New York Giants: Kevin Gilbride

EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- Much of what the New York Giants are doing here in the first week of their offseason program is learning a new offense under new offensive coordinator Ben McAdoo. There is a lot to learn -- a lot of differences from what former offensive coordinator Kevin Gilbride ran. Longtime offensive lineman Chris Snee said the first couple of days had been spent entirely on run concepts, and that as of Tuesday afternoon they hadn't even discussed passing concepts.

But wide receiver Victor Cruz worked with quarterback Eli Manning this month at the Mannings' annual passing camp at Duke University. Since Manning had the chance to talk to McAdoo during McAdoo's interview process, Manning has some idea about some of the differences we'll see in the passing game. Cruz discussed some of them Tuesday when he mentioned that the new offense won't be based as much on "body language" as the old one was.

"Now that this offense is less centered on body language, I think it's going to be even easier to get on the same page," Cruz said. "This offense, your route is your route. It's a lot less dependent on Eli reading my body language and much more about him just reading the coverage and finding the guy who's open."

We've discussed this here, specifically with regard to Rueben Randle. The Gilbride offense relied on option routes that put a lot of responsibility on receivers reading coverages the same way Manning did. A receiver would get to the line with several options, read the coverage and run the route he believed would get him open. If Manning made the same read, and if it worked, they could connect for a big play. Several times last season, Randle and Manning didn't make the same read and it led to interceptions. It's possible that simplifying the pre-snap responsibilities for the receivers will help Randle flourish. Cruz seems to think it will make it easier on everyone.

"I'm excited about it," Cruz said. "Anybody who's seen Green Bay knows they can put up a lot of points in a hurry."

Green Bay is of course where McAdoo spent the past eight years as a member of Mike McCarthy's offensive coaching staff.
Even after all of their dizzying free-agent activity, the New York Giants' hopes for a return to contention in 2014 still rest on a player who has been on their team for the past 10 years.

The Giants have signed 23 free agents since the new league year started March 11, but not a single one of them will have as much to say about the success or failure of next season's team as will quarterback Eli Manning. He remains the one aspect of their roster that they know, from experience, can elevate them from average to championship-caliber. If he recovers from his career-worst season the way he did in 2011, all of Jerry Reese's offseason moves have a chance to look brilliant. But if Manning has another bad year and continues his decline, those moves are going to look useless.

[+] EnlargeEli Manning
Jim McIsaac/Getty ImagesFor the Giants to have future success, Eli Manning must recover from a 2013 season in which he threw 27 interceptions.
Even the manner in which Reese has gone about this rebuild shows you it all comes down to Manning. Of the 23 free agents the Giants have signed, only nine play offense. They changed offensive coordinators, and Ben McAdoo will bring significant scheme changes with him, but considering how horrible the Giants offense was in 2013, they've so far acquired rather little in the way of help. A new starting left guard, a new running back, maybe a new center but maybe not. There's no tight end. The depth chart at wide receiver is Victor Cruz and an array of question marks. Three of the five projected starting offensive linemen come with red injury flags.

Sure, there's the draft yet to come, and maybe even some more free-agency activity. But as with almost all of their moves so far, any free-agent moves yet to come will be Band-Aids. The Giants know they can never count on immediate help from a draft, and they will work to make judicious choices next month to help their roster as a whole for the long term. If, during that process, they come up with a receiver or a tight end or a lineman who helps make Manning better in 2014, so be it. But that's not the primary goal of any Giants' draft. They draft in order to build and maintain a deep roster.

So Manning has a lot of work to do, and this is why the Giants pay him $20 million or so a year. They count on him to be able to carry them to great things. They know, if they didn't already before last year's crater of an 0-6 start, that they can't just let the whole roster erode around him and expect him to work miracles. But they know that if they do put a representative team around him, he's the kind of quarterback who can win playoff games and Super Bowls with it. That's why his salary is what it is, and that's why the Giants go into 2014 crossing their fingers that 2013 was just a hiccup and not a sign of a player on the way down.

