Pat Shurmur was a finalist for the Giants’ head-coaching job long before he called the play that turned into one of the most memorable moments in NFL history. But if timing is everything, it certainly didn’t hurt that a day after Case Keenum’s 61-yard touchdown pass to Stefon Diggs beat the Saints in Sunday’s NFC divisional-round playoff game, the Vikings’ offensive coordinator reportedly agreed to take the Giants’ gig once the Vikings’ postseason run is over.
Keenum and Diggs brilliantly executed the miracle play that put the Vikings in the NFC Championship Game against the Eagles, but Shurmur was the brains behind it. And for that he forever will be a part of perhaps the greatest moment in Vikings history. For a team that has experienced more than its share of heartbreak — four Super Bowl losses, Gary Anderson’s missed field goal in the 1998 postseason and Blair Walsh’s missed field goal in the 2015 playoffs — this was a spectacularly blissful moment.
Even the name of Shurmur’s play call — 7 Heaven — was perfect. Vikings fans were in seventh heaven after Diggs caught the ball, rookie safety Marcus Williams whiffed on the tackle and Diggs raced for the end zone before ripping off his helmet, throwing it and being mobbed by delirious teammates.
Giants fans should be so lucky to experience such playoff nirvana. With Shurmur expected to take over after one of the worst seasons in franchise history, the Giants hope he can begin to rebuild the team from the ruins of 2017. It is a solid choice in a coaching class that has offered a decidedly limited range of quality.
Shurmur had emerged as a finalist for the Giants’ job along with Patriots offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels and Patriots defensive coordinator Matt Patricia. With Patricia likely to rejoin Lions general manager Bob Quinn (a former Patriots front-office executive) and McDaniels likely headed for the Colts, Shurmur apparently has chosen the Giants over the Cardinals, who also are high on him.
Unless Shurmur changes his mind, he’ll be tasked with resurrecting a Giants team with myriad problems.
• The offensive line is a mess, something general manager Dave Gettleman vows to fix immediately.
• There’s uncertainty at quarterback. Eli Manning is 37, and the Giants could use the No. 2 overall pick on a passer to join Manning and 2017 third-round pick Davis Webb.
• Talented but temperamental receiver Odell Beckham Jr. is coming off a season-ending ankle injury.
• The defense woefully underachieved, in part because of disciplinary problems involving cornerbacks Eli Apple, Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie and Janoris Jenkins.
But Shurmur has shown he’s a resourceful leader, having helped the Vikings get within a win of the Super Bowl with a journeyman quarterback who has produced a career year. Keenum has been remarkable filling in for the injured Sam Bradford, who had filled in for the injured Teddy Bridgewater. The Vikings’ offensive line underwent a major personnel transformation this season and has only gotten better. And Shurmur has made the running game work after rookie phenom Dalvin Cook went out with a knee injury early in the season.
The fact that Shurmur has head-coaching experience, even if the record was disappointing, is another benefit. He went 9-23 with the Browns in 2011-12, but everyone knows Cleveland is the black hole of NFL coaches. No one has left with a winning record since the team was brought back in 1999.
Shurmur is widely regarded as one of the NFL’s great quarterback whisperers, and given the Giants’ situation, that’s a major benefit. But there is more to coaching than specialized expertise, and leadership will be even more important in re-establishing this team’s credibility. It will be a major test, but with a lifetime invested in coaching and playing football, Shurmur offers plenty of upside.
The Giants could use a miracle finish or two right about now. They’re hoping Shurmur can bring a little of that 7 Heaven magic to the NFL’s biggest stage.