Robert Saleh defends Brian Daboll’s controversial late field goal call: ‘I would’ve done the same thing’

Brian Daboll Giants
New York Giants head coach Brian Daboll (AP Photo/Duane Burleson)

EAST RUTHERFORD — Fourth and One. 28 seconds to go. 

The tide of the entire 2023 season shifted for both the New York Jets and New York Giants Sunday afternoon on one play-call. 

Clinging to a 10-7 lead late in the contest, and with his third-string quarterback, Giants head coach Brian Daboll elected to kick a 35-yard field goal to try and go up by six in the final seconds against a Jets offense that had recorded just one third-down conversion all game. 

The decision would backfire thanks to Graham Gano hooking the field goal wide, and leaving Gang Green with enough time on the clock to get into field goal range. Two completions of 29 yards from Zach Wilson and the offense would get the Jets into field goal range to send an ugly Sunday contest into overtime. A late pass interference call on his defense would send Daboll’s squad home with another loss, and question the late-game decisions of the head coach. 

While there are those vilifying the Giants’ head honcho following the subsequent 13-10 overtime loss to the Jets, one fellow head coach made it clear that he agreed with his counterpart’s decision.

“I felt like kicking the field goal was the right thing to do,” Jets head coach Robert Saleh said. “You make it a touchdown lead, no timeouts, 30 seconds left? I probably would’ve done the same thing.”

It was Saleh’s staff that breathed a sigh of relief when, for the second time on Sunday, Gano missed a makeable field goal he had seemingly hit numerous times before in his 14-year NFL career. 

Perhaps that was part of the problem though when it decided that. As strong as Gano has been over the years, his 71% field goal percentage this year is the lowest in over a decade. Whether it’s part of the left knee injury he has been dealing with or not, the Giants haven’t had a lot of success on special teams this year from their Pro Bowl kicker. 

Compounding the controversial call from Daboll was the fact that all the G-Men needed was a single yard to put the game away. The Giants had recorded over 200 yards rushing on Sunday against Saleh’s stout defensive front, while Saquon Barkley had a season-high in yards (128).

Why use your struggling kicker instead of gaining a yard with a group that was playing well all day? 

Helping Daboll’s case at the very least is his kicker. Following the loss, Gano spoke publicly stating that the decision to kick a field goal up three late was solely on him to execute. 

“If I make those kicks, we win the game,” Gano explained. “It’s frustrating. I care about this team, the fans, I put a lot of work into this. It sucks, it sucks that I let everybody down. You can put it straight on me; there is nobody else honestly. This one is on me for sure.”

Brian Daboll under fire for coaching decision
New York Giants place kicker Graham Gano (9) reacts after kicking a field goal during the first half of an NFL football game against the New York Jets, Sunday, Oct. 29, 2023, in East Rutherford, N.J. (AP Photo/Adam Hunger)

Following the loss that moved the Giants to 2-6 on the season, Daboll maintained that he felt he made the right call.

“Our defense was playing really good all game so that’s why I made the decision,” Daboll stated. “There’s always a flip side. It’s a decision we made to kick and it didn’t work out.”

Hindsight is what it is. Perhaps if the Giants failed to convert on the fourth and one, the Jets would’ve still found a way to get into field goal range and come back to win. Then the question would have been why the Giants coaching staff didn’t try and go up by six points instead of leaving the opportunity for Gang Green to come back. 

That is the way things go for a team that falls to 2-6 on the year and effectively ends their hopes of reaching the playoffs for the second straight year. Daboll and his coaching staff will have to pick up the pieces in a group that has now lost their two starting quarterbacks, and several key offensive linemen. 

As controversial as the call ended up being, even the Jets coaching staff agrees with the decision made by Big Blue. The difference is that Gang Green’s side can look back at this game happily over .500 while the Giants are left with more questions than answers. 

What would you have done?

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