Their hope, as articulated in interviews by head coach Tom Coughlin this offseason, is that the arrival of McAdoo will "energize" Manning, and that he'll enthusiastically embrace an offensive scheme change after 10 years without one. I think there is some merit to this hope -- a chance they'll turn out to be right. The reason for Manning's problems in 2013 was a complete breakdown of his protection, but he himself did little to overcome those issues, the Hakeem Nicks issues and whatever else was going wrong. The player the Giants believe can elevate them above their station failed in that assignment, and he and the whole offense had a wasted season. If the departure of Kevin Gilbride and the arrival of McAdoo and his new system can serve as a wake-up call, it's possible that Manning could look more like his old, problem-solving self again in 2014.

But if he doesn't, the Giants are in for another rough year and -- worse -- a 2015 offseason in which they'll have to totally re-evaluate their quarterback situation for the short term and the long term. It has been a decade since the Giants were worried about quarterback, and they have no desire to face those questions again anytime soon. Their organizational hope is that Manning is fantastic in 2014 and they can look ahead to another half-decade of faith that they're set at the game's most important position.

Manning has played under tremendous pressure throughout his career and generally done very well with it. He's under a great deal of pressure in 2014 to recover from his 27-interception season and put the team's recovery on his shoulders. The Giants can sign as many free agents as they like, and it appears they're trying to do just that. But in the end, as it has for years with the Giants, it still all comes down to Eli Manning.
Did you use the #nygmail hashtag on Twitter this week? No? Well, then your New York Giants question is not among these. Sorry.
In his media session Wednesday at the NFL owners meetings, New York Giants coach Tom Coughlin spoke of the departure of free-agent wide receiver Hakeem Nicks. A star-caliber wideout just two years ago while the Giants were making a Super Bowl run, Nicks punched his own ticket out of town in 2013 with a dismal free-agent year and is now an Indianapolis Colt. Coughlin said he wished Nicks well, and when the conversation turned to the question of replacing Nicks, the first name Coughlin mentioned was that of third-year wide receiver Rueben Randle.

"We have high expectations for Rueben," Coughlin said, according to the transcript Rich Cimini sent me. "Rueben has to continue to develop, continue to become a better pro -- focus, concentration, production on the field, consistency, day in and day out. Practicing. You’ve seen the plays the guy can make. He’s made great plays ... We have a lot of belief and stock in his development."

Randle is a third-year wide receiver, and everybody who plays fantasy football has been told that's supposed to be a big-leap kind of year for those who are going to make them. The Giants picked Randle in the second round of the 2012 draft because they thought he had the skill set of a first-rounder, but that his college production had suffered because a shaky quarterback situation at LSU. So he is a player of whom they have always expected big things.

On occasion in 2013, he delivered big things. Randle scored six touchdowns this past year, which was a whopper of a number for the 2013 Giants. No one else on the team scored more than four. He caught 41 of his 80 targets for 611 yards, and some of the plays he made were highlight-reel quality. But he also struggled at times to get on the same page as quarterback Eli Manning, and some of their difficulties in that regard led to interceptions.

Now, as you know, the Giants' offense is going to look a lot different in 2014, if only because of new coordinator Ben McAdoo. The old Giants offense under Kevin Gilbride relied heavily on option routes and the ability of the receivers to read the coverage the same way Manning read it from play to play. It's possible McAdoo's offense won't rely as much on that, and if that's the case it would address some of what went wrong between Randle and Manning last season. The flip side is that Randle, like everyone else, will be learning a lot of new plays and terminology this offseason, and if part of the issue is that he's a slow learner, that's bound to show up as well.

So we'll see. Randle has the size and skill to be a very good NFL wide receiver. He just needs to develop, which not everyone does at this very difficult level. The extent to which he can replace what Nicks used to give the Giants (as opposed to what he gave them in 2013) will go a long way toward determining whether the passing game can bounce back in 2014.
Former New York Giants offensive coordinator Kevin Gilbride was at some charity event in New York City on Thursday night and offered some candid thoughts on the disappointing 2013 Giants season and where things stand in terms of the roster. Per Tom Rock of Newsday:
"I think they finally realize there are areas that need to be addressed," the former offensive coordinator said of the obvious deficiencies in line depth and lack of talent at other positions that led to last season's 7-9 record. "I certainly have expressed those concerns for a number of years. It wasn't a matter of if, it was a matter of when it was going to happen. It really started happening the year before and we were able to fight through it a little bit, but this year the confluence of injuries were just too many."

