BLOOMINGTON, Minn. — The meetings were more than meetings, more than the tedious grind of staring at video of football games and a white board covered with Xs and Os, lines and arrows.
These gatherings at the New England Patriots' facility had a personal feel to them, because Brian Daboll made a point of creating such an atmosphere.
"He always kind of treated us like family," Patriots fullback James Develin said. "He always said it was like we were his sons kind of thing. And I took that to heart."
This was from 2013 to 2016, when Daboll was an offensive assistant and tight ends coach for the Patriots. Develin attended the tight-end sessions that Daboll ran from '14 to '16, because his fullback duties overlapped with those in the primary position group.
And when Daboll's name is mentioned to him, in the context of what sort of offensive coordinator the Buffalo Bills are getting, Develin can't say enough good things about him.
"Dabes was a great coach, one of my favorite coaches I ever had in the NFL," Develin said. "Just a really personable guy and a very brilliant football mind. He understood our offense to a T and could really kind of give us any kind of knowledge that we needed to execute our job.
"That's really the whole goal of a coach is to put their players in the best positions to make plays that need to be made. I thought he always did that for us. He's a great guy."
Josh McDaniels, the Patriots' offensive coordinator who will officially become the next head coach of the Indianapolis Colts after the Pats face the Philadelphia Eagles in Super Bowl LII Sunday, is also a huge fan of his former co-worker.
"Very detailed," McDaniels said. "One of the best coaches that I've been around, no question about it."
Daboll had two coaching stints with the Patriots. The first, from 2000 to 2006, was as a defensive coaching assistant and wide receivers coach.
McDaniels, who also has had two coaching stints with the Pats, was with Daboll in all of Daboll's capacities in New England. He has watched him, season after season, excel at preparing Patriot players to perform at their best before becoming offensive coordinator at the University of Alabama in 2017.
"It doesn't matter what he's coaching or who he's coaching, those guys are going to be ready to play," McDaniels said. "They're going to be really well prepared. He'll figure out what their strengths are and then he'll play to them. And then, whatever their weaknesses are, they're going to get better."
"He just did a really good job of kind of keeping us all even-keeled and focused," Develin said. "He means a lot to me in my journey of my football career. He just understands offenses so well."
Danny Amendola, the Patriots' receiver who picked up plenty of slack after Julian Edelman was lost to a season-ending knee injury, shared in the immensely positive vibes of working with Daboll.
"I loved working with him," Amendola said. "He's a great coach. I got to know him and his family, and it was fun (in 2016). He's been around the game for a long time, done a number of different things in a lot of places, so he brings a lot to the table that way. And he's really smart."
Chad O'Shea, the Patriots' receivers coach, considers himself fortunate to have worked closely with Daboll through all of Daboll's second time with New England. O'Shea said he learned a great deal from him.
Two primary qualities O'Shea sees the Bills getting from their new offensive coordinator are passion and the willingness to work "extremely hard." O'Shea also believes Daboll has benefited greatly from what he has absorbed at his various coaching stops, which include the New York Jets (quarterbacks coach, 2007-08), Cleveland Browns (OC, 2009-10), Miami Dolphins (OC, 2011) and Kansas City Chiefs (OC, 2012).
"The thing that Brian has done is he's gone to a lot of other places and he's been exposed to a lot of other systems and a lot of different players, so I know he has a variety of knowledge about different schemes and different systems," O'Shea said. "So I know that's probably going to be helpful for him, just not being in one system and really being exposed to other systems. And I'm sure he'll bring whatever he wants to as far as what he believes is best for the Bills."
"Brian works as hard or harder than every other coach that I've had a privilege to work with," McDaniels said. "He loves football. He loves Buffalo, that's for sure. We've talked a lot about that. He's one of my best friends, so I'm really happy for him that he's got this opportunity. I know he's really excited to be back there in that city with his family. He's proud to be from there, he's represented that city very well everywhere he's been, so he'll do a great job."