Pat Shurmur is not head coach of the New York Giants yet. NFL rules don’t allow coaches who’s teams are still playing to sign with other teams, and Shurmur’s Minnesota Vikings play the Philadelphia Eagles in the NFC Championship Game this weekend. Shurmur is “likely to be” or “expected to be” or “reportedly will be” Giants’ coach once the Vikings are done playing. Put it whatever way you want.
Unless something crazy happens Shurmur is going to be the Giants’ next coach. At some point. Whether that is next week or after the Super Bowl in three weeks. Here are four questions he needs to answer.
What is the plan at quarterback?
Rest assured, what Shurmur and the Giants will do at quarterback in 2018 and beyond is not a mystery to them. To us, sure. There shouldn’t be any doubt, though, that when Shurmur interviewed for the job he, Dave Gettleman and John Mara came to an understanding of how they would like to proceed at that spot.
There have been reports that Shurmur and Minnesota quarterback Case Keenum, a free agent, are a package deal.
That, more than likely, is not going to work with the Giants. Recently, Pat Traina smartly laid out the reasons why Eli Manning will almost certainly be the Giants’ quarterback in 2018. Financially, trading or cutting Manning AND signing a high-priced free-agent quarterback like Keenum simply does not appear to be feasible.
What seems more likely is that Shurmur first figures out the best way to maximize Manning’s talents in 2018. Then, he and GM Dave Gettleman come to an agreement on whether they can trust Davis Webb to be the future, or whether they need to draft an heir apparent with the second overall pick.
Can he fix the locker room?
For me, this is the biggest question of all. When Traina and I were debating the head-coaching hire on the ‘Big Blue Chat podcast’ I made the point that which side of the ball the head coach came from didn’t matter to me. What matters to me is whether or not that coach can command the room. Can he earn the respect of the players? Can he get them to buy in, to play as a team rather than a bunch of self-absorbed individuals?
Shurmur isn’t exciting. He might even be boring. He doesn’t carry the sexy name recognition of Matt Patricia or Josh McDaniels. Or Nick Saban. He probably isn’t going to host the world’s most entertaining press conferences. He could help himself, though, by not alienating media during them.
Regardless of that, though, the question is whether he can lead. The Giants, obviously, believe he can. We will find out.
How will he resuscitate the offense?
The offense, obviously, is broken. Two years without scoring 30 points in a single game is plenty of evidence of that. Shurmur has had success with a wide variety of teams and quarterbacks.
Odell Beckham Jr. is excited.
God really works in mysterious ways....let the journey begin.... I’m geeeked https://t.co/3tbOTPcSl1— Odell Beckham Jr (@OBJ_3) January 15, 2018
Eli Manning should be excited.
2013: Nick Foles ran play action 32.7% of his passes - 3rd most in NFL (134.9 rtg)— Ryan Smith (@PFF_Smith) January 15, 2018
2014: Nick Foles ran play action 32.3% of his passes - 1st (91.6 rtg.)
2017: Case Keenum ran play action 28.7% of his passes - 3rd (111.8 rtg.)
I have long said play action is Manning’s strength, and something the McAdoo offense could hardly be trifled with bothering to utilize.
Of course, there is more to it than a couple of differences in play-calling. Fixing the offensive line, identifying and developing the quarterback of the future, being more creative with Evan Engram, developing a consistent running game are all part of the equation.
Who will be in charge of his defense?
Let’s hope that Shurmur doesn’t make the McAdoo mistake of putting his blinders on and forgetting that his job isn’t just to try and run the offense — rather it is to coach the entire football team.
Shurmur has two years experience as a head coach and six-plus as an coordinator — far more than McAdoo’s zero and two when he got the job. So, he should be better able to balance all of the job’s requirements.
Still, let’s be realistic. Shurmur is an offensive coach. In terms of priorities or time allocation, offense is where he will spend the bulk of his time. He will need a quality defensive coach he trusts.
Could that be Steve Spagnuolo? Spags hired Shurmur as offensive coordinator in St. Louis in 2009, so it would be logical for Shurmur to keep Spags. Is is smart, though? The Giants’ defense has been awful in two of Spagnuolo’s three years running it. He can’t get the job just because Shurmur likes him and the Giants’ organization is fond of him. If he is going to get the job he better be able to explain how the defense fell off a cliff last season, and how it can be fixed. And the reasons has to be a lot more than “we had a bunch of injuries,” because it involved a lot more than that.