Gilbride, who was at the PKD Foundation Benefit in Manhattan Thursday night, said he thinks the 2014 Giants can turn it around, but that will start with the front office and free agency, which begins next week.

"They have to get some players," he said. "If the players come back, if [Chris] Snee comes back healthy and [David] Baas comes back healthy. The running back situation is a little scary -- they have to get somebody there. But if they can get somebody there and if [Kevin] Boothe comes back, the inside three will be stable. I know they're going to look for a tight end. There are a lot of holes that need to be filled."

Gilbride "retired" at the end of the 2013 season, though comments made shortly thereafter by Giants owner John Mara indicated he might have been fired had he not quit on his own. He's obviously quite proud of his overall body of work as an NFL coach and maybe a little bit bitter about the way it ended. According to The Star-Ledger's Conor Orr, Gilbride was upset over Mara's day-after-the-season crack about "I don't know why it took us so long to figure out that Jerrel Jernigan could play." And Gilbride also didn't like to hear GM Jerry Reese saying it was time for a change:
“I’m kind of surprised to hear him say that,” Gilbride said when asked about general manager Jerry Reese saying it was time for a change. “No one had figured that offense out for 24 years. To think that they figured it out this year would be pretty ludicrous. I think it was pretty obvious what the problems were. We had a confluence of injuries, we were very weak on the offensive line. We had some guys who struggled. We started six different offensive tailbacks, three different fullbacks, three different right guards, four different centers … You’re not going to have anything (with that). You can say it’s the offense, but it’s pretty clear what the problem was.”

The Giants are moving on with Ben McAdoo as their new offensive coordinator after Gilbride held the job for seven seasons. His record does stand on its own, as he indicated it should. He has received too much of the blame for what went on with the Giants in 2013, as coordinators often do. But I think you can make the case that it was time for a new voice in the meeting room without also denigrating Gilbride's accomplishments. The offense looked just fine when it was winning the second of two Eli Manning/Tom Coughlin-era Super Bowls just 25 months ago.

Giants announce their coaching staff

January, 27, 2014
The New York Giants on Monday officially announced the hiring of Oregon State offensive coordinator Danny Langsdorf as their quarterbacks coach, a move that was widely reported at the end of last week and completes their coaching staff. They also announced that Sean Ryan, who had been their quarterbacks coach, will now be the wide receivers coach, and that Kevin M. Gilbride, who had been the wide receivers coach, will coach tight ends.

The shuffling completes a process of change that was set in motion when Kevin Gilbride (father of the aforementioned) resigned as offensive coordinator following the season and was replaced by Ben McAdoo. Shortly after McAdoo was hired, the Giants let go of longtime tight ends coach Mike Pope and running backs coach Jerald Ingram. Craig Johnson, who had been the Minnesota Vikings quarterbacks coach, was hired to replace Ingram as Giants running backs coach.

So that sets the new offensive coaching staff, with line coach Pat Flaherty, assistant line coach Lunda Wells and offensive assistant Ryan Roeder the only ones who will return in 2014 in the same roles they filled in 2013.

One bizarre and coincidental note here: Langsdorf once donated a kidney to Laurie Cavanaugh, who is the sister of the older Kevin Gilbride. Cavanugh's husband, Mike, was on the coaching staff at Oregon State with Langsdorf at the time, seven years ago. Small world.

Twitter mailbag: How will Eli adapt?

January, 25, 2014
Herewith, our weekly New York Giants mailbag, in which you can participate by tweeting a question with the #nygmail hashtag. Simple as that, folks. Simple as that.

Giants round out coaching staff

January, 24, 2014
The New York Giants have hired Oregon State offensive coordinator Danny Langsdorf as their new quarterbacks coach, apparently filling the one remaining vacancy on their coaching staff. According to a source with knowledge of the situation, current quarterbacks coach Sean Ryan will remain on the staff but in a different role. It's possible Ryan could be the tight ends coach, since that was the spot that was vacant.

