Black Monday was taking its toll on the NFL on Monday, including 30 miles away in Florham Park, but there was Pat Shurmur, dressed like a middle-aged accountant, still on the job and soberly talking about 2019 and beyond.
Not that there’s anything wrong with that. The Giants’ coach deserves more than one season to show what he’s got, even after a year in which he finished 5-11 — thereby matching his career high in three years as an NFL head coach.
Call his grade incomplete.
The good news is that Shurmur, 53, has been every bit the “adult” that general manager Dave Gettleman famously dubbed him in explaining why he was the right man to clean up after a chaotic season under Ben McAdoo.
Shurmur often has been prickly and defensive in news conferences, but behind the scenes, he seems to have been a settling influence who has improved the team’s culture.
As they cleaned out their lockers, the Giants were about as upbeat as any team in NFL history that lost more than twice as many games as it won.
“He kept a lot of veterans tuned in to this season, and that’s a hard thing to do,” Pro Bowl safety Landon Collins said.
“Young guys, because they don’t understand the business part of it yet, you can keep them in tune. But when you keep a lot of veteran guys, guys who have been through it, guys who were on a losing team last year and came back and went through it again, he kept us in tune and made sure we were focused and putting the work in.”
The Giants started 1-7, then won four of five before losing their last three, the last two by one point each.
“As a head coach, I think you have to be authentic, and he was authentic, which I respect a lot,” linebacker Connor Barwin said. “I think he was honest and transparent. I thought he did a great job of keeping everyone together, especially when we were at 1-7.”
Said Shurmur: “We’re a different team than this team was a year ago. It’s a credit to the players. They’ve been very coachable.”
Thus concludes the good news. The bad news is the Giants finished last in the NFC East for the second year in a row and repeatedly failed in key spots in close games. Not OK. Especially with the likes of Saquon Barkley and Odell Beckham Jr. on the team.
Shurmur correctly noted how much his offense improved in the second half of the season, coinciding with a huge upgrade in the line’s play, but he did say he subjects himself to “quality control” every day.
“Being I’m the play-caller, there’s always a handful of plays [you rethink],” he said. “You make 70 decisions in 40 seconds or 25 seconds or less. As you all have watched, you’re not perfect. So what you try to do is become more perfect, make less mistakes, make more good decisions.”
Shurmur said he will enter this offseason in a more advantageous position than last winter. He knows the organization better, knows the players better, even knows his staff better.
Linebackers coach Bill McGovern was the only assistant with whom he had worked previously. “I purposely didn’t hire some of my friends,’’ he said, “who are now no longer my friends.”
The offense of November and December, he said, was what he wanted to showcase all along, and the line play is what helped make it happen, giving Eli Manning the time he needed to operate. So that will continue to be a focus in upgrading the talent level.
“We have a committed organization; we have a committed group of players,” Shurmur said. “It’s up to us now. Like I said, right is right. We have to start winning these close games.”
They had better, or come next Black Monday, Shurmur might not get to talk about coaching the 2020 Giants.