General Manager Joe Schoen
January 31, 2022
Q: I saw you mentioned the other day that you want to clear $40 million in cap space. Obviously, this team is in a tough spot cap-wise. How hard will that be to do that taking on all that dead money? What’s the needle with the thread there?
A: Again, we’re going to get into that here shortly now that (Head Coach) Brian (Daboll) is in place. We’re going to talk to the support staff that was here. Again, Brian talked about the type of players we’re going to bring in the building, so we’re going to evaluate them not only on the field but off the field. Again, there’s going to be difficult decisions that we may have to make, but there are certain rules we have to follow, and we’ve got to be under the salary cap. Where we are right now – again, we’re going to get into all that once the coaches are here. What are they looking at scheme-wise? What do we want the players to do? Then, make those decisions.
Q: (Vice President of Football Operations/Assistant General Manager) Kevin Abrams has been the cap guy here. How much will you lean on him and will he be staying in that role?
A: Kevin’s been really good. I’ve been here for eight, nine days and just going through the process of sending in consents for coaches, notifications, if we’re moving on from people, just getting the feel for the building. He’s been a tremendous resource for me. I will continue to lean on him. Again, he and (Director of Football Operations) Ed Triggs do a really good job in their roles and I look forward to continuing working with both of those guys.
Q: So, you expect Kevin (Abrams) to stay?
A: Oh, yeah. Yes.
Q: You and (Head Coach) Brian (Daboll) obviously know each other, but how do your personalities and philosophies kind of contrast and complement each other?
A: I think I agree with a lot of what Brian said up there, most of it in terms of being a people person, like treat people with respect, communicate with everybody throughout the building. We’re going to have a clear plan for what we want the team to be, how we’re going to attack it, and see that plan through. Both of us, our ability to communicate with each other. Obviously, there’s a previous relationship there, his office was five or six down from mine and I also worked with him in Miami. Brian’s always been a guy that’s been easy to communicate with and then we’re aligned in how we’d like to build the team and the staff and what we want the building to look like.
Q: You obviously have the relationship with Brian. I’m curious when you first met him or through the course of your relationship, was there a moment that you could think of when you said that he’s a guy that I could see running this whole thing through the years of when you were progressing?
A: That’s a good question. Just watching his work with (Bills Quarterback) Josh (Allen), not only when we drafted Josh and then where Josh is now, but through the quarterback process. When we were looking for a quarterback, he came up with a process to evaluate all the quarterbacks, whether it was in person, the private workouts, whatever it may be. Just seeing his ability, his intellect, he’s very smart, he’s sharp. When he came up with that process, we saw it through and then what he did after we took Josh and the plan that he put in place. I always admired him as a coach. I can’t say I ever said, ‘Man, if I’m ever a general manager, he’s going to be a head coach,’ but our ability to communicate over time and what he’s done with the offense in Buffalo is impressive. He also started on the defensive side of the ball, so he’s coached both sides of the ball, which I think is important for a head coaching candidate.
Q: Brian confirmed that (Defensive Coordinator) Patrick Graham is staying. What was the appeal to you with him, with Patrick?
A: Yeah, if he doesn’t get the Minnesota job. I think he’s still in the mix. Last I’d heard he’s in the mix for that. I’ll tell you what, I didn’t know Patrick Graham and we interviewed him for this head coaching job, I did my research on him and there’s a lot of positive feedback throughout the league, not only in the building but around the league on Patrick. He had been at Note Dame, he had been at New England, Green Bay, Miami. Just spending three hours with him in an interview setting, he’s passionate, very high football acumen, he got me fired up in the interview. He did a really good job, so if he gets that Minnesota job, that’s great for him. Selfishly, I would love to keep him here because I’m fired up to work with him because I think he’s a good ball coach.
Q: Isn’t that a big difference though? If he leaves you would have a new system personnel-wise. Wouldn’t that be a massive change, or would you like to kind of stay in that lane with where you were and what he kind of has brought here in the first place?
A: We’ll cross that. I mean, if he’s not here, then we’ll have to look at the candidates. Again, no different than the offensive coordinator, ‘Hey, these are the pieces here. Let’s develop the best offense we can around these pieces that we have in place.’ We would likely do the same thing if Patrick gets that job – again, I’m happy for him. That would be a great opportunity – then we would have to look for other defensive coordinator candidates and look at the pieces and ‘Hey, do you want to be a 3-4? You want to be a 4-3? What do you want it to look like?’ We’re going to leave it up to the defensive coordinator.
Q: That was the first time you and ownership have had to work together through a quick turnaround after you getting hired. There were reports that Brian Flores might have been higher on ownership’s list. How did you guys work through this process?
A: I don’t know if I’m not very good at this or not, but every guy we interviewed I was like, ‘Man, that guy was good. He’s a good candidate.’ We did a lot of research on all the candidates and I think some of it for me was, ‘Hey, somebody with previous head coaching experience,’ that was very attractive to me initially as a first-time GM. Somebody that’s been through it, had experience, they know where the pitfalls are, they’ve already made mistakes, so you avoid some of that. Again, we cast a wide net. We were interested in all of those candidates and at the end of the day, as a group, we felt Brian Daboll was best for the New York Giants.
Q: How important was the offensive side of the ball versus defensive when you selected the coach?
A: I was looking for the best head football coach. Like I said, those guys that had previous head coaching experience – (Cowboys Defensive Coordinator) Dan Quinn, (Bills Defensive Coordinator) Leslie Frazier, and (Brian) Flores were all previous head coaches on the defensive side of the ball and I was okay with that because, again, all three of those guys are outstanding football coaches. I wouldn’t be surprised –even (Bengals Defensive Coordinator) Lou Anarumo or (Defensive Coordinator) Patrick Graham – that the entire group will eventually be a head coach again. That wouldn’t surprise me a bit.
