The Giants called Brian Flores’ allegations of a “sham” interview “simply false.”
But people who have known Flores for a long time from various sides of the NFL business — coaches, agents, coworkers, friends — say they know him to be always honest, if nothing else.
That’s something to consider while processing one of the news stories of the year in a week filled with Giants news.
— Here’s what I was told by reliable sources about the week leading up to Brian Daboll’s hiring: new Giants GM Joe Schoen believed early in the process that Daboll was likely going to take the Miami Dolphins job. Daboll didn’t decide until Friday, the day he received his offer, that he would take the Giants over the Dolphins.
The Giants made calls early in the week, also before Flores’ Thursday interview, to lay the groundwork for a possible Dan Quinn staff (though the team denied it). Quinn might have been the pick but told the Giants no thanks due to reservations that I’m still reporting out.
Giants ownership wanted Flores. Flores wanted the Giants job. Schoen thought Flores’ interview was impressive but preferred Daboll because he was more confident in their ability to work collaboratively.
Plus, two objective facts: Schoen was the first of nine GM candidates to interview with the Giants, and he was hired. Then Daboll was the first of six coach candidates to interview, and he was hired.
— The fact the Giants have never had a Black head coach is a stain on the organization. The only time a Black quarterback started a game for the franchise (Geno Smith in 2017), the organization fired its GM and head coach the next day. Jerry Reese, who is Black, served as the Giants’ GM from 2007-17, winning two Super Bowls. He has received only a handful of interviews since.
— What matters most in proving or disproving Flores’ allegations against the Giants is where Bill Belichick got his information. It would be damning if the Patriots’ head coach heard from someone in Giants ownership or the front office that Daboll was the team’s choice three or more days before Flores’ interview. If that didn’t happen or can’t be proven, it will be difficult for Flores to validate that allegation.
The Giants’ statement on Belichick was: “Mr. Belichick does not speak for and has no affiliation with the Giants. Mr. Belichick’s text exchange provides no insight into what actually transpired during our head coaching search.”
I’m not sure I’d agree with the second sentence. Belichick is extremely connected. If he was telling Daboll he’d heard he was the Giants’ choice, he was hearing that reliably. The question is: from whom?
We know John Mara and the Giants have pursued Belichick assistants as head coaches in three straight cycles now: Matt Patricia in 2018, Joe Judge in 2020 and Daboll in 2022. Patricia chose the Lions over the Giants. Judge and Daboll took the Giants gig. We also know Belichick personally endorsed Judge to Mara, so they communicate.
Flores noted this dynamic in a recent NPR interview.
“I think there are back channel conversations and back channel meetings that are had that oftentimes influence decisions,” he said. “I think [the Giants hiring process] is a clear example of that. Bill Belichick is a clear example of that. His resume speaks to that. It was clear to me that [Daboll] decision was made with his influence. That’s part of the problem. That needs to change.”
— Everyone should take notice of Flores’ allegation that Giants co-director of player personnel Tim McDonnell, John Mara’s nephew, texted and spoke with Flores to express interest on the same day the Giants fired Joe Judge.
The Giants have reacted viscerally and vindictively in recent weeks in response to public questioning or second-guessing of the owning family’s meddling. But if this allegation is true, it’s a clear example of ownership pulling strings long before it hires a GM — and possibly even before firing Judge (we don’t know what time that alleged text was sent).
The lawsuit alleges that Flores and McDonnell went as far as discussing potential GM and coaching staff candidates. The Giants then confirmed that Mara then reached out to Flores directly on Jan. 12 and that they spoke on Zoom on Jan. 18. Schoen wasn’t hired until Jan. 21.
The Maras ultimately did let Schoen make the hire, which is why Daboll is the coach, to my understanding. But McDonnell’s early (premature?) alleged overture, and Chris Mara’s significant involvement in the hiring processes, reflect that the owning family’s behind-the-scenes influence is not overblown in the least.
— The hiring of Chiefs QB coach Mike Kafka as Giants offensive coordinator is interesting. Browns WRs coach Chad O’Shea was believed to be Daboll’s top candidate initially, and Texans QB coach Pep Hamilton seemed like a clear home run.
Kafka, 34, has been a rising star in the coaching ranks, so it’s intriguing to think of him and Daboll possibly blending the schemes of the Bills and Chiefs. But it’s not clear yet who will call the plays. Schoen has said he prefers Daboll doesn’t call plays, but Kafka never has. And while hiring offensive coaches from Buffalo and Kansas City is great, the Giants can’t bring Josh Allen or Patrick Mahomes down to New Jersey with them.
Hamilton had done excellent work with the Chargers’ Justin Herbert and the Texans’ Davis Mills the past two seasons, drawing the best out of both QBs. I thought, given Daniel Jones’ need to take a major step forward, that made Hamilton the guy. We’ll see if Daboll, Kafka and new reported QB coach Shea Tierney can get the job done.
— Patrick Graham’s interview for the Raiders defensive coordinator position on Friday reinforces the possibility that the Giants’ DC might not return to New York. Graham interviewed for the Vikings and Giants head coaching jobs and the Steelers’ DC job. The Giants have been leaking constantly that Graham was likely going to return if he didn’t land Minnesota’s head coaching job, because Daboll wants to retain him. But nothing was certain as of Friday, and Graham’s decision to continue interviewing elsewhere is telling, especially with former Patriots colleague Josh McDaniels now running the Las Vegas show. If Graham leaves, keep an eye on former Ravens DC Don “Wink” Martindale as a potential Giants defensive coordinator.
— The Giants announced on Jan. 10 that Dave Gettleman was retiring and had informed ownership “within the past few days.” But at Schoen’s introductory press conference on Jan. 26, Mara admitted he had started researching GM candidates “six or eight weeks ago, maybe a little longer” — or sometime between November and Dec. 15.
There’s no point in crying over spilled milk, but this is just a reminder that the Giants really fired Gettleman, and that everyone knew he was out long before that propaganda press release.
— It should be noted that the Giants and general counsel William Heller are still defendants in an open lawsuit in Bergen County Superior Court — filed by former video director David Maltese — that alleges “a culture of violence in the workplace by Giants’ management toward subordinates.”
Evidence includes a transcript of Maltese’s Sept. 30, 2020 call with Heller and VP of human resources Debra Agosta that quotes Heller allegedly telling Maltese: “Dave I shouldn’t say what I’m going to say next, but I’m going to say it … If it leaves this Zoom call I will personally … come to your office and strangle you until you could no longer breath[e], okay?”
Heller is still listed as the team’s senior VP & general counsel on the team’s official website. This is also the same organization that settled a lawsuit alleging memorabilia fraud by Eli Manning and the Giants in 2018 — and then cleared out the equipment staff that was allegedly complicit.