Friday Film Room: What was Kevin Gilbride Thinking?

Scott Halleran

Taking a look into the offensive scheme used in the game that ended the 2013 Giants' playoff hopes.

Before I truly get started, I'd like to say that I promised to write this without trying to incite mayhem. I'm going to try to write this without letting my bias seep through. Granted, my comments over the past 10 weeks or so with regards to Kevin Gilbride have probably made my feelings towards him pretty well known (Summed up simply HERE)

So, I'm treating this like a physics lab: State my purpose, gather data, and draw my conclusion based on the data.

Let's get started.

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via cdn1.sbnation.com

The Giants' loss to the San Diego Chargers this past week officially eliminated them from playoff contention. In light of something more profound than a simple win or loss I decided that for this week's edition of the Friday Film Room, I wanted to step back from looking at an individual player's performance and take a look at the scheme in which they played.

Granted, there is more than enough blame for the offense's largely futile performance against a porous defense to be shared by each of the players.

However, as this performance came on the heels of the offense's best and most efficient performance to date, I wanted to see if anything had been altered schematically going into Week 13.

To do this, I looked at every offensive snap Week 13 (vs Washington) and Week 14 (San Diego).

  • I broke down the plays by run and pass, and from there by personnel grouping and formation.
  • Running plays were also grouped by runs to the left, middle, and right
  • Pass plays were divided into 'short' (<10 yards), "medium" (11-19 yards), and 'long' (20+).
  • I only looked at the distance the ball traveled in the air, as a 5-yard catch with a 50-yard run is a very different play than a pass that travels 55 yards in the air.
  • As well, notes were taken on the use of play-action, check-downs, and the no-huddle.

The Data

Washington

I looked at 50 offensive plays (I disregarded plays wiped out by penalty). They were divided into 31 pass plays and 19 running plays.

Of those 31 pass plays, the Giants were in the shotgun for 21, with the bulk of the remaining 10 pass plays coming from either an I formation or an offset I formation.

While their primary personnel grouping for passing plays was three receivers, one tight end (3-1) they threw at least once with every grouping they fielded except for the jumbo package (no receivers).

The majority of pass plays went for 10 yards or less, with most of the intermediate being for 15 yards or less. Only two plays being targeted for 20 yards or more.

The Giants were much more balanced with their looks running the ball. Of 19 runs, they ran with a single back 10 times and with a fullback nine times. The personnel groupings were equally as balanced. They ran most often out of a 3-1 grouping (mostly shotgun runs), but 1-2, 2-1, and 2-2 were all pretty evenly represented. As well, runs were evenly distributed between left and right (either off tackle or between the guards and tackles), however few runs went up the middle.

Looking deeper, the Giants used play-action out of a 2-1 personnel grouping three times (once out of the shotgun). Eli used his check-down twice, and they used the no-huddle three times.

San Diego

In the San Diego game I looked at 54 offensive plays, split between 34 passing plays and 20 running plays.

In the passing game, the Giants almost exclusively threw out of the shotgun, using it for 28 passing plays. They only used a fullback on six passing plays.

Once again, the majority of passing plays went for 10 or fewer yards. However most of the intermediate passes were between 15 and 20 yards, and four passes were targeted for more than 20 yards (including passes of 35, 40, and 43 yards).

Eli only used a single check-down that I saw, and only used play-action twice.

The offense was once again more balanced in how it presented the run, with 10 runs coming with a fullback on the field and 10 coming out of single back set, usually the shotgun. Runs heavily favored the right side of the line, equaling the number to the left and middle combined. Runs from 1-2 and 2-1 personnel groupings were equally represented, however they didn't once run from the 2-2 grouping.

Looking deeper, the most interesting thing that I noticed was that the Giants only used play-action from the 2-1 grouping. Also, despite the situations with the clock towards the end of quarters, such as trying to get plays in before the two-minute warning, they didn't once use the no-huddle. By the second half of the game, the Giants were using the shotgun almost exclusively. It was used for all but four plays in their final 25.

Conclusion

To me, what I saw in the Washington game says that the Giants went into this game intending to be reasonably balanced, particularly in how they presented the run game. It's not really a surprise that so many pass plays were out of the shotgun; not only are their best receiving threats wide receivers, but that is their primary third-down formation. It gets their best players on the field and gives Eli a better view of the defense.

The imbalance between the run and pass suggests that they wanted to test the Redskins' secondary. However, only having two deep passes suggests that they wanted to prevent turnovers, respected the Redskins' pass rushers, or both.

Without being in the huddle it's really impossible to tell how much of that was due to game-planning and how much was done at the line of scrimmage.

In the San Diego, while they may wanted balance on offense it is clear that they went into the game planning to attack down field, throwing a 40-yard pass on the fifth play of the game. That pass alone was equal to the number long pass attempts in the Washington game. Given the Giants' struggles along the offensive line, attacking that deep (and that many times) is an interesting decision at best.

Even before the game slipped away, the Giants did not make as much of an attempt to disguise their intentions pre-snap as they did in the Washington game. As the game got out of hand and any semblance of balance disappeared, it took any pretense of disguise with it.

Most interesting to me is the complete lack of no-huddle offense against San Diego. They clearly wanted to be aggressive against what has been one of the worst defenses in the league. Despite that, Gilbride had the offense huddle before every snap, even when they were down and the clock was working against them. Not only did that allow precious seconds to slip away and lessened the pressure on San Diego's defense, but it also limited Eli's ability to change the play at the line of scrimmage.

So, that begs the question: What was Kevin Gilbride thinking?

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