By almost any measure, Pat Shurmur won the day.
Introduced to the media Friday as the Giants’ 18th coach, Shurmur offered the right vision for what he wants his team to be. He was calm in his first appearance before a gaggle of reporters in the country’s most pressure-filled media market, and he came across as a capable leader.
Now comes the hard part: actually doing what’s necessary to turn a 3-13 team into a playoff contender, however long that might take.
First impressions certainly are important, and Shurmur showed composure and compassion as he offered his plan for getting a team that descended into dysfunction in 2017 back on course.
He showed himself to be a demanding, no-nonsense coach, yet a man who also will offer a clean slate to anyone who contributed to the myriad problems that surfaced this season.
But as we’ve seen so often, first impressions don’t always translate into long-term success. So unless there’s a meaningful carry-over from Shurmur’s vision to the execution of his plan, getting off to a good start will amount to nothing more than that.
Shurmur certainly looks and sounds the part, and the three men who made the call to hire him — co-owners John Mara and Steve Tisch and general manager Dave Gettleman — offer a compelling case for why he will succeed.
“He’s got an excellent track record as a play-caller, and he’s well-respected by the players that he’s coached in the past,” Mara said. “Pat and Dave share a similar philosophy in how to build a team. In sum, he checked all of the boxes for us. For all of these reasons, we believe that he is the right coach at the right time for this franchise.”
Tisch pointed to Shurmur’s “confidence, experience, maturity, passion, vision, commitment, optimism” and added, “I think the players are going to respond to him and look forward to working with a great leader and a great new head coach.”
Gettleman was particularly impressed by Shurmur’s self-evaluation after his failed two-year run as the Browns’ head coach in 2011-12, when he won only nine games in two seasons. Gettleman himself had to look inward for why he was ousted last July as the Panthers’ general manager, so he was anxious to hear Shurmur’s self-scouting report.
“He was very detailed,” Gettleman said. “He obviously was very honest with himself, just like I had to be honest with myself when things didn’t go right. He’s a very self-aware guy and a very mature guy. He checked absolutely all the boxes for me.”
Now we will see if Shurmur can grow from his experience in Cleveland, and if he can do as well as another failed Browns coach in his next iteration.
No one is expecting Shurmur to come close to Bill Belichick, who will be coaching in his eighth Super Bowl on Feb. 4 in Minnesota, but it’s not a stretch to believe that Shurmur will be better for having gone through his experience in Cleveland.
“I wish I knew then what I know now,” Shurmur said of his Browns days. “Once you’ve done it before, you have the resources and you’ve made those decisions. You’ve done the things that you say if I do that again, I’ll never do that again. And I think I learned that.”
Shurmur gave every expectation that he will have Eli Manning as his starter, although there remains a chance that the Giants will select a quarterback with the second overall pick in the draft. It could be a tricky arrangement, especially when the day comes that Shurmur is ready to go to a younger quarterback. Manning appears ready to make it work, although he has indicated several times that he wants to be the starter, not a mentor for his eventual replacement.
The quarterback situation ultimately will work itself out — even if it results in an eventual divorce from Manning — but Shurmur’s underlying conviction about how to run a football team will provide the basis for his actions: You’d better give it your all or you’ll be gone.
“I have zero tolerance for people that don’t compete,” he said. “I have zero tolerance for people that don’t give effort, and I have zero tolerance for people that show a lack of respect. And I think that’s something that you’ll know about me as we get to know each other better.”
A good first day indeed.
In the end, though, his legacy as the Giants’ coach can be judged only after his last one.