Kevin Gilbride has seen first-hand what adding the right pass catchers can do for the development of a young quarterback.
Gilbride was quarterbacks coach for the New York Giants when they signed Plaxico Burress as a free agent in 2005 to help a young, developing Eli Manning in 2005. He had ascended to offensive coordinator in 2007 when they selected slot receiver Steve Smith in the second round of the NFL Draft and went on to win the Super Bowl.
There are obvious parallels from that team to the current version of the Giants. A young, unproven quarterback. A front office that just went out and signed a big, play-making wide receiver in Kenny Golladay. The possibility another wide receiver could soon be joining the mix via the draft.
Gilbride, 69 and out of the NFL since retiring from the Giants after the 2013 season, couldn’t speak directly to Golladay’s skillset. He knows, though, what it would mean to Daniel Jones if Golladay can have a similar impact.
“Definitely a guy like Plax it gives you big answer answer outside, guy that it’s hard to match up with one on one,” Gilbride told Big Blue View earlier this week.
“If he [Golladay] can do those things that not only becomes a viable pass threat that has to be defended, but the defending of that individual will also open up numerous opportunities in other areas.
Gilbride said it was Smith, though, who put the Giants’ offense over the top. Smith had only 8 receptions during the 2007 regular season, but had 14 in the playoffs and Super Bowl. He wnet on to be a major factor for the Giants for the next two seasons, catching 107 passes in 2009, before injuries shortened his career.
“Steve Smith made all the difference in the world for us. Everyone thinks it was Plax, who was a terrific player and helped us immensely, but Steve Smith was the missing piece,” Gilbride said. “When Steve came we had Plaxico outside, Steve inside and that’s when we went on to win the Super Bowl.”
Gilbride said he hasn’t studied Daniel Jones — he has just watched him on television. He does, though, obviously know a thing or two about the learning curve of a young NFL quarterback.
“I’ve said this for years and years and years. You can’t judge a quarterback by his first year. It’s just not fair,” Gilbride said. “The ones that succeed usually do it because they’re in exceptional circumstances … or they can solve problems with their feet.”
“Not only does a guy like that change the quarterback’s confidence it opens up opportunities in a lot of different areas, including the run game.”
While 2021 will be Jones’ third NFL season, Gilbride considers him a second-year player because of the Giants’ change in coaching staffs and schemes after his rookie season.
“You change from one offense to another it’s hard, it’s difficult … to me this is his second year,” Gilbride said.
Gilbride said that continuing to build an offensive line that will keep him comfortable will help Jones.
“I know that Dave Gettleman is painfully aware of the shortcoming at the end of my time with the offensive line. He’s done everything he can to address that. I know it’s gone maybe a little more slowly than the Giants fans would want, but he certainly made the commitment to getting that problem solved,” Gilbride said.
“That helps the young guy more than anything else. Then he’s just gotta make that step where he sees things quickly enough that he doesn’t hang in the pocket that long. Some of the misfortune he has experienced is really when he’s trying to make more out of a play than the play is allowing.”
Getting him the right support is a big part of the equation. The rest, though, is up to Jones.
“Hopefully he’ll grow, and the supporting cast around him will enable him to do that,” Gilbride said. “But it’s up to him, too. He’s gotta make the next step. No question about it.”
On Jones’ predecessor
Gilbride, of course, was an integral part of the best years of Eli Manning’s career with the Giants, including two Super Bowl wins. He was caught off guard when Manning retired following the 2019 season.
“I was surprised that he did retire. I know people look at him and don’t realize what a competitive guy he is, but that’s the motivation that allowed him to do all the work necessary to have the success he had with us,” Gilbride said.
“I thought he would go somewhere else wanting to show everybody he could still play.”
Gilbride, though, has not been caught off guard by the glimpses of his playful personality Manning has shown since that retirement.
“Am I surprised by this unveiling that people are seeing of his personality? No. I’ve known it was there all along. He just shielded everybody else,” Gilbride said.
“The guy’s always had a great way about him, a great personality. That’s why he was so well-received by his teammates. He’s always had a great sense of humor.”
Working for Tom Coughlin
Gilbride was a pass to set up the run offensive coordinator. He learned the Run ‘n Shoot offense from Mouse Davis in the CFL, brought it to the Houston Oilers and coordinator an offense that finished top five in scoring from 1990-94.
When he joined the Giants, it was Gilbride’s second tour working for Coughlin. When he became offensive coordinator for the Giants, he said the head coach wanted power football mixed with Gilbride’s wide open and often complex passing concepts.
“Tom just wanted us to be more of a grind out, so I had to mix that in maybe more than I would have wanted to, but I always tried to honor what he would like philosophically,” Gilbride said.
“He wanted balance. He never interfered, never said run this play, that play. I have the greatest admiration for how hard that is for a football guy to do that, and yet he never interfered. So I give him all the credit in the world, but he also made it clear what he wanted.”
Gilbride said that since leaving the Giants he has had occasional overtures from NFL teams. He isn’t interested.
Gilbride is a proud grandpa, now with five grandchildren. He wants, more than anything, to be part of their lives.
“I wanted to spend time with my grandkids (when he retired),” Gilbride said. “My kids had grown up with me never being home and I didn’t want to do the same thing with them.”
The itch to compete and to help young players, though, had not been completely scratched despite a 39-year coaching career.
Gilbride’s father was a high school football and basketball coach. He wanted to follow in his path.
“I saw the impact he had on young people and that was my goal to get involved in teaching and trying to help young people,” he said.
Gilbride ended up teaching football. He is still doing it.
Gilbride coached the XFL’s New York Guardians in 2020 until the league folded. Now, he as taken on the role of head coach of the Jousters in The Spring League, which begins its new season May 6 with games being played on Fox, FS1, and FS2. These are basically part-time gigs that allow him to coach and compete, while still spending the vast majority of the year at home.
“I get my football fix and yet I’m able to spend the majority of my time at home,” Gilbride said. “That’s what I’m all about, an opportunity to try to work with some young people, see if I can make them better, teach them a little bit more about the game than they already know, get a chance to compete which I always enjoy doing and when it’s all said and done not be away from my grandkids too long, which is the thing that’s still first and paramount.”