Summer reading for Kevin Gilbride

Helpful hints for Kevin Gilbride.

Promoted in late 2006, and for three entire seasons, Kevin Gilbride has been the Giants offensive coordinator.  Because of his questionable play calling, he has become an anathema on this site.  Despite Eli Manning’s improved play as a quarterback and the offense overall, the Giants red zone touchdown percentage continues to be an ongoing problem.  Under Gilbride, the Giants can move the football from 20 yard line to 20 yard line. However, once they get into the red zone, the Giants self destruct.  Is it the play calling? or Is it the execution? 

In the 2009 NFC Divisional playoff between the Giants and Eagles, the Giants had FIVE opportunities to score touchdowns in Eagles territory.  They were 0 for 3 in the red zone.  As a result of their incompetence in this area,  the Giants had to settle for three John Carney field goals. And the two other drives ended in missed field goals.   At the time, I gave Gilbride the benefit of the doubt.     It was my opinion,  the major issue was lack of execution and not play calling. On the other hand,  with three seasons under his belt as coordinator,  Gilbride has a troubling trend in the red zone. 

Giants TD Percentage in Red Zone- NFL ranking

2007- 12th

2008-20th

2009-21st

Each year, the Giants have gotten progressively worse.  Inexplicably, Gilbride has not made the necessary adjustments.  Since Gilbride has not come up with answers to solve this problem,  nonetheless, I have come up with some suggestions.

1. Use Deception:   In the book Namath written by Mark Kriegel,  Joe Namath’s high school coach Larry Bruno said, “I believe in faking.”  “Magic is the same as football, ” he says. “Now you see it, now you don’t. It’s all misdirection.”  Under Bruno, quarterbacks were expected to fake flawlessly.  The hand went into the back’s belly, wrist deep-always wrist deep. You had to sell a fake. You had to get them looking the other way. It all came down to sleight of hand. Small, subtle movements caused a defense to suspend its disbelief. Fakes froze the linebackers. Now you see it, now you don’t. You can’t tackle the guy with the ball if you don’t know who has it. The offense began with the fake. The fake began with the quarterback.

Generally speaking, the Giants are a running team.  And when they get into the red zone, using  the play action pass would keep the defense honest.  Over the past three season, how many times has Eli used play action in the red zone?  Several times?  I am sure followers of this blog can name the exact amount of times play action was used.   And Eli should be using play action all the time.  The Giants inability to score touchdowns  in the red zone has been their tragic flaw.  Unless Gilbride starts employing more play action, the Giants will continue to stumble in this area.

2. The Art of Play Calling- In this excellent article,  Thomas George interviewed Bill Walsh.  This is Bill Walsh on play calling:

”I was also an assistant with the Raiders and we were playing Denver,” Walsh said. ”Denver blitzed on every play. Tom Flores was our quarterback. He hit maybe 6 out of 20 passes for 160 yards. But he hit four long touchdown passes and we won, 28-0. That game left a mark on me, because we hadn’t planned it or practiced it that way. That’s showing adaptability to what defenses are trying to do to you.”

One of Gilbride’s flaws as a play caller is his inability to adapt.  In a 2008 regular season game,  the Eagles stymied the Giants potent offense at the Meadowlands.  Even though the final score was 20-14, the game was not even close.  And with a week to prepare for the Eagles for their upcoming playoff match up,  Gilbride did not make adjustments.  The Giants would go on to lose to the Eagles again-in the playoffs.  Is it poor preparation? Is it his ego getting in the way?   Like in the the aforementioned Eagles games, he continued to use running  and passing plays which were not working.  As Bill Walsh stated in the above link,   ”If you get a coach calling the plays who’s trying to prove his philosophies in his area, you’re in trouble.”  I think this is what gets Gilbride in trouble.

3.  Bill Walsh on Randomizing-  From Advanced NFL Stats,  Bill Walsh discussed randomizing play selections.

“We know that if they don’t blitz one down, they’re going to blitz the next down. Automatically. When you get down in there, every other play. They’ll seldom blitz twice in a row, but they’ll blitz every other down. If we go a series where there haven’t been blitzes on the first two downs, here comes the safety blitz on third down.”

Brian Burke, creator of Advanced NFL Stats, summed up the main points about randomizing.

  1. Offenses need to be unpredictable to be effective.
  2. Plays need to be random both with respect to previous instances of the same down/distance situation and with respect to previous plays.
  3. NFL offenses show evidence of patterns, even when holding for situational effects.
  4. Coaches don’t seem to be aware of the patterns, and they can be exploited.
  5. And lastly, the only true countermeasure is to somehow inject genuine randomness into play calls.

In 2010, if Gilbride does not modify his play calling especially in the red zone area, the Giants will continue to lose games.  If these red zone woes continue, Gilbride will be out of a job. 

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