A February afternoon of football graced MetLife Stadium in East Rutherford, New Jersey, and former Giants offensive coordinator Kevin Gilbride was the center of attention in the home locker room after the game.
With the Giants in the NFL from 2004-13 -- starting out as the quarterbacks coach over the first three years before becoming the offensive coordinator for the final eight seasons, including two Super Bowl-winning campaigns in 2007 and '11 -- Gilbride was back at his old stomping grounds as he led the New York Guardians into the weekend's XFL opener.
Coming back to coaching after a seven-year retirement, Gilbride's return was a successful one with Sunday's 23-3 win over the Tampa Bay Vipers (0-1) before an announced crowd of 17,634. Guardians quarterback Matt McGloin welcomed Gilbride back accordingly after the game, awarding the head coach with the game ball.
"Coach Gilbride, we appreciate you giving everyone in this room an opportunity to play this game we love, first of all," said McGloin, the former Oakland Raiders (2013-16) quarterback, who completed 15 of 29 passes (51.7 percent) for 182 yards and one touchdown. "Welcome back."
Players mobbed Gilbride, who broke down the team huddle and left with a familiar feeling -- winning a football game for the first time since the Giants' 2013 season finale, Dec. 29's 20-6 victory against the Washington Redskins.
A head coach twice before with Southern Connecticut State (1980-84) and the then-San Diego Chargers (1997-98), Gilbride gets another chance in the XFL -- the latest chapter of a football-coaching career that started 45 years ago as Idaho's linebackers coach (1974-75).
"It was a game that I think, more than anything else, showed the character and resilience that we had," Gilbride said in his opening statement when he met with reporters for a postgame press conference. "We certainly struggled to stop them offensively, but a tremendous credit to our defense. I thought they showed incredible character and courage, just keep battling all the way down and getting those turnovers that stopped them. They controlled the ball, controlled the time and got down close to the goal line. A lot of teams crumble under those circumstances. I thought our guys rose up, played their best football down there.
"Conversely, offensively, I thought we started off the game very well. We had a lot of big plays. It had some chances that we didn't quite complete. In the second half, we just slowed down. We had a few other opportunities (that) were not nearly as well-played as we thought we could've played them. They were there to be had. Defensively, I thought they did a nice job -- Tampa Bay -- of things and it made the recognition and reaction of some of our players slow, slower than we would've liked and I thought the timing, as a result, affected in a negative type of way.
"But again, all things that are very correctable. In terms of effort, in terms of heart, in terms of character, I thought they were terrific. It's always nice to coach from a 'W' and get better from there. So that's what we're looking forward to doing this week."
Gilbride and the Guardians head to Audi Field in Washington, D.C., for Week 2's game against the D.C. Defenders (1-0). Kickoff is set for 2 p.m. ET on ABC as Gilbride's offense, led by McGloin, faces a Defenders unit that recorded two defensive touchdowns in Saturday's 31-19 win over the Seattle Dragons (0-1).
"I think he's done a great job," Gilbride said of McGloin. "He's seen where the pressures are coming from. I think he's identified where those things are coming from. Corrected our protection the way it needs to be. He's made some terrific throws. ... I think he's really done a terrific job."