The coach of the year typically refers to the coach whose team most exceeded the general expectations that existed before the season started. In 2022, plenty of coaches fell into that category. One managed to take his team to the playoffs under circumstances that seemed unlikely to the point of no chance in hell.
In a division that saw none of the four teams finish under .500 after 17 games were played, the Giants landed as the No. 6 seed in the conference, making it to the playoffs for only the second time in more than a decade, and for the first time since 2016.
Brian Daboll did it with a roster largely devoid of established talent. The two most important players on the roster — quarterback Daniel Jones and running back Saquon Barkley — were in contract years. The defense was a work in progress. The offensive line had been a liability, for years. The receivers were no-name castoffs, the bizarro version of Frank Sinatra’s “if you can make it there, you’ll make it anywhere” assessment of New York, New York.
And yet somehow, Daboll and the Giants cobbled together enough wins to get in.
There weren’t many signature wins. Beating the Titans on the road in Week One stands out, as does overpowering a then-potent Packers team in London. The Giants otherwise took care of business just often enough to emerge with sufficient wins to do that which few thought they’d be able to do, especially with a new coach and a new G.M.
There were other very worthy coaches. Kyle Shanahan took the 49ers to the No. 2 seed in the NFC despite losing a pair of starting quarterbacks to injury. He also effectively integrated running back Christian McCaffrey into an offense that helped spark a run of 10 straight victories, which nearly delivered the top seed in the conference. It didn’t hurt to have the best defense in the league.
In Jacksonville, Doug Pederson cleaned up Urban Meyer’s mess quickly, capturing first place in one of the weakest divisions in football — and laying the foundation for a bright future. Dan Campbell managed to propel the Lions from 1-6 to the fringes of the postseason; Mike Tomlin did the same with the Steelers, after starting 2-6 and willing the team to a winning record.
In Seattle, Pete Carroll took a team in which few believed back to the playoffs, without Russell Wilson — and with a defense that was a far cry from the Legion of Boom.
Then there’s the Vikings. First-year coach Kevin O’Connell managed to lead the team through one close win after another, finishing with a league-record 11 one-score games, even though the 13-4 Vikings ultimately were outscored by their opponents.
Another first-year coach, Mike McDaniel of the Dolphins, got his team to the playoffs despite multiple concussion issues with quarterback Tua Tagovailoa and a late-season five-game winning streak.
Bills coach Sean McDermott led his team through one adversity after another, putting them in position to perhaps finally get back to the Super Bowl for the first time in nearly 30 years.
Chiefs coach Andy Reid took a retooled offense to the No. 1 seed. Eagles coach Nick Sirianni had his team looking dominant for much of the season, capturing the top seed in the NFC.
There were indeed many great coaching jobs in 2022. But Daboll gets the nod for taking a Giants team that looked to be destined for yet another non-playoff season into the tournament.