New York Giants' Offense: The great Kevin Gilbride debate

Kevin Gilbride - Bob Donnan-USA TODAY Sports

The Giants' offense has been awful for the past two games. How much of that is on Kevin Gilbride, and how much is simply poor play by the guys on the field?

What is wrong with the New York Giants' offense? Perennially one of the league's most prolific groups the Giants have scored only seven points in the past two weeks.

'It's not the plays. It's not the tempo. Our execution has got to be better.' - Eli Manning

What you guys really want to debate, and what many of you have already decided, is how much of this mess is the fault of offensive coordinator Kevin Gilbride?

Quarterback Eli Manning was not asked directly about Gilbride on Tuesday, but still ended up offering what amounted to a defense of the veteran coach, who has been with him his entire career.

"It's not the plays. It's not the tempo. Our execution has got to be better," Manning said.

Speaking specifically about the 31-7 loss to Kansas City, Manning said:

"I thought we had chances and I thought we had the right game plan. We said we're going to attack these corners, throw the ball down the field and try to get some big plays. We only hit one of them. I thought we had opportunities for some other ones and the defenders made some decent plays, but we still had some chances to make some plays that could have been game-changing. We've got to find ways to make some more plays when we have the opportunities to," Manning said.

"I thought we just didn't hit the big plays that we needed to. We threw the ball down the field and we've got to connect on those. That's me throwing it in the right spot and the receivers making the catch. I think we were attacking the right spots. We just didn't execute it well enough."

The Giants finished Sunday with 298 yards of total offense, the second straight week they have not gone over 300 yards. Let's look at some of what happened.

  • Manning was sacked three times and under duress much of the afternoon.
  • Hakeem Nicks failed to haul in three passes that could have gone for big yardage.
  • One big play Nicks did haul in was negated via penalty.
  • Da'Rel Scott dropped a perfectly timed screen pass. Look at the image below and see the miles of space, with blockers in front, Scott has if he simply catches the ball.

    Scott_screen_kc_medium
  • On a third-and-1 in the third quarter Gilbride calls for a pitch right to David Wilson. I keep hearing calls for 'get Wilson into space' and that is what is done here. Only all three tight ends -- Brandon Myers, Bear Pascoe and Larry Donnell -- miss blocks. The Giants punt.

How many of those mistakes can be pinned on the offensive coordinator?

The Bigger Picture

Eagles.com illustrated how the Giants have continually had 6-on-4 and 7-on-5 advantages in blocking the opposing pass rush, but have not been able to do so. Is that on Gilbride? He's doing his best to design plays that protect his quarterback.

Manning has made some horrid decisions in four games as he has piled up nine interceptions. Is Gilbride to blame for those?

Is the offensive coordinator to blame for Wilson's two fumbles vs. the Dallas Cowboys? Or, the two screen passes that were intercepted in that game where mistakes by Wilson and Da'Rel Scott led to the interceptions? Those aren't bad play calls. They are bad plays by the players on the field.

In the Denver game, is Gilbride to blame for the turf monster tackling Brandon Myers and likely preventing a touchdown? Is he to blame for Rueben Randle fumbling away a touchdown at the goal line? Is he to blame for Manning's awful interception right before the half? Or, for a ball bouncing off  defender's foot and becoming an interception?

Against Carolina is Gilbride to blame for the fact that the offensive line was a sieve? Manning was sacked seven times and hit 17. That's atrocious. The Giants couldn't do anything well on offense, because there wasn't anything they could block.

Is it the offensive coordinator's fault that the thing Will Beatty has done best thus far in 2013 is commit holding penalties?

The Giants are second in the league in dropped passes with 12. How many more points would the Giants have on the board if they had made most of those plays? The coordinator can only design the play, he can't throw the ball or catch it. The Giants lead the league in turnovers. Is the offensive coordinator failing to protect the ball?

What Can Gilbride Do Better?

Let's talk about David Wilson. Is Wilson an untapped Darren Sproles? Is he the next Tiki Barber? Or, is he the newest Rocky Thompson? Don't know anything about Thompson, the running back the Giants made their first-round pick in 1971? Feel free to look him up.