Q: To follow up on Kevin Abrams, will he continue to be the Assistant GM, the right-hand man or could he be retained in a different role and you bring in another guy to be Assistant GM?
A: We’ve had conversations about that and Kevin’s very humble and selfless. If for some reason we decide that we need that Assistant GM title to get somebody up, he’s offered that up. We haven’t crossed that bridge. Again, I’m going to continue to assess everybody in the entire organization before I make any decisions on moving on or changing titles. Kevin’s been an outstanding resource for me thus far. He’s very smart, he knows the league, he knows the rules, he knows the ins and outs. The biggest thing for me is while we’re trying to find assistant coaches or I’m trying to find my scouting staff to know that the operations part is taken care of and I can give Kevin something and he can run with it because he’s done it. He’s got contacts in the league, he’s got agent relationships, so I’ve been very impressed with Kevin thus far.
Q: In the past, how much have you gotten experience to work with Brian as far as personnel and his knowledge of personnel? Some coach’s kind of struggle when they try to cross over into how good of a player is this guy versus you providing the player and him fitting him into the system? Do you plan on having those conversations with him going forward and leaning on him for evaluations of players?
A: For sure. From the first time I met Brian when he was with the Dolphins, I was a national scout. He came in as an offensive coordinator and he had a very clear plan for what he wanted. Charles Clay was a sixth-round pick we took because Brian defined, ‘Hey, I want a guy that can play fullback, that can be a pass-catcher out of the backfield, that can play tight end and maybe run the ball, too.’ I’m like, that’s Jim Brown, we can’t find Jim Brown. But we ended up taking Charles Clay in the sixth round because of the vision that Brian had for that type of player and he had a lot of success. (Bills Wide Receiver) Gabe Davis we took two years ago in the fourth round. He just had a heck of a game in that playoff game – over 200 yards, four touchdowns. Brian said, ‘Hey, I need somebody that can play all four receiver spots that’s smart, tough, and dependable,’ clearly defined what he looked for and in the fourth round, there’s that guy that checked all those boxes. He’s done a really good job every staff I’ve been on clearly defining what he wants and that makes it so much easier for the personnel staff to go find those players and identify them. Again, when the value meets where we see them, you have a lot of success when you do that.
Q: Whether or not (Quarterback) Daniel Jones pans out or not as a franchise quarterback, would you agree that you’re hiring Brian to help you build something long-term no matter who your quarterback ends up being three, four, five years from now?
A: Yeah, absolutely. Absolutely. It wasn’t just Brian’s ability to work with quarterbacks. Again, it’s all those things that he talked about, his leadership, his ability to bring a staff together, develop those underneath him, his relationship with the players. We’re going to try and build a team and a strong foundation right off the bat and a team that can sustain success over time. That’s the ultimate goal. Obviously, the quarterback position is important, but the overarching head coach, I think Brian Daboll can do all that.
Q: Do you have a preference as to whether or not Brian as a first-time head coach ends up calling the plays and running the offense?
A: I’m not going to rule that out if he is or isn’t. We don’t have an offensive coordinator. If for some reason he had to – ideally, he doesn’t. I would prefer he manages the game. But, again, as we’re still interviewing offensive coordinator candidates, we’re going to wait and see how that plays out. Ideally, the offensive coordinator calls the plays, but, again, I’m not going to say that’s set in stone because we’re going to let Brian make that decision.
Q: Would you be cool hiring an OC who has never called a play? I won’t mention (Bills Passing Game Coordinator/Quarterbacks Coach) Ken Dorsey obviously, but Ken has never called plays. Whoever though, right? Would you be okay slotting that guy in and saying, ‘You’re calling plays’?
A: I think, again, it goes back to what Brian said, his ability to develop his staff. You’re learning from Brian Daboll, who’s had a lot of success and been around the league and coached different types of players. If I’m an offensive coordinator and I can learn from Brian Daboll, I’d be really excited, but I think that’s what makes Brian so good, his ability to develop his coaches young or old if they’ve called plays or not. Again, when I talked about us going on that quarterback tour and the process he put in place to find the best quarterback, he’s doing the same thing with these offensive coordinators. It’s starting with Zoom and then we’re going to bring some candidates in. He’s already talked to me about his process and what he’s going to put them through when they get here. It’s got to be a fit with what we want to do as an organization. Personality-wise, it’s got to be a fit. That’s going to be very important for us. Then, obviously, the football acumen.
Q: You’ve seen Brian do a great job leading a unit, but you obviously have never seen him lead an entire team. What specific thing or things did he do that allowed you to believe? (President and Chief Executive Officer) John Mara just said that’s the toughest thing to ascertain, whether or not a first-time head coach can do the job. Why can he do that job in your opinion?
A: I think if you asked our defensive players back in Buffalo or even when he was in Miami, he’s a personable guy. He’s not just walking around on the offensive side of the ball talking to (Bills Wide Receiver) Stefon Diggs and Josh Allen and (Bills Running Back) Devin Singletary. He’s working the whole team and there’s mutual respect. You saw his personality, that’s who he is. He can joke around, he can communicate with anybody on the team, whether it’s the 90th man or the best player on the team and he truly cares about the players and how they are as human beings and wants the best for them. I think that’s not only going to make the team better, I think it’s going to make the entire building and the organization better.