As he stood on the sideline, his expression reflecting the helplessness of watching his team lose yet again, the rain poured on Pat Shurmur’s head, a fitting symbolism for what almost certainly will be his final game as the Giants’ coach.
After only nine wins in two seasons, Shurmur’s tenure likely has come to an ignominious conclusion.
There will be meetings with Giants ownership, and a decision about his future soon will be made. With MetLife Stadium again reverberating with cheers for the visiting team — this time it was Eagles fans celebrating a 34-17 win that clinched the NFC East title — co-owners John Mara and Steve Tisch surely realize that they can’t justify another year of Shurmur coaching their team.
Shurmur himself understands the bottom line and seemed ready to accept his fate during his postgame remarks.
“We didn’t win enough games. I own that,” he said. “I don’t make any excuses for that. This is a wins business. I get it.”
Shurmur is prepared for whatever awaits him, and he even suggested that if and when he is replaced, his successor will inherit a good situation.
“If I’m back, I’m looking forward to working with this young talent,” he said. “If I’m not, whoever is coaching this team has a great group of young players. The dead money [on the salary cap] goes away, there’s gonna be cap space, we’ve got [draft picks], so there’s ways to improve the team.
“So if I’m not here, that’s what the new coach has to look forward to. If I am, I can’t wait to get back to work.”
Too many times this season, Giants fans seemed outnumbered in their own building, with supporters of the Cowboys, Packers, Eagles and Vikings chanting for the visiting team and drowning out the voices of the people cheering for the team in blue.
This team doesn’t like to make a habit of moving on from coaches this quickly, especially after the Ben McAdoo era ended after less than two seasons.
But Shurmur’s 9-23 record — the same mark he produced in two seasons with the Browns in his previous head-coaching stint — makes it virtually impossible to justify bringing him back for the 2020 season.
“We all own the fact that we didn’t win enough games,” Shurmur said. “We’re not a good enough team yet to win those close games, but someday we will be. I told the young players that by the way the roster was structured this year, it was a gift for them to be able to play as much football as they did. They need to use it as motivation to have a great offseason and come back stronger than ever so that in these close games, we could find a way to make enough plays to win them.”
The Giants couldn’t make enough plays — again — to beat an injury-ravaged Eagles team. They made it close, pulling into a 17-17 tie in the third quarter on Saquon Barkley’s electrifying 68-yard touchdown run off right tackle. But after the Eagles retook the lead on Jake Elliott’s 50-yard field goal, Daniel Jones’ 11th lost fumble of the season led to a fourth-quarter collapse.
Shurmur stared from the sideline in the pouring rain as Jones, who has shown promise in his first year, again was victimized by a problem he has yet to fix: fumbling.
Jones looks as if he can be a very good quarterback, and a prospective coach can be optimistic about what more he might be able to bring out of him down the road.
That coach also can look to Barkley as a home run hitter from the backfield, a player who can turn a game around in the blink of an eye — as he nearly did on Sunday.
But general manager Dave Gettleman, whose own situation may be uncertain (although this team traditionally has given its general managers a longer leash than two years), needs to replenish a defense that was knocked around far too often this season and add pieces to make Jones a more productive passer.
Shurmur couldn’t coax more out of a roster that simply isn’t good enough yet to contend, and if he’s replaced, the next coach — whether it be Ron Rivera, Mike McCarthy, Matt Rhule or someone else — will have a potentially improved lineup heading into next season.
Good draft positioning and a ton of salary-cap space to sign free agents certainly will help.
But it appears to be too late for Shurmur.
“No moral victories for me,” he said.
Not enough real ones, either.