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Kevin Gilbride May Take the Fall for New York Giants' Struggles, but Problems Run Much Deeper

Yahoo Contributor Network
COMMENTARY | There could be major changes upcoming to the New York Giants' coaching staff.

Head coach Tom Coughlin appears to be safe, with both owner John Mara and general manager Jerry Reese saying that they want him to return in 2014. But what happens with his two top assistants is another story.

On Wednesday, reports surfaced that the Washington Redskins have asked permission to speak with defensive coordinator Perry Fewell about their head coaching vacancy. Fewell has been with the Giants since 2010, and this past season his unit ended up being the team's strength.

Meanwhile, most of the focus up until this point had been on offensive coordinator Kevin Gilbride, who was heavily criticized this past season. This has been his offense for the last seven years, and the unit struggled mightily in 2013.

According to the New York Daily News, Coughlin is scheduled to meet with Mara and Reese today with possible changes to the coaching staff headlining the agenda. The paper also reports that Mike Sullivan, recently fired as offensive coordinator of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, could be a replacement for Gilbride. Sullivan had previously been the Giants' quarterbacks coach.

So now the speculation centers not just on what will happen with Gilbride, but what Coughlin's reaction would be if Reese or Mara demand that he make changes to his coaching staff.

We see this every year in the National Football League. A team struggles and someone has to take the fall. This year, for the New York Giants, that person might be Gilbride.

Without a doubt, the offense struggled this year. Gilbride came under fire all year for his play calling. Eli Manning had his worst season as a pro, throwing 27 interceptions. And the offense ranked 28th overall.

However, you can't overlook the injuries, which certainly took a toll. You also can't overlook the fact that the Giants' starting running back, David Wilson, missed almost the entire season due to injury. It's hard to argue that the offensive line was as bad as it's been in years. In addition, the receiving corps was not the same, with Hakeem Nicks going the entire season without scoring a touchdown. Also, the Giants could use an upgrade at tight end. And then there were those 27 interceptions from the franchise quarterback.

Still, for some reason, it's the play calling that people remember. Maybe it's because you can't fire every offensive player. It's easier to blame and get rid of one person. It happens all the time in sports. That doesn't make it right, and it's certainly not always fair.

Whatever happens at today's meeting, one thing is for sure: The fans want Gilbride out. In the Daily News poll (as of Wednesday's paper), over 80 percent said they want the Giants to dump him. (Over 60 percent said the same about Fewell, while over 70 percent would like to see Coughlin return.) That's really not a surprise. Gilbride has heard it from fans before. It's just a natural part of being an offensive coordinator.

If the Giants are going to bring Coughlin back for another year -- and they should -- they should also give him the right to lobby for Gilbride.

Mara has said that the offense is "broken." With two titles with the Giants under his belt, you can make a strong case that Gilbride should be given the chance to fix it.

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 for the Yahoo Contributor Network.

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