If Pat Shurmur wants to endear himself quickly to Giants fans, all he has to do is beat the Eagles on Sunday.
Capturing the NFC championship and advancing to Super Bowl LII (which just so happens to be at the Vikings’ home in Minneapolis) would be a great way to cap his tenure as the Vikings’ offensive coordinator.
It also would be a fine start to his next appointment, which figures to be head coach of the Giants. Eliminating an NFC East rival that has spent most of the season dreaming of its first Super Bowl win and first NFL title since 1960 would be, for many faithful followers of Big Blue, a close second to the Giants being there to do it themselves.
Shurmur is expected to be named the 18th Giants coach shortly after his team’s postseason run ends. He and the Giants must remain coy about that because NFL rules prohibit teams from talking with or negotiating deals with assistants on active playoff staffs.
“There’s a time and a place for everything,” Shurmur said Thursday in Minnesota. “This is not the time or place to talk about that.”
What he did talk about, though, is the wish for fans of both the Vikings and Giants: a win in Philadelphia.
“It’s just part of staying in the moment,” he said. “Our focus right now is to put together a really good plan, get on a plane, go to Philadelphia and get it on.”
It’s a place Shurmur is quite familiar with, having coached there for 13 of his 19 years in the NFL, including his first 10 from 1999-2008. This will be his sixth NFC Championship Game, and the first five were as a member of the Eagles’ staff.
“I’m pretty familiar with their operation,” he said. “They’ve done a lot of winning for a very long time. They do things right there and their operation is very impressive.”
He’s also familiar with the environment at Lincoln Financial Field, which can be, let’s just say, less than welcoming to opponents.
“They’re passionate, educated fans who love their football team,” he said. “They’re there to watch the game and contribute in a way to help their team win. I get it. I lived it for 13 years on that side of it. It’s going to be a great environment for a game.”
Shurmur’s Vikings are favored to win. They’re coming off a memorable win over the Saints on a last-second touchdown pass. On Thursday, Shurmur was named NFL assistant coach of the year by the Professional Football Writers of America for having stabilized his offense after the loss of the starting quarterback (Sam Bradford) and running back (Dalvin Cook).
“That’s certainly a tremendous honor,” he said. “Those types of awards are team awards. We really have a lot of guys on this team who have done their jobs week in and week out. My role as a coordinator is to steer the ship and provide some vision and help the quarterback function on game day.”
That will be his role Sunday — and his unofficial role for the Giants.
The Giants haven’t won at Lincoln Financial Field since 2013 and are 1-5 in their last six visits. Some of their most depressing moments have occurred there, including the knee injury in 2014 that altered the trajectory of Victor Cruz and the team, and this season’s 27-24 loss on a 61-yard field goal as time expired that sent the season spiraling out of control.
If Shurmur can help pull out a victory Sunday, it will allow the Giants to finally have something to cheer about at the Linc.
And Shurmur will be the toast of two towns.