Langsdorf was on the New Orleans Saints' coaching staff in 2004 along with new Giants offensive coordinator Ben McAdoo. He's been at Oregon State ever since.

The Giants hired McAdoo as offensive coordinator after his predecessor Kevin Gilbride retired right after the end of the season. The next day, they let go of longtime tight ends coach Mike Pope and running backs coach Jerald Ingram. Earlier this week, they hired former Vikings quarterbacks coach Craig Johnson as running backs coach to replace Ingram, and with Langsdorf on board they appear to be full again, though without announcing all of the assignments.

The Giants are not expected to let go of any more assistants this offseason.

Manning 'excited' about McAdoo

January, 23, 2014
New York Giants quarterback Eli Manning said he's "excited" to work with new offensive coordinator Ben McAdoo and expressed a positive attitude about learning a new offensive system after playing the first 10 years of his career in the same one.

"I'm excited about Ben coming in," Manning said Thursday on a conference call. "I talked to him before we hired him, kind of before he interviewed with Coach [Tom] Coughlin, and was very impressed with him and just his offensive mindset and also his preparation on how he likes to get ready, his drills with quarterbacks and the things he’s done in the past. So I’m excited about, obviously, what he’ll bring to the Giants and look forward to getting in meetings and getting with him and seeing what I can do better and what I need to learn and how this offense is going to go."

McAdoo was hired a couple of weeks ago to replace longtime Giants offensive coordinator Kevin Gilbride, who retired right after the season amid valid speculation that the team was considering replacing him. McAdoo has spent the past nine years as an assistant coach under Mike McCarthy, who runs a West Coast-style offense with the Green Bay Packers. That style differs significantly from the run-and-shoot-inspired offense Gilbride ran. Manning said he's looking forward to seeing how much things will change under McAdoo.

"I think the West Coast offense has kind of changed a little bit over the years," Manning said. "They call it different things, but they’ll have their little tweaks and different things that they do, that they’ve done in Green Bay where he’s been under that offense. I’m looking forward to learning. It’ll have some different ideas, but it’s still about playing football and having great footwork and mechanics and throwing it to the open guy."

Manning is coming off a career-worst season in which he led the league with a career-high 27 interceptions against only 18 touchdowns and completed only 57.5 percent of his passes. His completion percentage and total of touchdown passes have dropped in each of the past three seasons. So while you obviously wouldn't expect him to say anything negative publicly about his new offensive coordinator, it's not hard to believe he's sincere in expressing excitement about the possibility of trying something new.

Mara: No Coughlin contract talks yet

January, 20, 2014
New York Giants owner John Mara appeared on Mike Lupica's ESPN radio show Monday on 98.7 FM in New York. The link to the interview is here, and while the bulk of it is devoted to Mara's continued celebration of the indefensible decision to hold the Super Bowl in New Jersey, there are a couple of Giants topics addressed starting around the 8:30 mark.

Mara said the team hasn't yet had discussions with coach Tom Coughlin about extending his contract beyond 2014. The Giants have a longstanding policy of not allowing their head coach to enter the final season of his contract as a lame duck, but Mara indicated on the day after the season that they could change that.

"In terms of Tom’s future, we haven’t even had that discussion yet," Mara said on Lupica's show Monday. "He’s obviously going to be our coach here next year and hopefully for longer than that, but we haven’t sat down to even talk about that yet. I think he’s just focused on getting the team ready for next year, and sometime in the future we will sit down and talk about that."

Meantime, Mara said he's happy that the team decided to make changes to the offensive coaching staff. After longtime offensive coordinator Kevin Gilbride did the team a favor by retiring before they had to decide to fire him, they hired 36-year-old Packers assistant Ben McAdoo for his first offensive coordinator job at any level and let go of longtime tight ends coach Mike Pope and running backs coach Jerald Ingram.

"There are times where you just have to do that, because things were just not working for us, particularly on offense," Mara said. "So I’m glad that we are making some changes. We need to move forward and we need to do things a little bit differently around here."

