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Kevin Gilbride: Strobe or Torch?

Newcomers and regulars to this NY Giants blog all should know that we are not a fan of Offensive Coordinator Kevin Gilbride.  We have documented ad nauseum the lack of leverage of his players’ talent, his predictability, his inability to make intra/intergame adjustments etc…  Four days ago he surprised us with his fantastic gameplan.  To be truthful, he floored us.  It was part of the reason we were so wrong on our prediction, because we thought we’d get regular Gilbride, the one we dislike.  Instead, we got the enlighted Gilbride.  So which Gilbride do we get for the rest of the season?  The Strobe that flashed for 60 minutes on Sunday at the Linc, or the Torch that shines a light for the offense’s entire season?  Click Read More to continue with what we believe are some meaningful observations.  

The first thing we have to bring into evidence is Giants 45 Redskins 12.  Remember that game?  It was the 14th game of the 2009 season.  The Giants were 7-6, having just got beaten by the Eagles and limping to the end of the season with Sheridan’s players freelancing.  The Giants were on the outside looking in on a playoff bid.  They would fold at home in the last game at the “Old” Meadowlands, losing to the banged up Panthers, 41-9, and then pack it in vs the Vikes a week later.  But what happened down in FedEx field?  We saw Gilbride the Strobe.  It was luminescent.  It was splendid.  And almost as soon as the flash of light went on, it disappeared again. 

Read the link to that game in the paragraph above and note how Gilbride mixed in some of the same type of playcalling that we saw 4 days ago.  It was inspiring to see our talent used and leveraged in ways that the defense simply had no answer for. 

Small ball.  Running backs as receivers.  Note that every pass to a RB does not have to be a screen.  They can be flares, checkdowns, or yes, design wheel routes to playaction backs who get singled on the LBer.  And it does not mean you ignore your WRs (or TEs, the other important part of small ball). 

rhythm for Eli
rhythm for the offense
spreading the field
staying on the field long enough to establish a rhythm with longer drives
more rest for your defense
taking the wind out of the opposing defense when they can’t get a 3 and out  

Rhythm means more completions.  Higher completion percentage.  More confidence for Eli.  More (higher reward, lower risk) opportunities down the field because of the small ball.  If the NFL is now a passing league and the running game is less important, make the running back more valuable by passing to them.  Jacobs and Bradshaw (and even Ware) are above average receiving threats.  And they will get better with more practice.  Bradshaw can make the first guy miss.  If that is a LBer, then a 5 yarder becomes a 15 yarder.  

The Giants had 7 receptions completed to running backs on Sunday vs the Eagles.  Add 2 receptions by TEs, and you have a total of 9 receptions by RBs and TEs. How many did they have in the romp over the Redskins when the strobe light went off for Gilbride in Week 15 in 2009?  9 receptions.  Eli’s QB stats that day? 19-26, 3 TDs, 0 INTs, 144 QB rating.  Does that sound familiar? Eli’s stats this past Sunday: 16-23, 4 TDs, 0 INTs, 146 QB rating.  It is balance, it is rhythm, it undermines an opponent’s pass rush, it is empowering for Eli, it gives the offense a higher probability of success.

This does not mean you need oodles of RB passes for success.  Let’s go back to what Simms said about the Giants two Sundays ago

“The thing that bothers me about the Giants, they don’t handle adversity well.  As soon as something goes bad, it stays bad for a long time.  A lot of times that’s talent.  Talented guys can turn it around.  But it could be the mentality too.  Professional football, 80% of it is adversity.  Something is always going wrong in the game (of football).  The Giants have to correct that.  You do that a lot of ways.  Of course you do it with leadership, with players making plays, coaches designing things to get the football team out of that situation and get them rolling again.”

Gilbride, pass to your RBs.  Keep the light on and get the offense rolling with some first downs. 

So what are we going to get from Gilbride the rest of the season?  Strobe or Torch?  Did Gilbride use his RBs by necessity because with Manningham and Hixon gone, he had no choice?  The cynic would clearly say yes, as that would explain how a blind squirrel could find a nut.  The Washington game was a strobe, we hope we have a torch.  However Gilbride found the light, he needs to keep it on.  I’d like to torch Dallas and a host of other teams this season.  So much of our hope rests in Gilbride’s ability to leverage his talent.  Go the light.  And keep it on.