The Giants were an all-around disappointment this past season, finishing just 7-9 after a horrid 0-6 start, so naturally heads were going to roll and changes were bound to be made. And the first to go is maligned offensive coordinator Kevin Gilbride.
The long-time overseer of Big Blue’s offense, Gilbride likely saw the writing on the wall following yet another disappointing campaign by the offense, and deftly announced his retirement on Thursday.
While head coach Tom Coughlin and general manager Jerry Reese were deemed safe, according to team owner John Mara, it seemed natural the next level on the team’s power scale to see change would be a coordinator.
Gilbride noted his retiring was a “tough decision” and he was wrestling with it for “quite some time,” adding he felt the timing just seemed right to forego being quarterback Eli Manning’s primary play caller.
“It’s hard to say, ‘It’s time.’ To finally do it, it’s a very unnatural feeling [but] I’ve been telling my wife [Debbie] for years I was going to do it,” Gilbride said. “Debbie moved back to Rhode Island [to help care for a granddaughter when the Gilbrides’ daughter is working], so I’ve been by myself in the hotel for three or four years. … I knew this was it and I was going to do it. I finally pulled the trigger. But it’s difficult.”
Critics of Gilbride will say watching his sometimes-stagnant offense was difficult, as the Giants regressed over the past two seasons, with many bemoaning that the offense had gotten stale ad predictable.
The lack of talent and injury woes didn’t do Gilbride any favors over the years, however, with the 2013-14 season arguably being the lowest. The Giants averaged just 18.4 points per game (28th in the league) were also 28th in total yards (307.5 yards a game), 29th in rushing yards per game (83.3) and 30th in yards per carry (3.5) — while Manning had arguably the second-biggest drop-off in production this season, outside of wideout Hakeem Nicks. The two-time Super Bowl MVP looked less than super on most Sundays as he only registered 18 touchdowns to go with a career-high 27 interceptions. The former tally is also the new franchise mark for picks, leading Manning to become the Giants’ all-time leader in career interceptions.
Despite the lows this season, Manning insisted they’ll always have a strong bond, as he expressed dismay in Gilbride’s decision.
“I have a tremendous amount of respect and admiration for Kevin. I’m really sad to see him retire. He has been with me from Day 1 as my quarterbacks coach and then my coordinator,” said Manning. “He really taught me everything I needed to learn to become an NFL quarterback. We’ve had so much success together, obviously winning our two Super Bowls. His offenses have had great success in this league for many, many years. He’s been a great coach and great friend over these 10 years. … I’m definitely going miss him on the field and in the meeting rooms.”
Gilbride just concluded his 39th season in coaching — including 24 in the NFL, with the last 10 in New York. He fondly looked back on his tenure and said no regrets — regardless of the catcalls for his departure during the lean years.
“I’ve enjoyed every minute of coaching. Certainly the last 10 years with the Giants has been a special time, to be part of the bringing the Super Bowls to New York and New Jersey and the Giants organization,” said Gilbride. “I’ve thoroughly enjoyed the development of some of the young players that we brought along, certainly starting with Eli, but also with [former wideout] Steve Smith and [current star wideout] Victor Cruz. They hadn’t had a Pro Bowl receiver since 1968 and we brought two back to them. That’s been fun. And I thoroughly enjoyed being part of those exciting last-minute drives that we seem to excel at. That 2011 season, we had six or seven of them, including the Super Bowl.”
Gilbride took over coordinating duties from John Hufnagel prior to the 2006 regular-season finale and didn’t look back. Coughlin said he appreciated all that his right-hand man gave, noting it’ll be difficult to replace such a keen offensive mind.
“I have great respect for Kevin, so it’s not an easy thing to part ways,” Coughlin said. “Kevin is a professional. He’s been an exceptional football coach for the New York Giants. He helped win two Super Bowl championships. Kevin was the play-caller in Super Bowls XLII and XLVI. He has done a great service to the franchise.”
Big Blue notes …
»The Giants will likely conduct an extensive search for Gilbride’s successor, with many believing that Mike Sullivan is the leader in the clubhouse. Sullivan served as Manning’s positional coach for a few years before heading to the Buccaneers to be their offensive coordinator. He was fired after the Bucs’ front office cleaned house following the firing of head coach Greg Schiano.
»For all of Gilbride’s warts as the Giants’ play-caller, critics seem to forget that in 2012, Big Blue scored 429 points — the second-highest total in franchise history (the 1963 Giants scored 448). The 2012 season was the fifth in the 88-year history of the franchise in which the Giants scored more than 400 points. Three of them occurred under Gilbride: 2012 (429 points), 2008 (427) and 2009 (402). The Giants’ 429 points were 35 more than the 2011 Super Bowl champions scored. The Giants scored a franchise-record 278 points at home in 2012, shattering the old mark of 248, set in 2007.
»In 2011, the Giants gained a franchise-record 6,161 yards, breaking the mark of 6,085 set in 2010. Those are the only 6,000-yard seasons in Giants history.
»The Giants shattered another record that season with 4,734 net passing yards. The former mark of 4,019 was set in 2009. Those are the only 4,000-yard passing seasons in Giants history. The Giants were fifth in the NFL with 295.9 passing yards a game, their highest ranking since the 1984 team finished fifth. In 2011, the Giants had at least 200 passing yards in every game for the first time in their history. They set another franchise mark with 359 pass completions. The Giants led the NFL with 18 completions of 40 or more yards in 2011.
»In their four-game 2011 postseason run, which culminated in a 21-17 victory over New England in Super Bowl XLVI, the Giants averaged 25.5 points and 402.5 yards, higher figures than their regular season averages of 24.6 points and 385.1 yards.
Follow Giants beat writer Tony Williams on Twitter @TBone8.