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CAPACCIO: What you need to know about Brian Daboll

Get to know his bio, rankings, and offensive schemes

Sal Capaccio
January 14, 2018 - 11:13 pm

The Buffalo Bills have tabbed Brian Daboll as their new offensive coordinator, replacing Rick Dennison, who was fired on Friday.

So, who is Daboll? What have his units accomplished in his time as an NFL coordinator? And what does he mean for the Bills' offense in 2018? Let’s look at all of those questions in three parts below:


BIO:

Although born in Welland, Ontario, Canada, Daboll became a Western New Yorker at a young age, graduating from St. Francis High School in 1993, then graduating from the University of Rochester in 1997 after starting two years at safety for their football team. He immediately began his coaching career that fall, spending one year as a volunteer assistant at the College of William & Mary. That same year, Bills head coach Sean McDermott was an All-Conference safety at the school. Daboll then went on to spend two seasons as a graduate assistant for Nick Saban at Michigan State.

Daboll’s NFL coaching career began when he was hired by Bill Belichick to be a defensive coaching assistant in New England from 2000-2001. He flipped to the other side of the ball the next year and coached the Patriots’ wide receivers from 2002-2006.

Daboll moved on from New England to become the New York Jets’ quarterbacks coach from 2007-2008, then got his first opportunity as an offensive coordinator with the Cleveland Browns in both 2009 under head coach Eric Mangini, spending two years in that role.  

After Mangini was fired, Daboll was hired to the same position with the Miami Dolphins in 2011 by Tony Sparano, who was fired in December that season. Daboll was then hired by head coach Romeo Crennel to be the offensive coordinator of the Kansas City Chiefs in 2012. Crenell was dismissed at the end of that season and Daboll went back to New England to be an offensive assistant for Belichick in 2013.

After one season in that role, Daboll was named tight ends coach for the Patriots and remained in that position from 2014-2016.  

15 days after the Patriots won Super Bowl LI, Daboll was named the new offensive coordinator (as well as quarterbacks coach) for the University of Alabama, once again working under Saban just as he did 19 years before that. Last Monday night, the Crimson Tide won the College Football Playoff National Championship, beating Georgia 26-23 in overtime.

Overall, Daboll has won five Super Bowl championships, all with the Patriots (Super Bowls XXXVI, XXXVIII, XXXIX, XLIX, and LI) and one College Football National Championship.


RANKINGS:

Here are the offensive rankings of Daboll’s units while a coordinator for four years in the NFL. Each rank is out of 32 NFL teams:

At Alabama for one season, Daboll’s offense ranked (out of 129 FBS schools):

  • 29th in total offense (444.1 yards per game)
  • 15th in points per game (37.1)
  • 13th in rushing yards per game (250.6)
  • 91st in passing yards per game (193.4)


SCHEME/PHILOSOPHY:

Judging from Daboll’s previous NFL stops, he’s certainly leaned much more on the run than the pass overall, ranking among the lowest in the league in percentage of passing plays versus running plays. Here are the run/pass ratios of Daboll’s teams as a coordinator, and where that percentage of passing plays ranked out of 32 teams:

  • 2009 Browns (51% Run/49% Pass; 30th)
  • 2010 Browns (45/55; 19th)
  • 2011 Dolphins (47/53; 27th)
  • 2012 Chiefs (49/51; 29th)

Taking a look at the staring quarterbacks Daboll has had to work with in his four years as a coordinator might explain why his offenses have been so run-heavy:

  • 2009 Browns - Brady Quinn, Derek Anderson
  • 2010 Browns - Colt McCoy, Jake Delhomme, Seneca Wallace
  • 2011 Dolphins - Matt Moore, Chad Henne
  • 2012 Chiefs - Matt Cassel, Brady Quinn

One theme that has consistently come up a lot when researching Daboll’s history is that he tries to use mismatches with personnel in his offense, tailoring the game plan to each specific opponent on a weekly basis. Here’s what he told reporters after a 24-10 win over LSU last year: 

"You choose what you want to do and each week based on what the other team does, based on the coverages that they play.  You don't just draw up new stuff every week...We can expand that or contract it or use the things that we think are best based on what the other team plays. I think that's what we've tried to do all year long and that's what gives the players the best chance to execute."

One difference Bills fans may see in the offense next year, which will most likely be a welcome sight, is the return to more of a “power” or “gap” blocking run scheme. That’s primarily what the Bills utilized for two years under Greg Roman and Anthony Lynn in 2015 and 2016 when they led the league in both yards per-game and yards per-play both years and set franchise records in several rushing categories.  

This past year under Rick Dennison, the Bills used much more of a “zone” blocking scheme. After struggling in the run game through the better part of the first five weeks, Dennison began incorporating more power blocking into the run game after their bye week and it paid off. At season’s end, the Bills ranked sixth in yards per-game on the ground and 14th in yards per-play, but still far below where they had been in the previous two years. Although LeSean McCoy still finished fourth in the NFL in rushing yards, he had the lowest yards per-attempt of his NFL career in 2017, averaging 4.0 per-carry.

Daboll's offenses have produced a 1,000 yard rusher in three of his four years as an NFL coordinator.

In the passing game, Daboll’s schemes have mostly included dropback passing attacks, as opposed to some of the rollout concepts we saw last year under Dennison. Also, he hasn’t been shy about featuring one player, whether that’s a wide receiver, tight end, or running back. For example, in 2011 with the Dolphins, wideout Brandon Marshall was eighth in the league with 141 targets. He finished 10th in the NFL with 1,214 yards.  

In 2010, the Browns’ Ben Watson had 102 targets and 68 catches. Both numbers ranked fifth amongst all tight ends that year.

In 2012 in Kansas City, running back Jamaal Charles finished sixth in the league in touches with 285 rushing attempts (the most of his career) and 35 catches out of the backfield. He finished fifth in yards from scrimmage that year with 1,745.


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