After countless matchups with the Cowboys, Gilbride now leads the New York Guardians against the Renegades this Saturday.
New York and Dallas will throw the football around this weekend. Playoff positioning is on the line. The New Yorkers bear initials of “NYG,” while the North Texans are blue with the branding inspired by the Old West.
Did we mention, however, that it’s March and not December?
The New York-Dallas football rivalry opens a new chapter this Saturday. It’s the first XFL-authored entry, as the New York Guardians battle the Dallas Renegades at Globe Life Park in Arlington (5:00 p.m. ET, Fox).
An athletic battle between the Empire and Lone Star states is nothing new. The rare long-distance rivalry is kept alive by the NFL’s Giants and Cowboys meeting twice a year for NFC East divisional proceedings. Dallas leads that ancient set with a mark of 68-47-2.
Kevin Gilbride was on hand for 21 of those matchups. The Guardians’ original head coach served in several offensive positions during Tom Coughlin’s tenure as head coach of the Giants, most notably in the offensive coordinator slot from 2007 through 2013. Contesting the Cowboys was certainly nothing new for Gilbride. A prior coaching stop with the in-state Houston Oilers had him running into the Cowboys at the end of every preseason. His five years in Houston also featured two regular-season matchups against America’s Team.
Gilbride hasn’t been one for nostalgics during his XFL adventure. Still, he made an exception when speaking to ESM on Thursday afternoon after the Guardians’ final practice before departing for Arlington. He had a quick, simple answer for his favorite Texas memory, anecdotally traveling back to the early stages of the 2009 NFL season.
“There are many, but I have to say my favorite one was going down to Dallas when we opened up their stadium, and we beat them,” Gilbride said. “They wouldn’t let us on the star (during the pregame). They had security around it, going through warmups. Then we beat them in a high-scoring game. That was a great one.”
The Giants were the Cowboys’ opponent for their first regular-season game in the palatial Cowboys Stadium (now known as AT&T Stadium) in Arlington, the successor to Texas Stadium in Irving. A back-and-forth Week 2 game went down to the literal final seconds, as Lawrence Tynes converted a 37-yard field goal as time expired to give the Giants a 33-31 victory. Tynes’ memorable make was the final stanza of an 11-play, 56-yard drive to cap things off. Eli Manning shook off an early penalty to account for 62 yards on the trek, part of a 330-yard, two-touchdown output. The Giants’ quarterback commemorated the win by leaving his signature and the final score on the wall of the visitors’ locker room.
Big Blue would go 12-9 under Gilbride’s offensive watch, including an 8-7 tally with him in the coordinator role. That grouping includes the Giants’ 21-17 win the 2008 NFC Divisional Playoff in Arlington, the lone postseason get-together between the rivals.
Gilbride isn’t the only Guardians representative to have a memorable business trip to the metroplex. Quarterback Matt McGloin was previously the starter for the Oakland Raiders when they were the Cowboys’ Thanksgiving opponent in November 2013.
Then an undrafted rookie, McGloin, helped the Raiders build a shocking 21-7 lead before Dallas came back to the tune of 31-24 win. McGloin’s efforts in a moral victory for Oakland (18-of-30, 255 yards, and an interception) were enough to impress ex-Giants quarterback Phil Simms, who called the game for CBS. The Penn State alum was named a finalist for Simms’ All-Iron Award, which he presented annually to the MVP of CBS’ Thanksgiving game. Ironically, current Renegades running back Lance Dunbar shared that season’s edition of the award with Tony Romo and DeMarco Murray.
“Talk about being a rookie, an exciting time, awesome atmosphere, fantastic stage to play on, something you dream about,” McGloin recalled. “We came up short, but it was a great game. We had a chance to win it there in the end, just couldn’t pull it through. But what an experience. Moments like that don’t come around that often in football. What a great time that was.”
The Guardians (2-2) certainly hope they’ll be able to make new football memories to bring back home. A win over the Los Angeles Wildcats last Saturday at MetLife Stadium allowed them to return to the XFL playoff picture, but they’ll have to end their woes on the road to truly build momentum. Visits to Washington DC and St. Louis ended with the Guardians on the wrong end of a combined 56-9 scoring margin.
Conversely, Dallas (2-2) is searching for their first win at Globe Life Park, the converted former home of MLB’s Texas Rangers. The Renegades fell 15-9 to the St. Louis BattleHawks on opening weekend and dropped a narrow 27-20 decision to the undefeated Houston Roughnecks last Sunday. Dallas will be without starting quarterback Landry Jones, who departed last week’s in-state showdown with a knee injury. Former AAF starter Philip Nelson will get the nod in Jones’ place, with ex-Syracuse star Eric Dungey working as the backup.
Geoff Magliocchetti is on Twitter @GeoffJMags