Kevin Gilbride: 'Steady, Incremental Growth' For Eli Manning

New York Giants offensive coordinator Kevin Gilbride admitted this week that quarterback Eli Manning's tendency to throw off his back foot occasionally still bothers him, saying "I don't like it when he's falling away." Gilbride, though, said that Manning has continued to make "steady, incremental growth" as a quarterback.

"If you want to just assess him by the interceptions, then you say last year was a horrible year. But by every other category it was a terrific year and it was a continuation of his improvement. This year, the continuation has continued, but also the interceptions are down. Now on all aspects, he's playing very well," Gilbride said. "Really in all categories, except for the interceptions, last year, that was a career year. It was a career year - touchdown passes, completion percentage, yardage, all of those things were tremendous. I think the focus has been to be more careful, to say, ‘The best thing I can do is take a sack or throw the ball away,' which he's done a terrific job with for the most part. "

The full text of Gilbride's remarks is after the jump

Kevin Gilbride | Press Conference
Nov. 10, 2011

Q: You always want balance, but to achieve that in this game do you need the pass to set up the run?
A: What I've always said is the only thing that matters to me is what do you have to do to move the ball? That's the only thing that matters to me. Whatever is working most effectively, that's what we look to focus on and then when certain defensive adjustments are made, it sets up the other aspect. Then the key is when those other opportunities present themselves, are you good enough to take advantage of them? That's where the challenge comes. If there's an area you're not doing well in, people are going to try to force you to beat them in that dimension. Whatever that dimension might be, whether it's passing, running, outside run, inside run, whatever. We'll always go in looking to probe and experiment with formations and personnel groupings and different thoughts in terms of what we think will work and then see what the reactions are and then emphasize certain plays or a certain approach.

Q: Will you throw more this week because the 49ers run defense is so good?
A: We'll see. I don't want to commit to that for a lot of reasons on a lot of different levels. Again, we'll do whatever we have to do to try to move the ball.

Q: How much of their defense is designed to get Patrick Willis free to roam and make plays?
A: That's a good question. You wouldn't say it's structured to cover up the guards and do all of those things, but he's a tremendous player. He has such confidence in his speed. He's always slow in his initial reaction because he knows he can cover up and catch up to anything. He's hard to fool. Misdirections [won't] fool [him]. Occasionally when they reduce the front on one side that's the side he is aligned to. In that sense maybe they protect him a little bit, but I think you just have a terrific player. They have a big, strong nose tackle that makes it difficult for the centers to match up. You have to take care of the first line, which is the defensive line and if you get caught up too much on that, then all of a sudden you have this great linebacker, it's two very good linebackers that are running around making a lot of tackles. It's such a different approach than some people that we've faced who are very complex. They're just very, very well coached. They have very good players and they are physical. They are just hardnosed, almost old fashioned. Line up and you're going to have to prove that you can knock around and hold your own with them. They're good. They're really good.

Q: What gave you the confidence to give Da'Rel Scott the ball on third down last week?
A: A, just because I think he's a good player. We've tried to get some things formatted for him and it just hasn't unfolded the way we wanted. When we called something that we thought would go to him it wound up going somewhere else because of what the defensive structure was. This play was just a play we thought he could run most effectively and it was at a situation I thought we needed to get an outside run in. We weren't having success on third down throwing it. So it was in that down and distance where I thought we could make it with a run. He happened to be that back that we had selected that week to run that play.

