As we meander our way through reviews of the New York Giants much-too-short 2012 season we have come to the point where we discuss offensive coordinator Kevin Gilbride. Which is a nice way of saying we have come to the post where Giants' fans unload all of their venom at Gilbride, the offensive coordinator many love to hate no matter what he does.
Do the numbers support the venom? I have never believed that, and still don't. Gilbride is a far better offensive coordinator, I believe, than many are willing to give him credit for. He has called plays for two Super Bowl-winning teams and the Giants' offense, despite whatever short-comings it has, is always among the league's most prolific.
Gilbride has been with the Giants since 2004 and has been calling plays for Eli Manning since the end of the 2006 season. Is his offense, or his message to his players, stale? When I spoke to Jim Sabo of Ourlads recently, he theorized that it might be.
"There's something to be said for continuity, I believe in that. But, there's also a time when some of these guys start getting tuned out," Sabo said. "They've given ‘em all the speeches, they've given everything they've got and pretty soon they stop listening to ‘em. I don't know if that's the time for both Gilbride and [Perry] Fewell to move on. But there's something not right with either group."
It is an interesting theory. It is one, however, that I am not buying. Yes, the Giants as a whole had some awful games in 2012. The Giants did, however, score 429 points -- second-most in franchise history behind the 448 scored by the 1963 Giants.
From Team Rankings here are some of what I consider to be the most revealing numbers about the Giants' offense in 2012:
Points Per Game -- 26.8 (5th)
Points Per Play -- 0.443 (2nd)
Touchdowns Per Game -- 2.9 (7th)
Red Zone Scoring Attempts Per Game -- 3.9 (4th)
Red Zone Scoring Percentage (TDs only) -- 54.84 percent (13th)
Plays Per Game -- 60.5 (31st)
Yards Per Play -- 5.9 (4th)
Avg. Time Of Possession -- 29:10 (23rd)
Third Down Conversion Percentage -- 40.62 percent (11th)
Rushing Attempts Per Game -- 25.6 (23rd)
Yards Per Rush Attempt -- 4.6 (7th)
Rushing Play Percentage -- 42.25 percent (15th)
Passing Yards Per Game -- 239.1 (12th)
Yards Per Pass Attempt -- 7.1 (11th)
Yards Per Completion -- 11.8 (4th)
QB Sacked Percentage -- 3.58 percent (2nd)
Average Team Passer Rating -- 87.2 (14th)
Taken as a whole, those numbers are pretty darn good. There are a few areas of concern, and I will touch on those, but overall these numbers don't indicate an offense that is dysfunctional.
The play-calling wasn't the primary issue with the Giants' offense this season, when there were issues. The primary issues were that quarterback Eli Manning simply did not play as well as he can, that Hakeem Nicks was a shell of himself and probably should have been removed from the lineup much earlier, that teams were able to contain Victor Cruz to an extent, holding him to six yards less per reception in 2012 than in 2011, that the Giants did not fare well in the red zone (and it is undoubtedly fair to wonder what Gilbride could have done differently there).
Yes, the Giants had bad games. Yes, it seems like they have been running basically the same offense forever -- because they have. Yes, sometimes you can predict when the shotgun draw is coming. Could the Giants' offense use a couple of new wrinkles? Sure, but you can probably say that about almost any team.
There is, however, one area beyond red zone efficiency or picking on specific play calls that should be addressed -- pace. The Giants' offense simply does not run enough plays.
Partially, of course, you lose the time of possession battle and don't run a lot of plays if you have three-and-outs. Yet, that is only part of the story. Look around the NFL and you see many teams playing at a lightning-fast offensive pace. The Giants? They ran 60.5 plays per game, 31st in the league, and down from 65.7 in 2011, 64.7 in 2010 and 63.6 in 2009.
The Giants have a tremendous quarterback who excels in two-minute situations. They have play-making weapons at running back, wide receiver and tight end. As Gilbride and the Giants study their offense during this much-too-long off-season the thing they really might want to focus on is pace -- stop running the clock down to zero before so many snaps, get more plays off, give the play-makers more chances to make things happen.
There is work to be done on the offensive side of the ball for the Giants, and Gilbride does have to address things like the red zone and pace issues. While you are screaming for his head, though, look at the big picture. Gilbride has had a lot of success running offenses over the years. Then look around the league at the coaching staffs in flux and remember, be careful what you wish for.