Brian Daboll knows what awaits the Buffalo Bills.
Perhaps that’s why the offensive coordinator was loathe to talk much about it this week. Daboll spent 11 years under Bill Belichick on the New England Patriots’ coaching staff, playing a part in an NFL dynasty.
“There’s not much that I haven’t taken from him or learned from him,” Daboll said. “He’s a phenomenal football coach, and his track record speaks for itself.”
The same is true of quarterback Tom Brady, the other constant during New England’s ridiculous run of success.
“I don’t know, you’ve seen him,” Daboll said with a sigh on what makes Brady so good. "I think you’ve seen all of the highlights and been around long enough.”
So much for not knowing. In his next breath, Daboll listed nine different reasons Brady is a future Hall of Famer.
“He’s smart, instinctive, accurate, good leader, great practice player, knows where to go with the ball, quick release, understands his protections, been in the same system for 19, 18 years,” he said. “Yeah, he’s real good.”
That’s what awaits the Bills on Monday night.
“Every week is a different week. I’ve been on the opposite sideline of New England before,” Daboll said. “In this business, you travel back and forth to different teams and you’ve really got to try to block that out and look at the players they have now and the coaches. Obviously, there’s some familiarity with those guys, but (we have to) do a good job of going out and preparing – no different than any other week.”
Given Daboll’s familiarity with the Patriots’ machine, it makes sense that Bills defensive coordinator Leslie Frazier will try to pick his brain for any slight advantage that might provide. Daboll also spent time on the Patriots' staff with current Patriots offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels. Daboll's first pro coaching job was with the Patriots as a defensive assistant in 2000-01; McDaniels came to the NFL as a Patriots personnel assistant in 2001.
“We’ll ask him as much as we can to try to get behind the curtain a little bit and learn as much as we can about their offense and how they put it together and how they game plan for opponents,” Frazier said. “We’ll definitely try to utilize his knowledge of their offense over the course of the week … give him some scenarios of what we have on defense and how we’re thinking and see how they’d counteract that.”
Daboll’s first season with his hometown team has been, in a word, disastrous. The Bills rank 31st in the NFL in total offense (234 yards per game) and last in scoring (11.6 points per game). They are on pace for 185 points, which would be the fewest in a full season since the 2009 St. Louis Rams scored 175.
“We know we’re not where we need to be,” Daboll said. “You have to be mentally strong, whether you’re doing well or you’re not doing well. I’ve been on both ends of the spectrum. You have to have short-term memory. You have to look at the things that you need to improve on, which, for us, is a lot. Go out there during the week, try to have a really good week, study your opponent, and then translate it to the game by making productive plays and executing well. Look, no one wants to be where we’re at. And everybody’s disappointed. Put me at the top of the list. So we’re going to continue to grind it out and try to get better.”
Daboll will be on the sidelines again Monday, as he was in Week 7 against the Colts. That’s a change from where he was the first six weeks of the season, in the coaches’ booth. With Derek Anderson taking over as the starting quarterback and having just three practices to prepare, Daboll wanted to be able to communicate with him directly on the sideline.
“At the end of the day, I give him the right to call it from where he feels most comfortable,” Bills coach Sean McDermott said of Daboll. “Sometimes, that changes from week to week. I did that in Carolina on the defensive side a few times … whether for these reasons or for other reasons, a no-huddle offense where I wanted to get the call in right away. So different situations call for different positions.”
No matter what the situation, or where Daboll calls the game from, he knows the offense has to start showing significant improvement.
“We’ve got to do a good job with it and be better,” he said. “At the end of the day, that’s our job.”
That sounds like something Belichick might say.
Just like Daboll, McDaniels also talks a lot like Belichick when referencing the opponent.
In a conference call with reporters on Tuesday, McDaniels lauded the environment expected at New Era Field and the Bills' defense, singling out Lorenzo Alexander, Tremaine Edmunds and the secondary.
"A lot of challenges in terms of going on the road and playing a division team on Monday night in this type of an environment," he said in part. "We lost 70 yards, I think it was, the last time we were in Buffalo through negative plays, sacks, penalties. We didn't play very well, didn't handle it very well last year on our side of the ball. We've got to do a lot better than what we did. This is a significant opportunity and a significant challenge and we're looking forward to starting our preparation with them (Wednesday)."
The Patriots won the game 23-3 and had 435 yards in total offense.
In an odd assigning quirk, Jerome Borger again will be the referee for a Monday night game in Orchard Park. Borger, who was assigned Bills-Patriots, was the referee for the Bills game against the Cleveland Browns on Nov. 17, 2008, the last time Monday Night Football came to Western New York.