Pat Shurmur’s honeymoon lasted all of four games.
Welcome to the New York market, Coach. Best of luck dealing with all that lies ahead.
The Giants’ first-year coach already is facing his first full-blown crisis, and how he fights his way through it and out of it will go a long way toward shaping his legacy in one of the most demanding jobs in the NFL.
As if a 1-3 start wasn’t bad enough, Shurmur had to deal with the fallout last week from Odell Beckham Jr.’s sitdown with ESPN’s Josina Anderson. And by the time his team fell to 1-4 after a rollicking 33-31 loss to the Panthers on a last-second 63-yard field goal, an angry Shurmur was left to explain himself during a tense postgame news conference in which he alternately lashed out at the media and his star receiver.
With a short week to prepare for Thursday’s big game against the defending Super Bowl champion Eagles (2-3), Shurmur has little time to reset the mood and put his team in the best position to not only earn a victory over the NFC East rival but possibly save the season itself.
Beckham deserves most of the blame for needlessly creating controversy by questioning Shurmur’s schemes, questioning Eli Manning’s role in the offense’s problems in the first month of the season and even questioning whether he likes being in the New York area.
It was a terrible look from a player who only weeks ago received the richest contract for an NFL receiver, a $95-million deal that featured $65 million in guaranteed money.
Beckham deserved to be paid after outperforming his rookie contract, and no one will quibble with his stature as one of the league’s top receivers. But he again showed his immaturity by publicly airing his grievances instead of taking his problems directly to the coach and quarterback.
Look, every team has problems and every player wants things to be better. But when you are the face of the franchise, you don’t pop off on national TV and leave others to clean up the mess.
Think about this: During much of his postgame news conference, Shurmur defended the way his team played and the energy it showed during a game in which the Giants came back to take a 31-30 lead, only to lose on Graham Gano’s field goal.
“We played the way that I know our team is,” he said. “For the record, our team is tough. We play hard. I got no issues with the way they play.”
You’d think Shurmur was responding to public criticism about the Giants’ effort and want-to. No, he was refuting Beckham’s criticism that the team lacked the kind of heart and energy required to win.
“I publicly declared that I didn’t agree with his comments,” Shurmur said later, referring to a snippet of Beckham’s interview. “I asked anybody that was interested if they wanted clarification to go to Odell because he’s a big man. Now I’m not going to give the public a pound of flesh on this, all right? That would make me small, not strong.”
He again suggested that reporters speak to Beckham, who did not back down from his remarks and said he had no regrets. This after a game in which he put up some big numbers (eight catches for 131 yards and a score) but also dropped a would-be TD pass and had a punt go off his leg and recovered by Carolina for a touchdown.
Shurmur believes the locker room took care of any fallout from Beckham’s remarks, and Beckham himself had addressed the team to share his feelings. But the coach should be under no illusions that this is the end of it.
This is just the beginning. At least for Shurmur.
Neither Tom Coughlin nor Ben McAdoo successfully dealt with Beckham, even though both coaches tried. Even Coughlin, known as a strict disciplinarian, couldn’t bring himself to bench Beckham after he launched himself at Josh Norman in a December 2015 game that led to a one-game suspension for the receiver.
On McAdoo’s watch, Beckham and his fellow receivers took a joy ride to South Beach a week before a playoff game, a trip that came back to haunt the team in a lackluster loss to the Packers.
Now it’s Shurmur’s turn. At 1-4 and with Beckham acting up again, it’s crisis time.
It won’t end until the losing stops. And even then, there’s no guarantee.
After all, there’s no telling when the Beckham Factor will surface again.
The only sure thing is that it will.