Pat Shurmur can’t say it.
At least not as directly as he might like to. It would go against his rule of making excuses, and given the dilapidated conditions the Giants currently reside in with a 2-8 record it would be a bit unseemly to do so anyway.
But the very thing that is bringing this season down might be the same thing that allows him to keep his job when the year is over. The Giants are very young in some very important areas, and that has led to their losing a number of times this year. It’s also the way this year’s team was built, loaded with rookies and second-year players who are still finding their way in the ranks of professional football.
While their progress has yet to translate into victories on Sundays, there has been progress.
So how should Shurmur be evaluated by ownership? Will it be strictly on wins this season or on the baby steps that could lead to wins next year and beyond?
“That’s for somebody else to surmise,” he said on Tuesday. “For somebody else to write.”
And they will. Because this is the results-driven NFL. There are plenty of examples of coaches who have taught young players to climb mountains only to be left behind when they are about to reach the summit. Shurmur knows that Ws are the main criteria by which head coaches are judged. He has to count on it being not the only one. He was part of the design team that came up with the blueprint to rebuild the Giants, but he is also the one out in front as the face of its current failures.
“When we lose it falls squarely on my shoulders,” he said. “I get that. But part of what we’re dealing with right now is getting some of these guys to understand how critical it is . . . You don’t have 90 plays in a game where you can make a couple of mistakes and it’s OK. You can’t make mistakes. I can’t make them as a coach.”
So Shurmur will continue to send Daniel Jones and DeAndre Baker and Corey Ballentine and Darius Slayton out there each game, hoping that they get better. Hoping that he’s still around for when that happens.
“Along the way here these good young rookies that we have have gotten better,” he insisted. “It just hasn’t turned into wins yet. That’s the reality. That’s the real world that we live in and we have to find a way to get over the top.
“There is a lot to be learned. We all know I’m not a very patient man by nature, but our best players are out there competing and they gotta get it.”
One of the players whose development is most tied to Shurmur’s future is Jones. The quarterback continues to have too many turnovers, but he also has some promising bright spots in this season as well.
Jones gave Shurmur something of a vote of confidence on Tuesday.
“I think Coach Shurmur has done a ton for me in my growth and development,” Jones said. “He’s been around football for a long time, so I think that, to me, helps, just kind of hearing his experience, hearing his understanding. I think he’s been extremely patient with me and supportive of me. I’ve been up and down, I’ve played well at times and not so well at times. He’s continued to support me and continued to coach me hard and give me the points of emphasis or the things that I need to be looking at closer. I think that’s been a huge help for me.”
Maybe that’s what 2019 is all about for the Giants. Sure, it would have been nice to win some games. Yes, there were plenty that should have been won already. But patience — that rare ingredient in all of pro sports and especially in the NFL — may be the most important aspect of this season.
At some point, it has to pay off to be worth it. Shurmur thinks it will.
“I really believe we’re on the right track,” Shurmur said. “We don’t have the wins to quantify that, but I believe in my heart of hearts that we are on the right path and it will come.”