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Kevin Gilbride: I retired because I couldn't be a head coach

Kevin Gilbride and Eli manning discuss play selection

Kevin Gilbride and Eli manning discuss play selection during a game against the Buffalo Bills at MetLife Stadium. Credit: David Pokress, 2011

Kevin Gilbride said he knew 2013 would be his last season with the Giants. He was hoping it would not be his last in coaching. He wanted one more shot to be a head coach, he said.

But when the Giants finished 7-9 and ranked 26th in the NFL in offense, Gilbride knew that opportunity was not going to happen. So he retired.

"I had told [his wife, Deborah] if I didn't get a head job this year, the age is becoming a factor, so let me move out of here," Gilbride, 62, said Thursday night at the PKD Foundation Benefit in Manhattan. "Of course we had a disastrous year, so it wasn't going to happen this year. I thought maybe one more time I could have put myself in position for some of those jobs."

Gilbride had been on the Giants' staff since 2004 as the quarterbacks coach and then the offensive coordinator. His only shot as an NFL head coach came with the Chargers in 1997 and 1998, when he compiled a 6-16 record before being fired in October 1998.

Throughout the years, Gilbride made no secret of his desire to be back in the big office, and he spoke with several teams about openings in recent offseasons.

"Every year you go [on interviews], you look older and older to them and a less likely candidate,'' Gilbride said. "They don't realize that the guys who have been winning have been the older coaches."

So instead of coaching in the NFL, Gilbride is doing the part of the job he loved -- teaching -- and eschewing the parts he didn't. He's running clinics for high school and college coaches all around the country, teaching them the intricacies of the system that helped win two Super Bowls for the Giants.

"I had some people ask me to coach some quarterbacks and receivers, draft-eligible guys," he said. "But I said I would have stayed coaching if I was going to do that, so I didn't want to do that."

Most assume that Gilbride was shown the door by the Giants, but he insists his departure was planned before the 2013 season even began. He also seemed to indicate that had he not retired, he would not have been fired. This despite comments from general manager Jerry Reese last month that "it was time to make a change."

"I'm kind of surprised to hear him say that," Gilbride said. "No one had figured that offense out for 24 years. To think that they figured it out this year would be pretty ludicrous. I think it was pretty obvious what the problems were. We had a confluence of injuries, we were very weak on the offensive line. We had some guys who struggled . . .

"You can say it's the offense, but it's pretty clear what the problem was."

He also said he thought it was a "cheap shot'' when co-owner John Mara questioned the coaches about not having Jerrel Jernigan on the field earlier in his career after the third-year receiver flourished in the final few games of the season.

"I didn't understand it," Gilbride said. "He had chances as a kick returner and he'd played before and hadn't played well."

Even with those comments, and even as he decides what he will do in retirement -- More clinics? Media opportunities? -- Gilbride seems convinced that his future is in his own hands.

"I have a bunch of different things I could have done if I wanted to," he said regarding his options, "but if I wanted to stay coaching, I would have stayed with the Giants."

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