Timing is everything.
Had Kevin Gilbride announced his retirement a year ago, after the Giants posted the second-most points scored in franchise history, he would have been hailed as one of the team's greatest offensive coordinators, with two Super Bowl victories, a litany of records and nearly a decade of developing star players such as Eli Manning and Victor Cruz.
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Instead, he announced his retirement Thursday, less than a week after the Giants -- featuring one of the worst offenses in the NFL -- completed one of their most disappointing seasons in recent history.
The Giants were 28th in scoring, 28th in yardage and 29th in rushing and led the NFL in turnovers. They were shut out twice in the season.
It's not the punctuation on nearly four decades of coaching that one would hope for.
"It is difficult to walk away after a season like that, no question,'' said Gilbride, 62. "You made the adjustments and you continue to modify and adapt and do the things you had to do to give your guys a chance. But all of the success we've had offensively through the last five or six years, we just weren't able to get it done this year with all of the things that took place.''
As the team's hierarchy began meetings to assess potential changes to the coaching staff, Gilbride's future was murky. Rather than have his fate determined by co-owner John Mara, general manager Jerry Reese and coach Tom Coughlin, he decided the time had come for him to step away.
"It's hard to say 'it's time,' '' said Gilbride, who spent the last several years living in a hotel while his wife, Debbie, was in Rhode Island with other family members; he now will join them there. "To finally do it, it's a very unnatural feeling . . . I knew this was it and I was going to do it. I finally pulled the trigger. But it's difficult.''
Mike Sullivan, a former assistant with the Giants who served as the Bucs' offensive coordinator for the last two seasons, is believed to be the front-runner for the job opening. No other changes to the Giants' coaching staff were announced Thursday.
Despite calling the offense "broken'' earlier in the week and hinting that he was leaning toward a change at offensive coordinator, Mara praised Gilbride for his overall record with the Giants. "Kevin is an outstanding coach who made enormous contributions to this franchise,'' he said. "He helped us win a lot of games over the past 10 years, including two Super Bowls. He will be remembered as one of the best coaches to ever represent the New York Giants.''
Gilbride was one of six assistants who came to the Giants with Coughlin in 2004 and lasted all 10 years. He began as quarterbacks coach for Manning, a rookie, and was promoted to offensive coordinator late in 2006.
Coughlin, who also had Gilbride on his staff in Jacksonville, said he was an "exceptional'' coach for the Giants. "He has done a great service to the franchise,'' Coughlin said.
Gilbride said he was proud of developing young receivers such as Cruz and Steve Smith into stars. The Giants had not had a Pro Bowl wide receiver since 1968 before Smith and Cruz received that honor. But as his first position coach in the pros and the play-caller in his ear for the last seven seasons, Gilbride will be most closely linked with Manning. "He really taught me everything I needed to learn to become an NFL quarterback,'' Manning said.
The 2013 season was Gilbride's 39th in coaching, 24th in the NFL. He was head coach of the Chargers in 1997 and part of 1998 before he was fired after going 6-16. As the Oilers' offensive coordinator in 1993, he was involved in a sideline altercation with defensive coordinator Buddy Ryan, who threw a punch at him.
"I've enjoyed every minute of coaching,'' Gilbride said. "It will be very difficult to say goodbye to those guys [the Giants' coaches and players]. I will miss them terribly. I'll miss everybody in the organization.''