That appears to be the plan on offense. Mara went on to say that he believes there's enough talent on the team to contend and make the playoffs in 2014, which everybody in the league believes and should believe about their team. But as he also said, the Giants have a great deal of work to do in the draft and in free agency before we know that their 2014 will even look like.
Green Bay Packers quarterbacks coach Ben McAdoo was in New Jersey on Monday to interview with the New York Giants for their vacant offensive coordinator job. McAdoo then traveled to Miami, where he is scheduled to interview with the Miami Dolphins for their vacant offensive coordinator job. McAdoo and Dolphins head coach Joe Philbin worked together in Green Bay from 2006-11, before Philbin left his job as Packers offensive coordinator to take the head coach job in Miami. That connection could make Miami the favorite to land McAdoo.

McAdoo is one of four candidates known to have interviewed for the Giants' offensive coordinator job, which came open following the retirement of Kevin Gilbride just after the end of the season. The other three are former Giants assistant and former Buccaneers offensive coordinator Mike Sullivan, former Titans offensive coordinator Dowell Loggains and former Houston Texans quarterbacks coach and UCLA head coach Karl Dorrell.
For the second year in a row, former New York Giants defensive end Michael Strahan is one of 15 finalists for induction into the Pro Football Hall of Fame. The Hall of Fame's class of 2014 will be announced on Feb. 1 in New York, the night before the Super Bowl that will be played across the river in New Jersey. It likely would be extra sweet for Strahan to make it this year, since he played his whole career with the Giants and would be learning of his election in New York City.

In other news, the Giants continue to hunt for a new guy for fans to complain about whenever they have to settle for field goals instead of touchdowns. But after John Mara made it clear in a radio interview that former offensive coordinator Kevin Gilbride likely would have been fired if he hadn't quit, it's also becoming clear that the Giants are opening themselves up to the possibility of bigger changes than originally expected to their offensive schemes and principles. I think this is a good thing, even if the interview process doesn't ultimately lead to a surprising candidate. The interviews they're doing shows they're open to expanding their thinking about how to score points, and in today's NFL, that's everyone's priority.

Whatever they do on offense, they'll need to figure out who the running back is. David Wilson is having neck surgery next week with the goal of getting him back on the field in 2014. But that's a goal, not a certainty by any means.

Oh, and Mara agrees with me on the issue of playoff expansion. He's opposed, in other words. Which is encouraging, since Mara's a pretty powerful dude in this here league.
The latest name in the New York Giants' offensive coordinator search is that of Karl Dorrell, the former UCLA coach who was most recently the Houston Texans' quarterback coach. Dorrell will be the fourth candidate to interview for the position, joining a field that includes former Giants assistant Mike Sullivan, former Titans offensive coordinator Dowell Loggains and Packers quarterbacks coach Ben McAdoo, who's scheduled to interview Saturday.

On a radio interview Thursday on WFAN in New York, Giants owner John Mara said there were currently four candidates but that the field could expanded.

Mara reiterated the Giants' party line that former offensive coordinator Kevin Gilbride decided to retire, but he also indicated that Gilbride may not have been back even if he hadn't.

"Fortunately, it didn't come to a situation where he had to be forced out," Mara said.

So it seems clear that the Gilbride thing was about to turn ugly, and it's possible that Gilbride saw the writing on the wall and did the Giants a favor. Going forward, it now appears possible that the changes to the Giants' offensive scheme could be more extensive than we originally thought when the Gilbride news broke last week. As head coach Tom Coughlin interviews candidates other than Sullivan to replace Gilbride, it's clear he's keeping an open mind about coaches who might bring fresh offensive ideas to the table.

"I think, going forward, a change is probably going to be good for us," Mara said on WFAN. "Nothing lasts forever. Teams adjust to what you're doing. Sometimes you have to have new ideas in there, and I think Tom is obviously open to that."

Gilbride and Coughlin worked together for a long time. Gilbride was on Coughlin's original staff with the 1995 expansion Jacksonville Jaguars, and 2014 will be the first of Coughlin's 11-year tenure with the Giants without Gilbride on his offensive staff. But as much as the Giants' offense has been Gilbride's, it also has been Coughlin's.

Coughlin's background is as an offensive coach, and his influence on the principles and terminology on which the Giants' offense is based is significant and likely to remain so. For that reason, assuming Coughlin and the team weren't going to want to change much, a lot of us assumed Sullivan would be the leading candidate to take over as coordinator. He knows the offense and the terminology, and if continuity is the goal, he seems the obvious choice.