Back to Wilson. There has been concern the past couple of weeks over the playing time split between Wilson and Scott, which has been virtually 50-50. Is it frustrating that Scott (125) has played more snaps than Wilson (103)? Yes. My belief? If the games were closer that split would be more like 70-30 tilted toward Wilson. Scott has been on the field so much because the fourth quarters of the past two games have been lopsided.

Like it or not, Scott is the third-down back. He does a much better job in pass protection than Wilson. The other problem is that Wilson has only six catches over two seasons after catching only 37 balls in three collegiate seasons. Is he a guy you can trust coming out of the backfield? Scott already has 10 catches this season, so we can see which back the Giants have more faith in when it comes to throwing him the ball.

The Giants would love to get him in space and I believe they are trying to find ways to do that. Throwing him the ball is one way. It's on Wilson to convince the Giants he can be part of their passing attack.

Now, let's talk about the no-huddle offense.

'Is Wilson an untapped Darren Sproles? Is he the next Tiki Barber? Or, is he the newest Rocky Thompson?'

Manning was asked repeatedly about the no-huddle on Tuesday, as was head coach Tom Coughlin. Here is part of what Manning said:

"I think it slows down the pass rush. It confuses the defense a little bit," Manning said. "I get worried about doing it an entire game just because ... If you do it a whole game, it will be a little slower. You have to be able to get into all of your plays. Do we have those capabilities of getting into every single play in a no-huddle situation? If you ran the same ones over and over again, eventually the defense would catch on."

Personally, more no-huddle is something I would advocate for. As Manning said, how much of the Giants' playbook is available when they do that? Also, with young offensive linemen and running backs can they handle their assignments on the fly like that?

Trying it is an idea worth exploring, but it is fraught with risks of its own.

Is Gilbride's Offense Stale?

That is one thing that has been uttered for years. I don't buy it. It's more traditional than many of the offenses around the league. Is it predictable? At times I think almost every offense is predictable, especially when you are always behind by a boatload of points.

Does watching the shotgun draw get tiresome occasionally? Sure. Would I have called the shotgun draw Sunday on third-and-forever inside my own 5-yard-line, like Gilbride did? You bet.

Have there been plays to be made in each game the Giants have had this season? Plays that the players have not made? Yes, there have.

The blocking is an issue. The play of Hakeem Nicks is an issue. The fact that Brandon Myers can't block and has most of his receptions in garbage time is an issue. The inexperience of the running backs is an issue. The inconsistent play of the quarterback is an issue.


Giants' Offensive Stats

Pts Yrds Pass Rush
Off 15.3 325.5 (23rd) 267.8 (10th) 57.8 (30th)

Final Thoughts
'Every play that works is a brilliant play call. Every play that fails is a stupid one.'

When Tom Coughlin said this week that the Giants' play-calling is "like throwing a dart at a board" he was not criticizing Gilbride. He was saying that right now the Giants have nothing to hang their hat on, nothing they KNOW will work other than throwing the ball to Cruz.

Argue about play-calling all you want. There are play calls in every game that can be questioned. I believe this: Every play that works is a brilliant play call. Every play that fails is a stupid one. So, when teams play well the coordinator is great. When they don't he should be run out of town.

There is a legitimate argument to be made that the passing attack, with its many option routes, leads to some of Manning's interceptions. Would it be a bad idea to scale some of that back and take away some of those options, thus reducing miscommunications? Maybe not, but you might also take away some chances for big plays by doing it.

Can you make an argument that perhaps Manning's comfort in Gilbride's system, long considered an asset, has made him a bit lackadaisical? Probably an anecdotal one, but it's an argument you can make. Perhaps a change would do Manning good, if only because maybe he is too comfortable.

If this type of play continues would it surprise me at the end of the year if Gilbride, and other assistant coaches, are sent packing? Not at all.

A change in coordinator, however, is not a magic elixir for what ails the Giants' offense. Catching the ball. Not fumbling. Not missing blocks. Better pass protection. Better decisions by the quarterback. Those things will fix the Giants' offense.

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