Giants hire Michael Gabriel as special teams coordinator

Giants hire Michael Gabriel as special teams coordinator

EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. — The Giants’ new special teams coordinator won’t need a tutorial on the unpredictable winds at MetLife Stadium.

Michael Gabriel, who spent the previous three seasons as an assistant with the Jets, has been hired as the Giants’ new coordinator.

Gabriel, who turns 36 on February 9, was a special teams coordinator at the collegiate level for five seasons before joining the Jets. He replaces Thomas McGaughey, who was fired on Jan. 8 after six seasons as Giants coordinator.

With the Jets, Gabriel coached under coordinator Brant Boyer and fellow assistant Leon Washington as the team fielded one of the best special teams units in the NFL.

In 2023, the Jets’ kickoff coverage led the league by allowing an average of just 15.3 yards return. Their opponents’ net punting average of 40.4 yards ranked seventh in the NFL. Kicker Greg Zuerlein made 35 of 38 field goal attempts, including five of six from more than 50 yards, for a .921 percentage, scoring 120 pounds. Rookie Xavier Gipson finished second in the league with a kickoff return average of 23.2 yards and tied for 12th with a 9.7-yard kickoff return average, including a game-winning 65-yard touchdown in the season opener versus Buffalo. Ashtyn Davis was among the league leaders with 12 special teams tackles (nine solo) and a forced and recovered fumble.

The previous season, special teams captain Justin Hardy was named to his first Pro Bowl after recording a career-high 14 tackles. He became the sixth Jets special teamer to be selected to the Pro Bowl since 1970 and the only special teamer to be selected to the Pro Bowl since 1970. Two of the six were chosen during Gabriel’s tenure. Zuerlein kicked three of the four longest field goals in franchise history and became one of four Jets to convert multiple field goals of over 55 yards as a Jet.

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In 2021, the Jets were the only team in the league to finish in the top five in both kickoff return average and kickoff returns that season. Wide receiver/return specialist Braxton Berrios was selected as an All-Pro after leading the NFL in kickoff return average and finishing second in kickoff return average.

Prior to joining the Jets, Gabriel served as special teams coordinator at Washington State (2020), Hawaii (2018-19), and Tarleton State (2016-17). After his senior season at Tarleton State, he spent training camp with the Detroit Lions as part of the Bill Walsh Diversity Coaching Fellowship.

Gabriel began his coaching career at his alma mater, UCLA, first as an undergraduate assistant (2009-10), then as a quality control coach (2011), and finally as a graduate assistant (2012-13). Following his time with the Bruins, he coached at Syracuse (2014) and Colorado Mesa (2015), serving as the team’s co-special teams coordinator as well as coaching the defensive line and outside linebackers.

Gabriel played defense for two seasons at UCLA, where he earned a bachelor’s degree in history and a master’s degree in social sciences and comparative education.

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