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Why New York Giants’ Saquon Barkley and Brian Daboll deserve to win AP 2022 NFL awards

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Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports

On Wednesday it was announced that New York Giants running back Saquon Barkley and head coach Brian Daboll have been nominated for two prestigious Associated Press awards.

Barkley has been nominated for NFL Comeback Player of the Year, along with 49ers running back Christian McCaffrey and Seattle quarterback Geno Smith.

Daboll is up for Coach of the Year honors, along with Buffalo’s Sean McDermott, Jacksonville’s Doug Pederson, San Francisco’s Kyle Shanahan and Philadelphia’s Nick Sirianni. 

The New York Giants were the surprise team of the NFL season as few gave them any chance of making the playoffs after going 22-59 the previous five seasons. But partly thanks to their rookie head coach and star running back, the franchise had a bounce-back season and won their first playoff game since Super Bowl XLVI.

The winner of Comeback Player of the Year and Coach of the Year, along with other AP awards, will be announced at the NFL Honors ceremony on February 9.

Barkley and Daboll face some stiff competition for these awards, but we’ll show why each man should win.

The case for Saquon Barkley to win Comeback Player of the Year

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Credit: John Jones-USA TODAY Sports

After three injury-plagued seasons, many thought the 25-year-old running back would never get back to his 2018 form when he was named Offensive Rookie of the Year.

From 2019-2021, he appeared in just 28 games, had only had five games where he rushed for over 100 yards and scored 12 touchdowns. Perhaps what was most alarming is that in 2021 he averaged just 3.7 yards per carry.

But it was apparent from training camp this season that Saquon Barkley was fully healed from his injuries and ready to show that he is still one of the most explosive players in the league.

He would set a career-high in rushing yards with 1,312, scored 10 touchdowns and had four games where he rushed for over 100 yards. He also caught 57 passes for 338 yards. His 1,650 all-purpose yards were the seventh most in the NFL this season. Considering he accomplished this playing behind a below-average offensive line makes this feat even more impressive.

He followed up his Pro Bowl regular season with a solid performance in the Giants 31-24 wild card win over the Vikings where he had 109 all-purpose yards and scored two touchdowns.

McCaffrey and Smith had their own obstacles to overcome to get to this point, but neither of them was considered washed up prior to this season like Barkley was. The former Penn State running back is now a free agent, but after the season he just had it seems like only a matter of time before a new deal is reached with Big Blue.

The case for Brian Daboll to win Coach of the Year

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Credit: Jessica Alcheh-USA TODAY Sports

The biggest question for New York coming into this season was if Brian Daboll could maximize Daniel Jones’ potential and turn him into a quality starting quarterback.

It didn’t take long for us to find out the answer.

Perhaps the biggest moment in New York’s season occurred following a Jones fourth-quarter end zone interception in Week 1 against the Tennessee Titans. Following the interception, the 47-year-old rookie head coach was seen on the sideline having s stern conversation with his quarterback.

Whatever Daboll said the message got through to Jones as he threw a touchdown pass to Chris Myarick, and then New York converted on a two-point conversion on a Jones pass Barkley run that propelled them to a 21-20 victory that set the tone for the rest of the season.

From that moment on Jones transformed into a different quarterback as he only had eight turnovers on the season, compared to the 49 turnovers he had in his first three seasons.

More importantly, when he decided to go for the two-point conversion, it instilled confidence in the team that they carried throughout the season.

Daboll also instilled trust in his coaches by allowing defensive coordinator Wink Martindale to have full control of the defense and gave play-calling duties to offensive coordinator Mike Kafka.

Last season New York tied a franchise record for losses when they went 4-13. Many of those players are still on this roster. The difference this year was that Daboll brought out the best in them and kept his word that he didn’t care where a player was drafted or how much money they made, the players that earned playing time would get playing time.

It’s without question that Daboll should be the first Giants head coach since Jim Fassel in 1997 to win Coach of the Year. Ironically, Fassel was also a rookie head coach that lead the team from last place the previous season into the playoffs, where they played the Minnesota Vikings.

What separates Daboll from the rest of the coaches who are nominated is that his team was the least expected to make the playoffs.