The New York Giants have found their new head coach. Unfortunately, he may not have been the team’s first choice.
Minnesota Vikings offensive coordinator Pat Shurmur will soon get a second chance to be a head coach in the NFL. The New York Giants have reportedly made the decision to hire Shurmur, but cannot make the announcement official until the Vikings’ season ends.
The G-Men had interviewed several potential candidates over the past few weeks. New England Patriots coordinators Josh McDaniels and Matt Patricia received strong consideration from Giants ownership, and there were even reports circulating last week that said Patricia was the favorite to land the job. Unfortunately for the Giants and their fans, Patricia may have chosen the Detroit Lions head coaching job over the Giants job.
Pat Leonard of the New York Daily News recently wrote about how Patricia’s decision shows how far the Giants have fallen. I agree with Leonard’s point of view because the Giants job is one that was highly-coveted in past years. In 2004, when the Giants fired Jim Fassel, they got the man they wanted, Tom Coughlin. Coughlin ended up winning two Super Bowls with the Giants and was clearly the right man for the job.
But 2018 is not 2004. The Giants have had so many losing seasons in recent years that their 11-5 campaign in 2016 seems like a fluke. In addition to their on-field struggles, Giants ownership has repeatedly made bad decisions off the field. The Josh Brown situation, the handling of Eli Manning‘s benching, and the Eli Apple locker room situation all come to mind when thinking about the shortcomings of owners John Mara and Steve Tisch.
We know the Giants ownership hasn’t been on their A-game recently. Now it’s time to look at whether Shurmur is a good fit in New York.
Shurmur has been given the esteemed title of “Quarterback Guru” by many football fans and writers. This title is well-earned. Almost every quarterback that Shurmur has coached has had more success with Shurmur than without him. Donovan McNabb, Sam Bradford, Nick Foles, and Case Keenum have all had great seasons under Shurmur.
Shurmur’s recent success with Keenum has been the biggest factor in his return to the head coaching ranks. Before this year, Keenum was a well-below-average quarterback with the Texans and Rams. Before this season, he had a career record of 9-15 and had 24 touchdown passes, 20 interceptions, a completion percentage of 58.4, and a passer rating of 78.4. This season, Keenum had 22 passing touchdowns, 7 interceptions, a completion percentage of 67.6, and a passer rating of 98.3. Keenum will not be named NFL MVP, but he may end up getting some MVP votes.
All of those numbers and facts about Keenum lead me to ask some questions: What kind of quarterback is he? Is he a below-average quarterback whose 2017 season could be characterized as an outlier? Or is he going to consistently produce the way he did this year?
Those questions are the ones that the Vikings will have to analyze this offseason. They will sign Keenum to an expensive long-term contract if they think he can replicate his 2017 success in future years. But what if they aren’t sold on Keenum? Then they either give him the franchise tag or let him walk in free agency. If he walks, Shurmur and the Giants could try to sign him. I wouldn’t be surprised to see Keenum or Bradford wearing Giants Blue next season. NFL coaches like to stick with what they know and who they know, and Shurmur knows Keenum and Bradford well.
Shurmur is a quarterback guru, but he is not exactly an “offense” guru. In his two years as the head coach of the Browns, the team averaged no more than 4.0 yards per carry. His offense with the Vikings in 2017 only averaged 3.9 yards per carry, which was equivalent to what the Giants averaged. I do not like the fact that Shurmur’s offenses have often struggled to consistently gain yards in the run game. The Giants are going to need to run the ball if they are going to win in the next handful of years. Eli Manning is not getting any younger. The Giants could decide to make a move to acquire a young quarterback. Any young quarterback they might draft will probably struggle right away. A good run game would help a young quarterback, but the Giants should not count on Shurmur bringing in a good run game right away.
Another helpful tool Shurmur has is experience as a head coach. He was in Cleveland when the Browns were sold to Jimmy Haslam in 2012. Shurmur was fired because Haslam wanted to hire his own coach.
All in all, Shurmur’s time in Cleveland was certainly not a success. However, he was far from a failure. His nine wins in two years don’t look as bad now. The Browns have gone 1-31 in two years under head coach Hue Jackson.
