Is Kevin Gilbride To Blame For The Giants' Struggles On Offense?
Watch a New York Giants game in a roomful of diehard Giants fans and you will hear a number of different complaints shouted at the television screen throughout the course of the game. These complaints will usually vary depending on how the game plays out and what kinds of circumstances occur. However, there's one complaint that you'll hear at least once a week, no matter who is winning and no matter whom the Giants are playing, and that complaint is directed at offensive coordinator Kevin Gilbride.
“Kill Drive,” as Gilbride is often affectionately referred to by Giants fans, has gotten more than his fair share of criticism over the course of his seven seasons as Giants offensive coordinator. Gilbride's first season as OC was in 2007, a year that saw the Giants make an improbable Super Bowl run, at times in spite of their offense. What really carried the 2007 Giants through the playoffs and through their victory over New England was the stellar play of their defense, especially the front seven. Gilbride's offense really hit its stride during the 2011 season, as the Giants' high-powered passing attack led them on yet another Super Bowl run, but despite that impressive season where Eli Manning threw for nearly 5,000 yards and the team finished in the top 10 in the league in offense, Gilbride never really reaped the benefits.
The most common complaint you'll hear about Gilbride's offensive play-calling is the lack of creativity or spontaneity. Too often, the Giants offense is accused of being too predictable, too vanilla, despite having some of the league's most dangerous weapons at their disposal. Eli Manning's deep ball is effective — when opposing defenses aren't expecting it. However, when you try to go for the homerun ball on every offensive possession, the defense is going to figure it out after the first time they get beat.
Another aspect of Gilbride's play-calling that seems to draw a lot of criticism is his run-pass variation. The Giants offense, especially over the last few seasons, has often had a hard time effectively balancing between the run and the pass. Too often, we'll see a series of great throws by Manning, followed by two or three consecutive ineffective runs that stall what should have been a productive drive. Instead of using the run game to complement the passing game, the running game has often been a detriment to the passing game — especially this season.
But perhaps the biggest problem with the offensive play-calling this season is that the Giants can't seem to avoid third-and-long situations. They have the highest average third-down yardage in the league, and no matter how good your quarterback is or how many weapons you have on offense, it's almost impossible to have any kind of success on offense or any kind of sustained momentum if you're constantly facing third-and-9 or third-and-11 situations. When you're faced with a third-and-long, the offensive playbook is significantly diminished and there just aren't that many options to work with.
The Giants seem to be wasting too many of their early downs with plays that are not netting them any positive yardage and creating more manageable third-down situations, putting them in this hole that is difficult to get out of. What the offense needs to do more of is controlling the clock, controlling the middle of the field and working on managing their possessions more effectively so that they can build a rhythm and gather some offensive momentum. Whether that means working more intermediate routes into the passing game to get Victor Cruz and Hakeem Nicks open or utilizing more screen passes, something needs to change when it comes to the offensive play-calling.
The red zone is a whole other story. The play-calling inside the red zone is one of the main reasons why the Giants have had such difficulty reaching the end zone, and there needs to be more creativity in the play selection when they get deep in opposing territory. Here's a hint: When everyone in the stadium, including the opposing team, knows you're going to hand the ball off to Brandon Jacobs on a second-and-goal from the one-yard-line, maybe don't hand the ball off to Brandon Jacobs? Maybe try rolling the pocket out and hitting the tight end or the fullback. Or — and here's a stretch — maybe get a little crazy and try one of those naked bootlegs that big brother Peyton executed to perfection last weekend in Dallas.