The New York Giants are preparing to leave the comfortable confines of the Timex Performance Center and head out to California for a showdown with the 4-1 San Francisco 49ers. There is obviously no love lost between the these two organizations, especially after last year's NFC Championship game.
However, the day before the team is scheduled to depart, Giants offensive coordinator Kevin Gilbride couldn't resist getting in a backhanded compliment directed towards 49ers defensive end Justin Smith. Gilbride talked about how Smith's defensive holding allows him to control offensive linemen.
"Smith is a beast on the inside," Gilbride said. "He's strong. He does as good a job of grabbing a hold of offensive linemen and allowing those twists to take place. He never gets called for it, so he gets away with murder."
Smith is a strong defensive end with the ability to shift to defensive tackle is certain personal sets. His strength allows him to bull rush his opponent and create pressure from wherever he lines up. So when Gilbride talks about how Smith gets into the pads of an offense linemen and turns him around, he's saying that Smith illegally grabs linemen and moves them out of his way.
49ers head coach Jim Harbaugh took great exception to Gilbride's comments. Frankly, he escalated a conflict for no reason.
"Kevin Gilbride's outrageous, irrational statement regarding Justin Smith's play is, first, an absurd analogy," Harbaugh said. "Second, it is an incendiary comment targeting one of the truly exemplary players in this league. "It's obvious that the Giants coaching staff's sole purpose is to use their high visibility to both criticize and influence officiating."
Obviously, Kevin Gilbride did not literally mean Justin Smith was getting away with murder. In fact, that's a phrase that is used commonly in everyday life. However, Harbaugh is right in a sense that Gilbride's comments could have been an attempt to effect the officiating.
That being said, both comments were completely uncalled for. If Gilbride thinks Justin Smith was using an illegal tactic to gain an advantage, then he could have gone about it in a less public manner. He could have informed an official before kickoff, or even during the game.
With that, Harbaugh did not have to take the conflict to the next level. His scathing response created even more bad blood between two teams that already don't like each other.
All things considered, this was an unnecessary controversy that was escalated by a head coach who has a history of controversial interactions with opponents. There's been enough talk in the media about this game already, and it's about time things get settled on the field.
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