The Giants have to hope that Shurmur learned a lot from his two years in Cleveland. Shurmur’s former boss, Mike Holmgren, told the New York Daily news that Shurmur needs to lighten up if he wants to be successful in his second chance as a head coach. Holmgren said that Shurmur was too serious and needed to let players “see that (Shurmur) is human.” Players do not want to be coached by a robot.
Another negative is that Shurmur is too similar to disgraced former Giants head coach Ben McAdoo. McAdoo was considered to be a “quarterback guru” for the way he coached Aaron Rodgers‘ backups in the Green Bay Packers’ 2013 season. Rodgers missed several games that year, and Matt Flynn, Seneca Wallace, and Scott Tolzien played well enough to keep the Packers in playoff contention. Rodgers came back in Week 17 and led the team to the postseason.
After the season, McAdoo was hired by the Giants to replace outgoing offensive coordinator Kevin Gilbride. McAdoo was credited with turning around Eli Manning’s career. Manning had thrown 18 touchdowns and 27 interceptions in 2013, but he thrived under McAdoo. From 2014 to 2015, when McAdoo was the Giants’ offensive coordinator, Manning threw for 65 touchdowns and 28 interceptions. McAdoo, like Shurmur, was seen as a coach that could turn average quarterbacks (or, in Eli’s case, inconsistent quarterbacks) into good quarterbacks.
The worst similarity between McAdoo and Shurmur is their inability to handle the media. Both coaches are not very good in press conferences and are considered by some analysts to be boring and uninspiring. Shurmur is said to have been bothered by the Cleveland media. He read a lot of negative things that were said about him. If he was bothered by the media in Cleveland, how could he possibly handle New York? Perhaps Shurmur has improved in this aspect in the past few years, but that is unlikely. Hopefully he has at least learned to not read the local newspapers as much as he did when he was in Cleveland. If he is offended by every little remark about him, he will not be long for New York.
I also don’t like the fact that Shurmur could keep Steve Spagnuolo as the Giants defensive coordinator. Spagnuolo’s defenses have been wildly inconsistent over the course of the past decade. He had great defenses in 2007, 2008, and 2016 with the Giants, but his defenses were among the worst in the league in 2012 (with the Saints), 2015, and 2017 (back with the Giants). It’s time for the Giants to move on and hire a new defensive coordinator.
The connection between Spagnuolo and Shurmur stems from their time with the St. Louis Rams. In 2009, when Spagnuolo became the Rams’ head coach, he hired Shurmur to be his offensive coordinator. Shurmur and the offense had success in Sam Bradford’s rookie year in 2010, which led to Shurmur getting the Browns’ head coaching job. Reports from last week indicated that Shurmur could decide to return the favor and keep Spagnuolo as the defensive coordinator.
Fortunately, Shurmur may be going in a different direction. More recent reports suggest that the front-runner for the defensive coordinator job is Jack Del Rio. Del Rio was fired by the Oakland Raiders after a disappointing 6-10 season. However, Del Rio has had a lot of success in his career as a head coach and as a defensive coordinator. He has a 93-94 career record as a head coach. In 7-plus seasons as the head coach of the Jacksonville Jaguars, Del Rio made two playoff appearances. In 2007, his Jags won a playoff game in Pittsburgh before losing a hard-fought game to the undefeated Patriots in the Divisional Round.
After he was fired by the Jaguars, he became the defensive coordinator of the Denver Broncos. In his time with the Broncos, he coached many young stars, including Von Miller and Chris Harris. Del Rio was not the defensive coordinator when the Broncos won the Super Bowl a few years ago, but he certainly had a positive impact on the team. The defense grew and improved under his watch.
He then got the Raiders job and turned the ailing franchise around. The Raiders won 12 games in 2016 and made the playoffs for the first time since 2002. His team underachieved in 2017, but he did what several coaches would never be able to do. He took the Jaguars and Raiders to the playoffs.
Pat Shurmur is expected to be the next head coach of the New York Giants. He is not a particularly inspiring hire, but he does check some of the boxes. Shurmur is good at developing quarterbacks and getting the best out of them. However, his teams have not run the ball particularly well. Shurmur needs to lighten up if he wants to reach his players and get the best out of the entire team. He could bring in Del Rio, which would certainly help the defense.
Overall, the Giants are in a division that looks to be dominated by the Eagles for the next several years. It will be difficult for any incoming head coach to have success right away, but it will be necessary for Shurmur to succeed if he wants to be the Giants head coach for the foreseeable future.
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