The Giants have lost five straight ugly games. Young, promising players are not just making mistakes but repeating them. They are about to play a game against the equally (or possibly even more) woeful Jets that could define the direction of the franchise for the immediate future.
And all eyes are on one person to fix it.
“I’m built for this,” coach Pat Shurmur said on Thursday in response to questions about his job security and how he has been dealing with all of his team’s negative results and all of the negative vibes that seem to surround him and the squad.
But for the football coach on the second-hottest seat in New York — who might be changing chairs with his counterpart if the Giants lose on Sunday — the focus isn’t about big-picture decisions or pivotal points in the franchise’s history. For Shurmur, this is about Sunday.
“I feel the urgency to win a football game, period,” he said. “That’s it.”
Sunday’s game could be the tipping point that determines the direction in which Shurmur’s tenure goes.
If the Giants beat the Jets, it will take at least some of the heat off him and the team as they head into a bye week. They can regroup, come back for the final six games and try to salvage a respectable record with an eye on developing for next season.
If they lose, well, an already irritated and impatient fan base will turn apoplectic, and some of that frustration could bleed into management’s thinking.
The last coach the Giants had lasted less than two seasons, so the old thinking that it isn’t the “Giants way” to fire anyone in midseason no longer holds Gatorade.
“I think we all coach and play with an urgency to win games and perform well,” Shurmur said when asked if jobs are on the line come Sunday. “We’re always urgent. You coach and play every game like it’s a playoff game. You try to do everything you can to win. There is always urgency to perform well and win.”
The players face the same pressures, too.
“The recipe to staying in the locker room is winning,” wide receiver Golden Tate said. “When you’re losing, something’s got to change, you don’t know who it’s going to be. So I think about it. I love this locker room, I love the personnel, I love our coaches, but ultimately we’re all here to produce wins.”
There is something more, though. Co-owner John Mara said in the summer that he would not judge the season based on wins or losses, but rather a sense of whether the Giants are heading in the right direction.
Shurmur on Thursday seemed to make his case for that.
“I know that we are on the right path and I know that we are just a few plays from getting over the top,” he said. “When the players see that, then we can build on that.”
Three of the last five losses have come by at least 18 points, which does not reflect the proximity to success that Shurmur indicates. But in the last four games, the Giants have gone into the fourth quarter within a touchdown of the lead.
“We created a fumble and got ahead in this past game, we were ahead through most of the first half,” Shurmur said of the loss to the Cowboys. “We battled back, we kept it to within one score. We were right there.”
Until they weren’t.
“We fell victim to some damaging plays that then create a situation where you lose the game,” he said of the eventual 37-18 final score. “You change those isolated situations and things can be different. That’s what I see.”
Perhaps. But what people see on Sunday may be the image that lasts.