When Pat Shurmur walked into his office one morning this past week, a stack of photographs was sitting on his desk. They weren’t overhead shots of alignments or pictures of schemes employed by the Titans, the opponent on Sunday. Those are the kinds of images that head coaches shuffle through on a regular basis. No, these were photos of his players posing in the end zone.
It’s become the Giants’ go-to celebration. After a touchdown – offensive or defensive, it doesn’t really matter – all of the players who were on the field for the score rush to one corner of the field and gather together for a still life. Last week, even Eli Manning photobombed the offense’s group shot after one of their many touchdowns against the Redskins.
Those snapshots on Shurmur’s desk essentially were photographic evidence of how much the Giants are enjoying themselves lately.
“Well, winning is fun,” Shurmur said. “And when you go on the field and you’re having success, that’s fun. It’s somewhat of a grind as you go through the week, but our guys enjoy practicing and getting better. Unfortunately, the world can’t see all that. I’ve seen it. But when you have a game play out the way it did last week, it brings out the joy in a more obvious way for the people watching the game.”
So how did posing for a group picture become the Giants’ thing? It’s actually thanks to the defense, and a player who isn’t even on the team any longer.
In Week 3 against the Texans, Kerry Wynn forced a fumble that was recovered by cornerback Donte Deayon near midfield. The cornerback – who was waived by the Giants four weeks later – gathered his defensive teammates around and they pretended to pose for a picture and say “cheese” to some fake clicks and shutter flashes.
Later in the game, linebacker Alec Ogletree came down with an interception in the end zone. The linebacker realized that this time there were actual cameras around, thanks to the hoard of photographers staked out in the area. He quickly gathered the defenders together and they all got together for the picture. The first actual picture.
Since then, the Giants' defense has celebrated most of its takeaways and all of its touchdowns with a similar concept.
“It’s something that kind of stuck with us and something a lot of guys like to do now,” Ogletree said.
Even the offense, which made its modeling debut last week. The defense didn’t mind.
“They can steal it, whatever,” linebacker Kareem Martin said. “As long as they keep putting points up, I’m happy with it.”
Said Ogletree: “It’s for everybody. Anybody wants to do it, they can do it. It just shows that everybody was in there was a part of the play. It’s one of those things. Everybody deserves some credit. The more the better.”
The offensive pose actually was called by wide receiver Russell Shepard in the huddle before the touchdown. He was so convinced that the Giants would score a touchdown on that play that he reminded his teammates to gather once they scored. He thought he’d be the one to haul in the pass, and he was open for it, but it wound up going to Bennie Fowler.
Then, quick, the offensive players got together. Offensive linemen up front, wide receivers in the middle, quarterback sheepishly peering over the top.
“Nate Solder stole the show,” safety Michael Thomas said of the left tackle, who was flexing his biceps. “No one knew how jacked up he was.”
The players don’t get actual prints of the pictures, the kind that Shurmur received. For them, having digital versions on their phones is good enough.
How many more pictures will there be? That’s up to the Giants. First they have to get in the end zone. Then they have to decide how to celebrate the feat. They might pose again. Or they might choreograph something new and different. Tackle Chad Wheeler said there might be a hula-inspired dance routine forthcoming, then backtracked away from it.
Either way, Shurmur wants them to want to have the feeling more than the actual photograph. It’s part of the learning-to-win lesson he’s been trying to teach.
“That’s the thing that we crave,” he said. “The message to the team is: We want that again. It’s like that thing you want over and over and over. We want that again.”