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Gilbride father-son coaching combo closer than ever

New York Giants offensive coordinator Kevin Gilbride reacts

New York Giants offensive coordinator Kevin Gilbride reacts during football minicamp at New Meadowlands Stadium. (June 15, 2010) Credit: AP

When Kevin Gilbride was on the Houston Oilers' coaching staff in the early 1990s, he'd spend the early part of his Saturdays meeting with the offense, refining the final pieces to the game plan for the upcoming opponent. Then, once the players were dismissed, he'd go watch some more video.

But he wasn't alone.

His son, also named Kevin, would tag along. As a school-aged kid with a dad who worked a demanding job as an NFL coach, that was about the only quality time they could muster together.

"I'd sit in there and we'd get a snack and we'd watch film together. What was he, 10, 11, 12 years old?" the older Gilbride said this past week.

Some fathers and sons bond while watching Saturday morning cartoons. The Gilbrides did it while watching footage of Warren Moon and Gary Brown.

Kevin Gilbride Jr., the son of the Giants' offensive coordinator, is 30 now. But in a way, he's right back to where he was as a youngster on those Saturday afternoons, side-by-side with his father in a football environment. The younger Gilbride is an offensive quality control coach for the Giants, the lowest rung on the coaching ladder but an indispensable one. He breaks down video, he charts plays and coverages, and he runs the defensive scout team in practices.

And, for the first time since he was a teenager, he gets to spend time with his father.

In 1997, after two years as offensive coordinator under Tom Coughlin with the Jacksonville Jaguars, Kevin Gilbride Sr. left to become the head coach of the San Diego Chargers. He didn't just leave the Jaguars, though.

"It was a promise we had always made to our kids that if they were in their junior year [in high school], we wouldn't make them move their senior year," Kevin Sr. said. "I took the job in San Diego and he took us up on it and stayed. My wife stayed with him in Jacksonville. To not be around him on a continual basis, it's been 14 years."

Now they're making up for lost time.

When was the last time Kevin Jr. saw his father so frequently? "I don't even know when, simply because even when I was growing up, I wouldn't see him," he said. "Now I see him for hours at a time. It's different."

"It's tremendous just to see him on a regular basis," Kevin Sr. said. "I hadn't in so long. It's one of the difficult things of being a coach. Even when you're with them, you're not with them a lot. You miss a lot of things, a lot of games, a lot of significant events."

After seven years coaching in college, including the previous three on a staff that helped turn Temple from a doormat into an offensive juggernaut, Gilbride Jr. wanted to make the jump to the NFL. The Giants had an opening when quarterbacks coach Chris Palmer left for a job in the UFL and everyone else on staff moved up one spot. But although Gilbride Jr. was eager to fill the gap, not everyone was as enthusiastic.

"I just thought he was in a good situation at Temple. They were winning a lot of games, and he had worked very hard along with the rest of that staff to turn that thing around," Gilbride Sr. said. "He was in a perfect position because I thought that staff would have a good opportunity to move on. Three years ago, he had an opportunity to come with us and he didn't, and that would have made a better time. Now, I said, you're far enough along maybe you just continue to work with [Temple coach Al Golden] and maybe get another job and then come straight in as a position coach in three or four years."

Even Coughlin had reservations.

"Coach Coughlin had concerns about two Gilbrides on the staff," Gilbride Jr. said. "What's the media going to think? What are the players going to think? Are they going to bust my chops? What I basically said to him was, 'Coach, it's not going to bother me. I'm not working with my dad. I've got a job to do. I work for you and then I work for Jerry Reese and I work for Mr. Mara. I work for the New York Giants. I don't work for Kevin Gilbride.' So it wasn't going to bother me."

It didn't take long for the Giants to forget about the Gilbrides' connection. Kevin quickly won everyone over with his enthusiasm and ability. Some on the staff, in fact, already were big fans of his before he came to the Giants.

"I actually met Kevin a few years back through a mutual friend [Steve Russ] who was up at Syracuse," Giants quarterbacks coach Mike Sullivan said. "This friend couldn't say enough good things about Kevin M. Gilbride."

So much so that when Sullivan was considering a jump back to college to take the Army head-coaching job two years ago, he was going to try to bring Gilbride Jr. with him.

"He's tremendous," Sullivan said. "I'm sure it's got to be a little bit of a balancing act with his dad right there, but he's just a rising star in the NFL coaching profession."

The Gilbrides aren't the only coaching families in the NFL. They're not even the only ones in this market. Jets coach Rex Ryan is the son of fomer head coach Buddy Ryan and Jets offensive coordinator Brian Schottenheimer's father is Marty Schottenheimer. Even within the division, Redskins head coach Mike Shanahan's offensive coordinator is his son, Kyle Shanahan.

The Gilbrides said they didn't talk to any of those other combinations before embarking on their own journey.

"I don't believe it's, 'Hey, we're coaches' sons,' " Gilbride Jr. said. "I believe each guy's path is different. Some are helped more than others. But the reality is each guy has to get there by merit. I know I have, and that's why I feel like I can have some staying power."

Gilbride Jr. said he calls his father "Dad" or "Pop" when they are in social situations, but not when they are working.

"I could - I'm sure it would be fine - but I don't," he said. "I call him Coach. It just comes out of my mouth. I don't know why, it just does."

The Gilbrides are enjoying their time together, and coaching a team that is 5-2, tied for the best record in the NFC, certainly helps. But even after all of those years apart, closeness has its limits.

During the offseason, the two promised to make time for each other at least once a week. That lasted about three weeks before Kevin Jr. became too busy working and playing softball and Kevin Sr. became too busy making his weekend trips to visit his wife in Rhode Island. But they've found a nice balance.

"When he first took the job, he lived with me for less than 10 days and then moved out," Gilbride Sr. said. "He took a place in Hoboken. I said, 'Why don't you save some money?' It's nice being close. I'm not sure you want to be that close."

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