Kevin Gilbride defends himself, has support of Coughlin, Manning

Kevin Gilbride - Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

New York Giants' offensive coordinator Kevin Gilbride talks about the rough season the offense has had. He still has the support of the head coach and quarterback.

Kevin Gilbride has been the New York Giants’ offensive coordinator since 2007. During that time the Giants have won two Super Bowl titles and consistently fielded one of the league’s most productive offenses.

Here is how the Giants have ranked with Gilbride designing the scheme and calling the plays:

2007 -- Points (14th), Yards (16th) … Super Bowl title

2008 -- Points (3rd), Yards (7th)

2009 -- Points (8th), Yards (8th)

2010 -- Points (7th), Yards (5th)

2011 -- Points (9th), Yards (8th) … Super Bowl title

2012 -- Points (6th), Yards (14th)

2013 -- Points (30th), Yards (28th)

This season has been by far the Giants’ worst offensive performance with Gilbride calling the plays. By any measuring stick, however, the numbers show a long run of sustained success.

Yet, Gilbride is aware of the criticism he has received this season and knows that people like yours truly have begun to believe that it might be best for quarterback Eli Manning and the future of the Giants’ offense to move on without him. He is also aware of the public support he has received both from Manning and head coach Tom Coughlin.

"I certainly appreciate it and that’s great. I think they know that we’ve performed in a lot of games for 25 years, doing what we’ve done," Gilbride said. "All I care about is now. What are we doing now and the struggles that we have now. What can I do to help this team succeed, that’s my only focus."

Is it truly fair to determine that Gilbride, an NFL coach since 1989 and a coordinator during his career for the Houston Oilers, Jacksonville Jaguars, Pittsburgh Steelers and Buffalo Bills, is no longer worthy of running the Giants’ offense after the only poor year of his seven-year tenure? Especially a year in which the Giants’ offense has been dealt a truly bad hand?

With wide receiver Victor Cruz going on injured reserve Thursday the Giants now have 12 players on IR. Five of those -- David Wilson, Chris Snee, David Baas, Henry Hynoski and Cruz -- were offensive starters Week 1. Three others -- Jim Cordle, Da’Rel Scott and Brandon Jacobs -- have started games. Andre Brown, now the starter at running back, spent the first half of the season on short-term IR.

The Giants have used six starting running backs, two starting fullbacks, and eight starting offensive linemen. That may grow to nine, or even 10, this week depending on who is healthy enough to play.

'It’s been a challenge, there’s no question about that. It’s been difficult.' - Kevin Gilbride on the 2013 season

Gilbride said this week that pointing to the injuries "sounds like an excuse," but at the same time acknowledged that it has been a factor.

"It’s been a challenge, there’s no question about that. It’s been difficult. It’s part of the thing going into this thing, knowing that you want to compete, you want to beat the challenges that you’ve been dealt," Gilbride said. "Sometimes it’s the quality of the opponent, sometimes it’s the injury factor, sometimes it’s the situation in a game, or the situation you find yourself in, in a season.

"This one, there’s no question that has been a factor in our play and we just keep trying to do whatever it is we can do to adjust, so we can give our guys a chance this Sunday to win this game."

Will Gilbride get the chance in 2014 to return the Giants to their usual place among the highest-scoring teams in the league? It certainly seems like both the head coach and the quarterback will fight to keep him, so it would seem there is a good chance that will be the case. WFAN's Paul Dottino predicted Friday night that Coughlin, Gilbride and Perry Fewell could all return next season.

Earlier this week Coughlin said it was "exactly right" that Gilbride’s system should still be successful if he had the pieces to work with.

"It certainly hasn’t been a connect-all-the-dots from day one type of year. Kevin’s a pro, he’s been around, he’s done this a long time," Coughlin said.

Manning told Newsday point-blank that he wants Gilbride back.

"I definitely don't want change and think he's a terrific offensive coordinator," Manning said. "Kevin has been my quarterback coach from Day One and my offensive coordinator. It's been a lot of his offensive stuff from Day One."

Asked directly if he hopes Gilbride comes back, Manning said: "Yeah, of course. He's my coach, the only one I've had, and that's the offense I know."

Considering the success Gilbride has helped Coughlin and Manning achieve throughout the years their allegiance to him is understandable. Gilbride, in fact, has been with Coughlin since 1995 in Jacksonville.

Familiarity Breeds Contempt

Gilbride’s future has been, of course, one of the most hotly-debated topics as the Giants have stumbled their way to the finish line this season.

Let’s acknowledge that, for all the complaining about the shotgun draw and what seems like a tendency to rely on too many downfield shots, Gilbride has been with Manning and Coughlin since the beginning in 2004, and has been a huge part of the team’s success.

When someone is around that long, however, you learn where the warts are.

-- We know the shotgun draw drives people crazy.

-- We know the Giants have never developed a real screen game.

-- We know the red/green zone always seems to be a work in progress.

-- We know in-game adjustments are sometimes slow to take place, with ‘balance’ taking the place of sticking with what seems to be working.

-- We know that from the outside even in-season adjustments sometimes seem to to take longer than you think they should.

Sometimes, after a while, you simply yearn for chance because, for whatever reason, you are just tired of the current situation.

There are solid reasons to move into the future with a new coordinator designing the Giants’ offense, and we have laid those out. The biggest question is whether or not those above Coughlin (GM Jerry Reese, owner John Mara) believe a change is needed, and whether or not they are willing to force the head coach and quarterback to accept one.

There are also, despite the howling of fans who want blood whenever things turn out poorly, equally solid reasons for allowing Gilbride to stay. Pick the play-calling apart if you must, but the Giants' offensive ineptitude is more about personnel.

Truthfully, this offense needs an infusion of talent almost everywhere. You can argue no one could have been successful with the injuries and lack of depth the Giants had this season. You can argue that the Giants aren’t good enough across the board on offense -- because they aren’t -- and that Gilbride deserves an opportunity to work with a rebuilt group next season.

There is one other truth to consider. Some Giants gave effort last week vs. the Seattle Seahawks, and it was quite apparent -- even to teammates -- some did not. These last two games mean nothing in the standings, but how hard the Giants play will reflect on the coaching staff.

Whether the offensive coordinator stays or goes will be among the most interesting, and most-discussed, topics of the Giants’ offseason.

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