But if not the goal, then change is at least a possibility. McAdoo and Loggains are both in their 30s and thought of as up-and-comers in the offensive coaching ranks. And Dorrell has extensive experience in college as well as some in the NFL and could bring fresh ideas. If nothing else, Coughlin seems open to the possibility of bringing in someone who might want to shake up the way the Giants play offense. And I guess it shouldn't be a big surprise. Coughlin has shown a willingness to change before, and if it's clear that Mara thinks a change is in order, the coach is smart enough to know he needs to demonstrate a willingness to at least consider it.

No matter who gets hired, the Giants are going to need major personnel upgrades on the offensive line, at running back, at tight end and at wide receiver in order for the offense to work better than it did in 2013. And quarterback Eli Manning will need to play better as well. But after 10 years under Gilbride, I think there's a strong chance Manning could be fired up and energized by a new coach and a new system, and it's wise of the Giants to be looking into those things.

Add McAdoo to list of OC candidates

January, 8, 2014
Green Bay Packers quarterbacks coach Ben McAdoo will interview Saturday for the New York Giants' vacant offensive coordinator position, a source confirmed Wednesday. He is the third known candidate to replace Kevin Gilbride, who stepped down from the position last week.

Former Giants assistant and Tampa Bay Buccaneers offensive coordinator Mike Sullivan and former Tennessee Titans offensive coordinator Dowell Loggains were interviewing Wednesday.

It's possible that other candidates could emerge as teams with interesting candidates get eliminated from the playoffs. But McAdoo has emerged as a hot name this week, interviewing with the Cleveland Browns for their head coaching position and drawing interest from the Miami Dolphins for their newly vacant offensive coordinator job.
Count wide receiver Victor Cruz among those who would welcome Mike Sullivan back to the New York Giants' coaching staff as offensive coordinator. Speaking at a promotional event in New York on Wednesday, Cruz disputed the notion that the Giants need major scheme changes on offense and said he thought Sullivan could succeed by putting a fresh face on the same system Kevin Gilbride was running. Per The Star-Ledger:
"I think it’s just his familiarity with our personnel, with our offense, the one we had. Obviously, he’s running a similar offense with Tampa Bay but I’m sure he’ll have some tweaks here or there. I just think we need a refresher, I think, more so than people needing a whole big name. A refreshing face that we know, one we’re all comfortable with, and we can go from there."

[+] EnlargeMike Sullivan
Kim Klement/USA TODAY SportsFormer Bucs offensive coordinator Mike Sullivan will interview with the Giants this week to replace Kevin Gilbride.
Sullivan was fired last week as Tampa Bay's offensive coordinator along with head coach Greg Schiano. Prior to joining Schiano with the Buccaneers, he was the Giants' quarterbacks coach. He was scheduled to interview Wednesday for the offensive coordinator position, as was former Titans offensive coordinator Lowell Doggains. But Sullivan's familiarity with the terminology and principles on which the Giants' offense is based brings up interesting points pro and con about his candidacy.

If you believe, as Cruz does, that the system doesn't need an overhaul but could benefit from a new voice directing it, then Sullivan makes sense. Head coach Tom Coughlin's influence on the offense is significant, and that's not likely to change, so hiring a coordinator who knows how to run what Coughlin likes to run makes sense. Quarterback Eli Manning has operated within that same system since entering the league in 2004, and some have suggested that Manning might not want to change.

But I'm not sure on that last point. I think there's a chance Manning would welcome a chance to see what he could do in a new scheme after 10 years. There's a possibility that he's plateaued and would benefit from a new challenge, or a system that plays to different strengths of his. If that's the case, and if you agree with what team owner John Mara said last week about the offense being "broken," then you have to wonder whether a greater overhaul is warranted.

Whoever the Giants hire for offensive coordinator will need major personnel upgrades at offensive line, running back, tight end and likely wide receiver in order to succeed. And again, my expectation is that any changes to the scheme will be minor as long as the team remains committed to Coughlin as its head coach, which it does. But it's fair to at least ask the question of whether that's the right way to go.