Pat Shurmur has the support of two very important people in the Giants’ organization.
John Mara and Steve Tisch? No, although we’ll find out about them very soon.
For now, with one game left in the season, the power pair speaking out on the future of the head coach is the quarterback and running back the team hopes will carry them into its next phase.
Daniel Jones and Saquon Barkley, fresh off becoming the first teammates in NFL history to have one throw five touchdown passes and the other gain 275 or more yards from scrimmage in the same game, both gave strong statements on Thursday suggesting that they think Shurmur should be back.
Asked if he thinks Shurmur is the right guy to lead the team moving forward, Barkley said:
“Yeah, I do believe. I not only believe [in] Pat Shurmur, but I believe in all the coaches here. It’s easy to point the blame at one person, because that’s what we do. I know this is a result business, but at the end of the day, it’s not only on one person why we haven’t been successful.”
Jones noted that such decisions are not his to make, but he spoke about what Shurmur has meant to him.
“It’s been huge for me since I’ve gotten here,” he said of Shurmur’s presence. “I think he’s a great coach, particularly for a young quarterback to have the opportunity to work with him . . . I’ve really enjoyed working with Coach Shurmur and he’s done a whole lot for my development and my growth. He’s been great for me.”
Many people will pooh-pooh the impact of those sentiments by noting that the two star players had no choice but to back the head coach. What else are they supposed to say?
The reality is there are ways to couch support without shoving a guy out the door. There are ways to talk around touchy topics without talking in absolutes.
In this case, neither of the bright, savvy players involved chose to do so. It’s an indication that, if they were pulled aside by ownership and asked for a private, honest opinion on the matter, their responses would be similar to what they said in front of the cameras.
Does it matter? Do the words of two 22-year-olds who have played a combined 40 NFL games resonate with management and ownership?
Probably not. Mara and Tisch are not seeking their counsel. Nor are the comments enough to cover up the stink of the nine straight losses suffered this year, the missed opportunity to compete for a division title if the Giants had managed to be just a smidge better, or the perception that the team is moving backward rather than forward during Shurmur’s tenure.
They won five games a year ago and only four this season with one game remaining. There still is a chance to say there has not been a statistical regression if they can win on Sunday and match 2018’s total in that category, but the opportunity to demonstrate progress in that regard no longer exists.
The only barometer that matters when judging the trajectory of the Giants over the past two seasons is whether they are closer to the playoffs now than they were a year ago.
“I would say so,” Barkley said. “Every week we’re growing. We’re a young team. That’s just an excuse that I don’t want to use, but it is what it is. We’re a young team, and with more repetition and more plays and more games, you’re going to evolve into better players. I feel like we’ve been doing that this season.”
Shurmur noted that this year’s Giants team is one of 20 whose season will end on Sunday. “Unfortunately we’re not one of the 12,” he said of the ones who will continue on into the postseason.
Then he paused for a beat.
“Yet,” he added.
Are the Giants any closer to being one of the 12 next year?
Shurmur, as he has done most of this season, pointed to the young players. He noted the development of the quarterback who has taken “tremendous strides,” the rejuvenated play of the running back since he fully returned from his ankle injury and the two straight wins.
“We’ll find out next year,” Shurmur said.
We? Inclusive we?
We’ll find out sooner than that.