'Tis the season of giving, but that’s not what Pat Shurmur wants his football team to do. In fact, with one game left, he wants the Giants to focus on the exact opposite.
“We’ve got to find a way to take these wins at the end,” he said on Monday, a day after the Giants lost to the Colts, 28-27, and suffered their third road loss of the season in which the opposing team scored the winning points in the final minute. “You’ve got to go out and take these wins. Nobody gives you anything . . . Nothing’s given to you in this league, you’ve got to go take it, and so when you’re close at the end, you’ve got to find a way to make enough plays at the end and take the victory.
“For the most part, it comes down to us coaching and playing in a way where we go take them.”
That may be part of the process that is this 2018 season, a year in which Shurmur has tried to overhaul the culture and find a way to teach the young players on the roster — many of whom he said he hopes to have back next season — how to win. They’ve done it only five times in 15 chances, but they have one left.
Their final opponent is unlikely to present a full-on challenge. The Cowboys, who will visit MetLife Stadium on Sunday, clinched the NFC East title with their victory this weekend and are locked into the No. 4 seed in the upcoming playoffs. Most figure that Cowboys coach Jason Garrett will rest the majority of his starters against the Giants.
Shurmur seems to have no such leaning. Even though there is a school of thought that a loss would help the Giants more than a win by giving them a higher draft pick in April, he appears to be resolute in his desire to try to come out on top, whether it be to keep the team’s playoff chances alive — as was the case earlier this season — or simply to finish out the string.
To that point, Shurmur said Eli Manning will start at quarterback on Sunday and gave no indication that he won't finish the game (“We’ll just have to see what the week brings,” he said of his backup situation). He also maintained the position that he won’t be putting players such as Odell Beckham Jr., Alec Ogletree, Spencer Pulley and Russell Shepard on injured reserve. Rhett Ellison (concussion) and Mario Edwards (calf) left Sunday’s game with injuries.
“I can’t tell you exactly what’s going to happen there, but just like every game, anybody that’s injured is doing everything in their power to get back and play this week,” he said.
If what he and the Giants players were saying on Sunday and Monday is true — that the Giants are inching toward becoming a team that can contend for the postseason and maybe even a championship, and doing so soon — then it makes no sense to pull away from that now.
“I think we’ve learned a lot of things together,” Shurmur said of himself, the players and the coaching staff. “We’re battling through it, and we’re doing some things that put us in a position to win. We’ve won some games, but we haven’t won enough, and so that’s the growth that has to take place. For those of us that aren’t very patient, it’s a painful process until we get to that point where we’re winning all of these games at the end. Not just a few of them, but all of them.”
The Giants have learned how to build a lead. In the second half of this season, they’ve led by 10 points in five of their seven games. They’ve held that lead to the end of regulation in only two of them, though (and needed overtime to win a third).
Overall, they have lost seven games by a total of 28 points, including four by a total of nine points.
“We are very close,” Shurmur said. “But right is right. You’ve got to win. And I think as we start building and as the players get better, as we improve, as we understand situations and how to play each situation better, then eventually this thing pushes over the top.”