The problems are many, and there’s not a moment to spare for Pat Shurmur. A day after his Vikings’ 38-7 loss to the Eagles in the NFC Championship Game, which came just a week after a miraculous walk-off win over the Saints, Shurmur cleaned up his affairs in Minnesota and readied himself for the herculean task of rebuilding a Giants team in shambles.
Minnesota’s highly accomplished offensive coordinator was named Giants coach late Monday afternoon, and now he’s off to the Senior Bowl in Alabama to begin the process of fixing his new team. It will not be an easy undertaking, nor is there a timetable for a turnaround, although getting the job done yesterday certainly would be a start.
The Giants devolved into a mess in a 3-13 season that began with what appeared to be legitimate hope of another playoff run for Ben McAdoo. But after all those McAdoo missteps that finally ended after his ill-fated decision to bench two-time Super Bowl MVP Eli Manning, the Giants couldn’t even live up to their vow to hold off on changes until the offseason. McAdoo and general manager Jerry Reese were swept aside with a month to go.
But with the team having settled on longtime Giants personnel man-turned-Panthers GM Dave Gettleman to take Reese’s spot, there at least is some clarity. Shurmur’s arrival is perhaps the most important decision of them all.
Shurmur is a football lifer who captained Michigan State to a Rose Bowl win over USC as a senior and paid his dues with assistant coaching stops at his alma mater, Stanford, the Eagles, the Rams and the Vikings. Shurmur has a working knowledge of what it is to be an NFL head coach. Although his two-year run with the Browns ended with a 9-23 record, there was value in the experience. If nothing else, he knows what it is to work for a dysfunctional franchise, and he quickly will understand the difference in working for a much more stable setup with the Giants.
Yes, there was dysfunction in the Giants’ operation this season — a lot of it. McAdoo couldn’t get out of his own way, whether it was his inability to get the offense to score — it never reached the 30-point mark in his two seasons as coach — or his unwillingness to make lineup changes until it was too late. He didn’t help himself with his rejection of being an open communicator with the media and thus with the fans, who never got to see anything but his robotic behavior in front of the cameras. Not that talking his way through tough times was the answer, but his lack of sophistication in dealing with scrutiny and controversy was a negative.
Shurmur is much more straightforward, which will benefit him mostly with his players, who need someone with a steady hand and a firm voice.
It’s a massive undertaking in an uncompromising market that will produce withering criticism in the event of failure. But the 52-year-old Shurmur has enough of a track record, most recently with his fine work in shepherding the Vikings through injuries at quarterback and running back and an offensive line overhaul, to give himself a fighting chance.
There is a distinct path forward at quarterback — at least in the near term — now that the Giants apparently have decided to bring back Manning for at least one more season. And with the second overall pick in the draft, there is the chance to get a blue-chip quarterback such as Sam Darnold or Josh Rosen. There also is a chance the Giants will opt for Penn State running back Saquon Barkley if Gettleman and Shurmur consider 2017 third-rounder Davis Webb a suitable heir apparent to Manning.
Whatever the case, there will be a logical plan to rebuild a woefully inadequate offensive line, to figure out Odell Beckham Jr.’s long-term future entering the final year of his rookie deal, and to transform an underachieving defense with presumptive new coordinator Jack Del Rio.
Shurmur’s whirlwind ride continued Monday. The Giants hope that ride returns them to respectability.