In the wake of this morning's 'conversion' to the 'replace Kevin Gilbride' camp I find myself needing to delve deeper into the New York Giants' offensive woes, the reasons for them, and the potential solutions.
Let's start with this bit of clarification, just in case anyone is confused -- and in looking at the comments I think some folks might be. Jordan Ranaan of the Star-Ledger did not 'report' this morning that anyone inside the Giants' hierarchy has told him that Gilbride is on the way out as offensive coordinator. When Ranaan wrote that the "signs are clear" that Gilbride won't be back he was using his eyes and stating what he saw, what he believes, and the viewpoint I have come to share. That is that this offense, and both the play and confidence level of the franchise quarterback, have degenerated to the point where it is difficult to see how the Giants can move forward without a new coordinator. So, yes, he was speculating.
Back when the Giants were in the midst of their 0-6 start we debated Gilbride and while defending the veteran offensive coordinator I made the point that the primary argument for Gilbride's dismissal was Manning's poor play. Nothing I have seen since then, and everything I saw from Manning in Sunday's five-interception effort, strengthened my belief in that argument.
Let's be clear about a couple of things.
First, despite the constant harping on the over-use of the shotgun draw and the seemingly never-ending red zone woes Gilbride has done a good job with the Giants. They have won two Super Bowls and have almost always been amongst the league leaders in points scored and yardage gained.
Second, with all of the personnel issues the Giants have on offense no one -- I don't care how brilliant an offensive mind -- could have turned this group into a point-scoring, high-flying, juggernaut.
The offensive line is horrid. Manning has been sacked a career-worst 36 times, virtually double last season's 19 with two games to go. Per Pro Football Focus Manning has been pressured on 40.2 percent of his dropbacks this season. Last season that number was 29.9 percent. Manning has never been good when he is forced to really move around, and this season he has been moving way too often. The run-blocking isn't any better, with Football Outsiders ranking the Giants 28th in run-blocking efficiency -- before Sunday's woeful game.
Among the receivers, only the now-injured Victor Cruz has been reliable all season. Rueben Randle has made some great plays, and some bad ones, and you are never quite sure what is going to happen when the ball heads his way. Neither is Manning. The relationship between Hakeem Nicks and the Giants, and the communication with his quarterback, began to fracture when Nicks blew off OTAs last spring and summer. Nicks is almost certainly out the door for good in a couple of weeks, and it seems largely like he hasn't really been "all-in" with the Giants all year. Brandon Myers and Manning have never really gotten any sort of real rhythm.
The running backs have been a mess. David Wilson, Andre Brown, Da'Rel Scott, Michael Cox, Brandon Jacobs and Peyton Hillis have all started games. Brown is a hard, effective runner when there is a lane. Without Wilson, however, there is no big-play threat. There are pass-blocking issues, with two of Sunday's four sacks of Manning being credited by PFF to Brown. Also, no Giants' back is a threat out of the backfield. Hillis is the best pass-receiver, but nicknamed 'Ice Wagon' by Carl Banks he is no threat to make a big play when he catches the ball.
All of that said, the biggest flaw in Manning's arsenal has been his long-time willingness to take foolish risks with the ball, to throw it places where he probably shouldn't at times when he shouldn't, to at times simply chuck the ball up and hope his guy, rather than the other guy, comes down with the ball. It is a frustrating tendency that Gilbride has never been able to get the quarterback to overcome.
As things have degenerated around him Manning has also fallen apart. Too many bad decisions, too much bailing out on throws even when he has time, too many off-target passes. Too much bad football. His interception percentage, a stunning 5.2 percent of his passes have been picked off, is worse than the 4.6 percent interception rate from him 25-interception 2010 season.
Head coach Tom Coughlin said Sunday night that "I just don't believe that" Manning isn't capable of better football at this point in his career, admitting also that "obviously there's concern" about the quarterback. He also called the offense "pathetic."
Manning has backed Gilbride and repeatedly talked about how his comfort level in and knowledge of the system the Giants have run for his entire career has helped him. Manning's bad play over the past two seasons, however, has really stripped him of the right to say 'Gilbride is my offensive coordinator' and expect the Giants to simply say 'fine.'
Manning can make every throw an NFL quarterback needs to make. He has courage at the big moments and has taken the Giants to the mountaintop twice. It is too early in his career to believe that he has simply lost the ability to play, that there is no chance to could take the Giants to the top again.
The Giants are not replacing Manning, so get those 'trade for Kirk Cousins' or 'use a first-round pick on a quarterback' thoughts out of your head. He is, however, broken and the Giants desperately need to fix him. Can Gilbride do that? Maybe. I have simply come to believe there is a better chance of fixing Manning if you let someone else try to play mechanic.
That is why I switched camps.