Q: Is there an explanation for why Eli is doing so well?
A: To me, it's more a steady, incremental growth and development. I think if you want to, which is understandable, but if you want to just assess him by the interceptions, then you say last year was a horrible year. But by every other category it was a terrific year and it was a continuation of his improvement. This year, the continuation has continued, but also the interceptions are down. Now on all aspects, he's playing very well. Really in all categories, except for the interceptions, last year, that was a career year. It was a career year - touchdown passes, completion percentage, yardage, all of those things were tremendous. I think the focus has been to be more careful, to say, ‘The best thing I can do is take a sack or throw the ball away,' which he's done a terrific job with for the most part. Last year he took a couple of chances that he wished he hadn't done and they seemed to backfire every time it happened. This year we've had a couple of breaks where the ball has been deflected and fallen harmlessly to the ground. Last year it seemed like every deflection somebody got. It's a combination. I think it's just more of a continued improvement and the guys around him are playing well enough that you can see his improvement. Sometimes if the supporting cast or the other people in that group are not playing at a high enough level it doesn't matter what you're doing. If your line's not doing well, the line is blocking well. They're doing an outstanding job. The receivers have made some plays for him. It's a combination of his continued development growth. We're doing the same things over and over again. I see what [the defense] is doing, so I will change some things. Well they may have not been specifically in the game plan for this game, but there's things that we've done in the past that I know will work against what I'm seeing out there. Well he can take it and run with it. Now if it's a first-year, second-year guy, I don't know that you can ask him to do that, but he can do it. He's like an extension of our coaching staff out there so he does a good job. I think it's a combination of the guys around him are playing well enough that you can see his play at such a high level and I think it's continued development with [Eli].

Q: Does the back foot stuff bother you?
A: I don't like it when he's falling away. To be quite honest with you, every quarterback, the rush is such that you can't step into the throw. The rush will not allow you to do it. But that's where the judgment comes into play. You have to know what throws you can make when that's happening. If you're trying to throw it 50 yards downfield, that's going to be bad. The one in the end zone that was picked, Manningham is wide open. It's the defender that was covering Bear [Pascoe] that fell back that made the play. It's because, again, ‘If I can't throw it well enough because of where the rush is, I just have to throw it out of bounds or take a sack.'

Q: Was somebody in the wrong spot on that play?
A: No. It was a three-man, high-low, very tight area and we're bringing one guy across and then we have a diagonal and then a corner route, so you have a high-low. But again, the separation because of where you are in the field is never going to be that great. You just can't. We're at the six or four yard line, whatever it was. One guy was right at the goal line, one guy is supposed to be at the back. We've thrown many passes for touchdowns with that thing, but if you don't throw it hard enough or put enough air under it or get it to where it has to go, which is the back pylon, then that underneath guy can fall back and that's what happened. That was the one time he got bit.

Q: So when he throws off the back foot he's throwing a different type of pass.
A: Yeah. Again, it's not one time he did it all one way and now he's perfect with it, but we've gotten better. He's gotten better with it, no question.

Q: You would like to see it eliminated.
A: Totally. Because at that point in the game it looked like one more score. We just scored two times. One more score, are they going to come back? The whole tenor of the game changes then. You wanted the touchdown. It was blitz zero. He's making the right decision, but in terms of the read tells me to go to this receiver, he's 100 per cent right. But if the receiver falls or the guy makes a great play defensively, he's in position - he should have been inside, but he had to be outside - or in this case, the rush is getting so close that I can't put enough behind it to make a throw, you have to just say, ‘Hey, take a sack, kick the field goal or throw it out of the back of the end zone.' I don't know if he could have thrown it out of the back of the end zone where the rush was. Sometimes your instincts are so finely tuned that you're going to want to make a play on every play. But you have to recognize the ceiling of the play and sometimes the best thing is to throw it away or take a sack. You hate to do that. You hate to do that. It fights against all of your instincts, but sometimes that's what you have to do.

Q: Because Da'Rel was able to get the first down and it looked clean...
A: Made a good cut. Made a good read. Did a good job.

Q: Does that give you confidence with him going forward?
A: We kind of have been trying to get him in. You just have three guys ahead of him. There's not as many opportunities, but with the injury to Ahmad, it has put him up a little bit more. Same position on the pecking order, but one of the spots has been removed so he's moved up a slot. So some chances are coming his way. I'm confident that when those opportunities present themselves he'll make a good play.

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