With speculation centering on Mike Sullivan as a potential replacement if the New York Giants decide to part ways with embattled offensive coordinator Kevin Gilbride, let's look at the work Sullivan did in two seasons with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
Sullivan left the Giants to run the offense for Greg Schiano in Tampa Bay, and his two seasons doing so have been a mixed bag. Josh Freeman threw for a franchise-record 4,065 yards in 2012 and also had a franchise-best 27 touchdown passes. The Bucs set franchise records in 2012 for points (389), yards (5,820) and touchdowns (44). Things deteriorated this season, with the Bucs ending up as the league's worst offense. Let's look at some of the numbers:
Total Offense: 363.8 yards per game (9th)
Points: 24.3 per game (13th)
Yards Per Play: 5.8 (8th)
Passing Yards: 3,983 (10th)
Rushing: 114.8 yards per game (15th)
Total Offense: 277.0 yards per game (32nd)
Points: 18.0 (30th)
Yards Per Play:4.5 (31st)
Passing Yards: 2,820 (32nd)
Rushing: 110.8 yards per game (22nd)
Sander Phillipse of SB Nation's Bucs website, Bucs Nation, does not offer a glowing endorsement of Sullivan's work.
"Mike Sullivan has been odd, to say the least. He looked like a quality coordinator last season, when he helped Doug Martin have one of the best seasons a Bucs running back has ever had while Josh Freeman looked explosive if inconsistent. But everything fell apart this year. The offense was completely incompetent, couldn't run the ball, couldn't throw the ball, Freeman looked awful and Mike Glennon showed glimpses, but not consistent or quality play.
"Now, some of that was due to injury and some of that was due to the players, but Sullivan didn't help matters. His passing game was focused on isolation routes, asking his quarterbacks to make very tough throws consistently -- although that did change as the season progressed. It took half the season for the Bucs to find any running plays that worked, and the offense was completely incompetent in the second half as the team seemed incapable of making half-time adjustments.
"Mike Sullivan came to Tampa with Kevin Gilbride's offense and a promise of being able to develop quarterbacks, but we haven't witnessed much of that. The development of tight end Tim Wright and a group of reasonably productive running backs, as well as Vincent Jackson's consistent performance as a number one receiver have been the biggest positives -- but the negatives clearly outshine those. The fact that the Bucs ended 2013 with the least productive offense in the NFL should be a massive black mark on his resume."
Here is just a little more, from Tampa Bay Times writer Rick Stroud:
If Sullivan, previously the Giants' quarterbacks coach, were looking for excuses, there is no shortage. Start with the Bucs' plan to stick with Josh Freeman at quarterback. He was benched after an 0-3 start, forcing Sullivan to turn to rookie Mike Glennon.
Season-ending injuries to RBs Doug Martin and Mike James, WR Mike Williams and TEs Luke Stocker and Tom Crabtree and the recurring MRSA in G Carl Nicks certainly put the Bucs on a lopsided playing field.
The Giants obviously like Sullivan, who coached with the Giants for eight seasons (six as wide receivers coach, two as quarterbacks coach) before leaving for the Buccaneers job. Giants' co-owner John Mara said Monday that the Giants "think very highly" of Sullivan.
Still, the implosion of the offense in Tampa Bay this season has to give the Giants pause before they choose to turn over the keys to the reconstruction of their own "broken" offense -- and the future of franchise quarterback Eli Manning -- to Sullivan.
Prior to this season Sullivan was considered a rising star in the coaching ranks, and did get an interview last offseason for the then-vacant Chicago Bears' job that went to Marc Trestman. Sullivan recently interviewed for, but did not get, the job as Army head coach.
Sullivan coming back to the Giants makes sense on many levels. He has a comfort level with Manning and head coach Tom Coughlin, and his return would ease the sting for both coach and quarterback of losing a coordinator both have been with a long time and are obviously willing to fight to keep. Sullivan learned much of his offensive philosophy under Gilbride, so while he would bring some new ideas to the table this would not be forcing Manning to learn a system that would be entirely foreign to him. Thinking long-term you wonder -- and I am purely speculating here -- if the Giants might see the 46-year-old Sullivan as a guy who could develop into a potential successor for Coughlin. If so, you do what you have to do to get him back in the fold.
Is Sullivan the right guy to replace Gilbride? Vote in the poll below and let us know what you think.
- New York Giants vs. Washington Redskins, Pro Football Focus Review
- Final NFL Power Rankings 2013: Giants end year at 23
- New York Giants' news, 12/31: What we know about Kevin Gilbride's status
- It's almost official ... Tom Coughlin will return as Giants' coach
- John Mara: 'I think our offense is broken right now'