I think that you try to self-evaluate all the time," he said. "How you deal with the staff, the players, calling the plays, situational football. You try to take a step back and evaluate the things you did well and the things you improved on. You do that each day, each week during the year."

A never-ending pursuit to improve is what attracted coach McDermott to Daboll in the first place.

"He's been around winning both at the NFL level and at the college level," McDermott said. "When you look at his history, he's known as a quality teacher [and] a bright offensive mind. When you look at what he's done over the years in coaching different positions, he's been a coordinator before. He really embraces that growth mindset that we look for."

And Daboll wants growth that goes far beyond the expertise that he brings to the table. He wants it to be a unit-wide type advancement knowing it will lift the offense as a whole.

"I think the most important thing is what we do," Daboll said. "The players on the team, the coaches, I think [if] everybody works in a cohesive unit, you have an opportunity to be successful, but everybody's got to be rowing in the same direction and it's more about 'we' and the vision of the head coach and Sean. I'm just part of the puzzle."

This article has been reproduced in a new format and may be missing content or contain faulty links. Please use the Contact Us link in our site footer to report an issue.