Kevin Gilbride's Exit Puts the Spotlight on New York Giants General Manager Jerry Reese

Yahoo Contributor Network
COMMENTARY | One way or another, Kevin Gilbride was going to take the fall for the extensive failures of the New York Giants' offense in 2013.

As Tom Coughlin met yesterday with owner John Mara and general manager Jerry Reese, it was widely reported that much of the discussion would focus on Coughlin's staff, with heavy emphasis on Gilbride's future.

On Thursday, after 39 years as a coach, the last seven as Big Blue's offensive coordinator, Gilbride announced his retirement.

It's safe to assume that no matter how the Giants want to spin it, this was the cleanest breakup possible. To be fair, maybe they weren't going to fire him, but Gilbride's decision ensured that the ending wasn't ugly.

Coughlin, Mara, and quarterback Eli Manning were quick to praise Gilbride. Manning and Gilbride have been together since the QB came into the league in 2004.

"I have a tremendous amount of respect and admiration for Kevin," Manning said, as reported in the New York Post. "I'm really sad to see him retire. He has been with me from Day One. He really taught me everything I needed to learn to become an NFL quarterback."

Now attention turns to who will replace Gilbride. Mike Sullivan, who has served as receivers coach and quarterbacks coach under Coughlin, and who was most recently the offensive coordinator in Tampa Bay, appears to be the favorite.

But, really, it's Reese who is under the microscope. It's his job, not the job of any new coordinator they might hire, to rescue the Giants. Reese has built a winner here before. Now he has to do it again.

I'll leave the defense to another day, and certainly the special teams left a lot to be desired this past season. On this day, the focus is on the offense. How is Reese going to fix this?

As much criticism as Manning has received over the past few months, he's the one player on offense who you don't have to worry about. Manning threw 27 interceptions in 2013, his worst year as a pro, but he also played with a dysfunctional unit. Anyone would have struggled playing alongside that personnel.

So it's now on Reese to fix all the parts around Manning. That means, most importantly, figuring out what to do to remake what's become an old and injury-riddled offensive line. We're talking about a total revamp. The Giants will need to use both the draft and free agency to rebuild the team's weakest link.

Once Reese figures out how to protect Manning, he'll have to get him some targets to throw to. Hakeem Nicks, who had a disappointing season, could be gone, so Reese will have to bring in a receiver to play with Victor Cruz, Rueben Randle, and Jerrel Jernigan. The Giants also need to find a reliable tight end.

And then there's the backfield, where so much was expected from David Wilson this past season. Wilson ended up hurting his neck and played in just five games. The Giants still need to figure out if he's a No. 1 back. Andre Brown missed half the season after breaking his leg in the preseason. The Giants had to mix and match in the backfield all year. They'll need to be better, and more consistent, in 2014.

When the last word is written on Gilbride, it should be noted that 2013 was not his fault. In fact, the Giants' offense under Gilbride was one of the league's best prior to this season. Put it this way: No one was complaining about Gilbride after the Giants' two recent trips to the Super Bowl.

That's because Gilbride was a good offensive coordinator. As Mara said yesterday, "He will be remembered as one of the best coaches to ever represent the New York Giants."

Reese has two Super Bowls under his belt. This is not about his job being in jeopardy; it's about him rebuilding the team. That starts with fixing what Mara has said is a "broken" offense.

Charles Costello has followed the Giants for 30 years and was a beat reporter assigned to cover the team during the 1997 season. He writes about the Giants and New York Yankees on the Yahoo Contributor Network. Follow him on Twitter @CFCostello.

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