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SportsColumnistsBob Glauber

Pat Shurmur facing tough challenge in first year with Giants

Coach Pat Shurmur is off to a rough

Coach Pat Shurmur is off to a rough start in his first season with the 1-5 Giants.   Credit: Jim McIsaac

He is 1-5 in his first year on the job, there already has been controversy involving his high-strung, highly paid star receiver, his 37-year-old quarterback isn’t playing well and now the owner says he’s embarrassed by the team’s miserable performance.

So, Pat Shurmur, how goes it?

There couldn’t be much more to go wrong for the Giants’ coach. His team has greatly underperformed, particularly on offense, where questions persist about Eli Manning’s age and effectiveness. Off the field, Beckham created a hullabaloo with a recent ESPN interview in which he questioned Manning’s ability, suggested Shurmur was being out-schemed and hinted he isn’t entirely happy living in the New York area.

Team president and co-owner John Mara admitted being mortified by the shockingly bad record for a team that had what he thought were legitimate playoff aspirations. Mara chided Beckham on Tuesday, saying, “He needs to do a little more playing and a little less talking.”

That’s a lot for any coach, but especially one in the country’s largest media market, where the pressure is unlike anywhere else. It isn’t for everyone, and it ultimately may not be for Shurmur, who lasted just two seasons in Cleveland.

But this early test of his mettle eventually might be good for him. If you want to last in this town, you have to go through the tough times, and Shurmur is already in the fight. How he battles through it will provide an early barometer of how he might be suited for the long term, however long term that might be.

His players are solidly behind him.

“You see the passion, you know there’s passion and hard work,” Manning said. “He’s not throwing chairs, he’s not screaming and yelling at everybody. He has his own way of motivating guys. I think he’s done a good job of handling the pulse of this team and keeping us together, and I think that’s the most important thing.”

Shurmur understands the stakes. “I’m well aware of the competition and how this works,” he said Thursday. “I played in the trenches. I was an overachiever. I get that.”

Shurmur has had a lifelong affinity for football, becoming an All-Big Ten center at Michigan State before embarking on a coaching career in which he made seven stops before getting to the Giants. He got the most out of his playing ability and rose through the coaching ranks with a steady hand, a firm grasp of concepts and the ability to communicate them to his players.

But nothing can truly prepare you for coaching in New York. In one important respect, Shurmur is at a disadvantage compared to the two men who led the Giants to Super Bowl wins. Bill Parcells and Tom Coughlin were familiar with the team while growing up — Parcells as a Jersey guy who lived a few miles from the future site of Giants Stadium, Coughlin as a native of upstate Watertown who watched Giants games as a child on his grainy black-and-white TV screen.

Shurmur is a Michigan man born and raised, and doesn’t have that natural kinship with the New York market, so this is all new to him. It doesn’t preclude him from succeeding; if he’s a good enough coach, he’ll weather the storm and emerge as a better leader.

The season already is slipping away, and it’s hard to imagine the Giants making any sort of a run, even in a division as weak as the NFC East has been. This is a bad team made worse by the aging quarterback who isn’t as good as Shurmur and general manager Dave Gettleman envisioned.

Not an easy set of circumstances for Shurmur, but an opportunity to fight through adversity. “It’s in the Giants’ DNA to pull this thing out,” he said. “I’ve seen it, I’ve studied the history of it. I’m impressed with the guys we have, and I know they’re going to fight.”

How effectively they fight will go a long way toward defining Shurmur’s legacy — for better or worse.

New York Sports