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Another shot at football for 'Grandpa Gilbride'

HOUSTON -- Kevin Gilbride’s life didn’t need this level of disruption. After five decades in football, retirement was not only well-earned but a welcome chance to make amends for many of the moments missed.

After five years away there wasn’t a need to come back to the grind of pro sports, and that’s why this opportunity with the New York Guardians is so special.

Gilbride feels as he can have it all, so why not go for it?

“I chose the challenge knowing that it would be a building-from-scratch process that was going to take some time,” Gilbride said Tuesday after Day 3 of training camp at Husky Stadium on the campus of Houston Baptist University.

The season kicks off with XFL opening weekend Feb. 8-9. The Guardians host the Tampa Bay Vipers on Feb. 9 at MetLife Stadium (2 p.m. ET, FOX).

Shopping for groceries

Gilbride, 68, took on the challenge to help build the football side of the Guardians from the ground up. Because he's head coach and general manager, the buck starts and stops with him. He had a hand in putting together everything from the training staff to the personnel department to the equipment room.

By wearing both hats, Gilbride personally oversaw the construction of roster that fits his coaching philosophy. As another New York coach famously once said, “If they want you to cook the dinner, at least they ought to let you shop for some of the groceries.”

“It’s got my handprint on everything and with people that I feel good about, so that was exciting to be part of,” Gilbride said. “As a coach sometimes you get frustrated with some of the personnel decisions that are made by your management. Now there’s no one to blame but myself. That was certainly an attraction.

“It was a consideration starting anew, would it be frustrating, exasperating or would it be stimulating and exciting? And I think it’ll be the latter. It’ll be the things I’m looking for.”

Gilbride didn’t come back just to collect a paycheck. His commitment and drive are right up there with those wearing helmets and cleats.

“He doesn’t have to be here,” Guardians quarterback Matt McGloin said. “His resume speaks for itself. The fact that he is here, every single day he brings energy. He’s an emotional guy and you see that. This guy just loves the game. He loves coaching players. He wants his players to get better.”

Seasoned pro

Gilbride’s long run in professional football initially ended in 2014 after seven years as the New York Giants offensive coordinator, where he picked up a pair of Super Bowl rings.He first arrived in the NFL as the quarterbacks coach of the Houston Oilers in 1989 and spent two years as head coach of the San Diego Chargers in the late 1990s.

    Once retired, Gilbride began to reconnect. Being near and involved in the lives of his grandchildren took a front seat. After years of being absent for life’s special moments, being there meant something.

    “I also missed my three children growing up,” said Gilbride, who started his coaching career as an assistant at Idaho State in the mid-1970s. “You miss weddings, you miss birthdays, you miss funerals.”

    With the Guardians, that won’t happen again.

    “I can stay at home and do the stuff that I normally do in an NFL city where I’d have to be away 11 months a year,” he said. “Now I can do all the film breakdown. I’m flying our staff in once a month to meet in the offseason, so you’re able to do all that stuff that would normally take you away from your family, now you’re bringing them there.

    “You’re able to do the same work, but you’re able to do it in an environment that I wasn’t ready to give up again. I didn’t want to give up my grandchildren.”

    New tricks

    The time away not only allowed Gilbride to reestablish ties at home. It provided a new lens into the game

    He broke down film for Cris Collinsworth on NBC’s Sunday Night Football, studying innovations that are impacting football at the NFL level. Gilbride is incorporating run-pass options (RPOs) into his playbook for the first time in his career.

    The early returns under Grandpa Gilbride are promising. McGloin, for one, is soaking it all in.

    “It’s been awesome to learn from him,” said McGloin, who spent four years with the Oakland Raiders. “He’s a players’ coach. We’ve had great conversations on the field. We’ve had great conversations off the field.

    “For me to play here, that was another big, big reason why this was such a great opportunity for me to learn from a guy like that. Somebody who’s had 40, 50 years of success. To learn how to play the quarterback position, to continue to grow as a quarterback, it doesn’t get better than Kevin Gilbride.”

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