Pat Shurmur understands the criticism and accepts it willingly. In the famous words of another Giants coach before him, at 7-21, you are what your record says you are.
“I’m well aware of it,” Shurmur said a few minutes after the Giants lost to the Packers, 31-13, their eighth straight defeat. “People will change what they think of us and me when we win games. I’m a realist and I get that. When you don’t win, I expect what’s written and said and what people think. I expect fans to be upset, because we are, too.”
This is an abysmal run for the Giants, who came into the season harboring playoff hopes but are careening toward a record so bad that they might end up with the first overall draft pick. Shurmur insists he sees signs of improvement during practice and in games from his young team. But in a results-based industry in which you are judged by winning and losing, he is presiding over a team that is as bleak as the wintry mix that shrouded MetLife Stadium in gloom Sunday afternoon.
How bad has this team become? The Giants might be the worst team in football.
Even the previously winless Bengals squeezed out a win over the Jets in Cincinnati. And the Dolphins, who started off 0-7 before defeating the Jets, beat the Eagles at home on Sunday for their third win of the season.
Shurmur may want to believe there is improvement, but the empirical evidence is missing. This is the NFL, whose “on any given Sunday” credo means even the worst teams stand a chance of winning. But the Giants are putting forth one of the worst seasons in franchise history and are only one defeat from tying the franchise record of nine straight losses. That ignominious mark came in 1976, at the peak of the worst days of the team’s nearly century-long history.
Bill Arnsparger was fired midway through that season and replaced by John McVay, who lasted through 1978 before a housecleaning that brought general manager George Young to the Giants and began a decades-long run of prosperity. But the Giants of the last eight seasons are disturbingly reminiscent of those brutal years.
Sunday was another reminder of how bad things have gotten. Not only did the crummy weather keep many Giants fans away, but “Go Pack Go!” chants from Packers fans underscored the malaise now enveloping this franchise.
It was an unwelcome 65th birthday president for team president and CEO John Mara, who can never forget the scorn he felt firsthand when his classmates made fun of his family’s team because of its routinely pathetic performances.
Like his father before him, John must chart a course for the future by deciding to give Shurmur and general manager Dave Gettleman more time or removing one or both men.
Mara bears his own responsibility in what has happened. He has missed on two coaches since parting ways with Tom Coughlin after the 2016 season. First was Ben McAdoo, who didn’t even last two seasons. And now Shurmur, who was well-regarded by both Mara and Gettleman but has lost three games for each game he has won.
Shurmur suggested the Giants’ ability to keep things close against the Packers — they got to within 17-13 midway through the third quarter — was another sign of improvement. But there was virtually no chance that they could stay with the 9-3 Packers and future Hall of Fame quarterback Aaron Rodgers, who blew the game open in the fourth quarter. Rodgers threw four touchdown passes against a defense that has been at the heart of the Giants’ problems this season.
Shurmur’s offense, meanwhile, wasn’t any better. Daniel Jones had some nice throws early on, including an 18-yard touchdown pass to Sterling Shepard in the first quarter. But Jones’ turnover problems surfaced yet again, this time in the form of three interceptions that left him with a 49.4 rating.
Jones certainly has shown promise for a rookie quarterback, and there are moments when you can envision him flourishing at this level. But he has been unable to avoid the kinds of rookie mistakes that so many others make.
“There’s no better training ground than playing, and unfortunately, we’re dealing with some mistakes that you hope that you never see again,” Shurmur said. “We’re fortunate that he’s tough, he’s smart, he gets it.”
Now it remains to be seen whether Shurmur will be the one to continue shepherding Jones and whether Gettleman deserves to continue the roster-building process.
In the end, the decision might be made for Mara. If the losing continues, there simply will be no other choice.