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Kevin Gilbride supports Eli Manning, blasts Giants neglect of offensive line

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Former offensive coordinator has his say on current situation

New York Giants v Pittsburgh Steelers
Kevin Gilbride and Eli Manning in 2008.
Photo by Rick Stewart/Getty Images

Former New York Giants offensive coordinator Kevin Gilbride appeared on NBC Sports Radio Thursday to, of course, talk about Eli Manning. Gilbride, though, also revealed the depth of the franchise’s neglect of the offensive line during his tenure.

Let’s talk about that first. Gilbride was asked about the poor offensive line play in front of Manning the past couple of seasons. He pulled no punches. Background before Gilbride’s response to the question he was asked on “Going Deep with Amani Toomer and Dan Schwartz.”

The Giants used a second-round pick on left tackle Will Beatty in 2009. They didn’t use another high draft pick on the offensive line until taking Justin Pugh in the first round of the 2013 NFL Draft.

In 2009, the David Diehl-Rich-Seubert-Shaun O’Hara-Chris Snee-Kareem McKenzie offensive line was intact.

O’Hara played only six games in 2010 and then retired due to injury. Seubert, who fought though multiple injuries, also retired after 2010. McKenzie retired after the 2011 season. Diehl hung on through 2013, but his last couple of seasons were regrettable. Snee played only three games in 2013 due to injuries, then retired after an aborted 2014 comeback attempt.

Yet, a full three-year gap existed before the Giants attempted to add a significant piece to the line.

“Back in 2009 I started to argue that the line was getting old and 2010 we were getting beat up, we were still winning because we were still good enough. In 2011 even when we won the Super Bowl there were multiple guys getting hurt and banged up, and by 2012 we went 9-7 but we were hanging on by dear life,” Gilbride said. “We were hanging onto that windowsill with our fingernails. When 2013 happened and there were six different starters at running back, three different at right guard, four different at center, three at left guard. That stuff’s been going on for a while now.

“This isn’t just an overnight thing. People are acting like this just happened. This has been a buildup that needed to be addressed for a while.”

Here’s more from Gilbride.

Reaction to Manning’s benching

The long-time Giants’ offensive coordinator said he was “stunned” when he heard the news.

“It certainly is never a very pleasant thing. I feel horrible for the guy because I think the world of him. I think he’s a terrific person, a terrific quarterback. He certainly in my mind gives them the best chance to win, but sometimes they make decisions and that usually means that they’ve gone in a different direction. They don’t think this is the direction they want to head. That’s what makes it so difficult to understand that they’re going with Geno Smith and not going with the young guy.”

Is Manning in decline?

Gilbride said flatly that “I do not see a significant dropoff” in Manning’s play.

“What I know is this guy’s going to be prepared. He’ll always be as selfless, as hard working, as professional as you could ask anybody to be. When I do watch him on film I see a guy who’s arm strength is still the same.

“As I’ve said on numerous occasions will never and never has solved problems with his feet. He’s not gonna do that. He can solve it with his arm, he can solve it with his brains, he can solve it with his heart. But, if you’re asking this guy to solve problems because of difficulty with protection and what have you with his feet you’ve got the wrong guy. That’s not who he is.”

Was the situation handled properly?

A few here. Gilbride worked for the Giants from 2004-2013. McAdoo took his job and sent him into retirement. Also, Gilbride is no longer around the Giants on any sort of regular basis, if at all. Still, here is his take:

“It’s turned very ugly. When I was there I know how they felt about him -- they held him in the highest esteem. It’s always going to be awkward, it’s always a horrible time, it’s never good. Just about every player and most coaches have all gone through it. It’s horrible, it doesn’t get any worse.

“You’ve got a guy I just love. He’s a special human being as well as a tremendous football player. Your heart just breaks when you see how devastated he was.You couldn’t feel any worse for a guy.”

Were Manning’s talents used properly?

Again, a caveat. McAdoo replaced Gilbride, and runs a much different offense than the play-action passing, look for chunk plays down the field attack Gilbride ran. Again, though, here is what Gilbride said:

“That’s the great question. I certainly don’t know the ins and outs of what they’re doing. It’s their version of the West Coast offense. I think in some respects trying to throw a high volume of quick, short passes to solve or overcome the deficiency in the offensive line from a philosophical standpoint makes sense, but there’s two things that happen, that need to take place.

“Number one is some of those short, quick passes have to turn into big gains for you or you’re just not going to win. You need some big plays, you need some explosive plays, all teams do. It’s hard to drive 10, 12, 15 plays.

“The thing Aaron Rodgers gives you with the explosive plays is because he can extend plays. … A lot of their explosive plays come from that. That’s him. I don’t think there’s anybody else in the league that can do that.”