There was no perfect candidate for the New York Giants’ head-coaching vacancy, meaning Pat Shurmur isn’t a perfect hire. Shurmur, though, does possess many of the qualities the Giants were looking for and seems like a good choice.
He isn’t a one-hit wonder. Shurmur didn’t just show up Sunday as Minnesota Vikings’ offensive coordinator, call “Buffalo Right 7 Heaven” on the Vikings’ final magical play against the New Orleans Saints, and suddenly become hot head-coaching candidate.
He has done this head-coaching thing before, for two years with the Cleveland Browns. Say what you want about his 9-23 record. Whatever you think of his clock management or in-game decisions, that’s two years of mistake-making and head-coach growing pains the Giants will be spared.
Shurmur has worked for the Philadelphia Eagles twice, the St. Louis Rams, the Browns and the Vikings. He’s seen how Andy Reid, Chip Kelly, Steve Spagnuolo and Mike Zimmer ran their programs. That exposure to different situations, good and bad, is helpful.
He has more than six seasons of play-calling experience and has worked successfully with a variety of quarterbacks, from first-round picks (Donovan McNabb, Sam Bradford) to undrafted free agent Case Keenum.
There are, however, things that Shurmur most prove.
There are really two central questions, both of which revolve around his personality.
Can he stand up to players? The Giants had a dysfunctional locker room in 2017 that led to a variety of disciplinary issues and spats between players that became public. There are over-sized personalities, most notably Odell Beckham Jr.
Mike Holmgren hired Shurmur to coach the Browns. He had this to say to Gary Myers of the Daily News:
“That’s a good question,” Holmgren said. “We all have a different way of handing it. My way would be very vocal. He’s not that. He didn’t show that to me. He showed a firmness. He might sit a guy down, but he’s not going to be (Bill) Parcells. He has a toughness that gains the players respect. If anything, I would like to see him ease off that a little bit. You have rules, but in your communication with the players, in meetings and one-on-one, you need an understanding of what makes them tick.”
NJ.com’s Eliot-Shorr Parks isn’t sure Shurmur can straighten out the Giants’ locker room: — or really inspire them. That’s the other question. Can he get them to buy in, to really believe in what he is selling?
The Giants had locker room issues in 2017. Shurmur is likely not going to be the coach to fix that.
Shurmur is an easy-going guy, mild-mannered guy, not the disciplinarian the Giants need to change the culture. Players will enjoy playing for Shurmur, and during his time with the Eagles, the offensive players always had nice things to say about him.
As a leader and motivator, however, it is tough to see him inspiring much confidence.
We’re going to find out.
The Giants’ job isn’t an easy one. The locker room dynamics, the quarterback transition Shurmur will eventually be tasked with supervising, the expectations of an ownership group impatient to get back to winning, the intense over-analysis of every decision from a rabid fan base and a large, ravenous media.
That is another concern Holmgren raised. Where Ben McAdoo didn’t give a hoot what anyone else said, insisting that he didn’t care about perception, Holmgren indicated that Shurmur perhaps paid too much attention to it:
“He read everything. He knew everything that was said,” Holmgren said. “I told him, ‘You can’t let it get to you. Don’t create an adversarial situation.’ I tried to counsel him that way.”
Shurmur didn’t have it easy during his stint in Cleveland. First of all, we are talking about the Browns here. There was a lockout his first year, meaning he didn’t get the first-year coach’s advantage of extra offseason workouts. He didn’t get any of those at all. In his second year, he dealt with an ownership change.
Thus, he has some experience navigating choppy seas. The 52-year-old brings a lot of things to be excited about to the job. The Giants are counting on his past experience to help him steer clear of the things that helped sink his first head-coaching opportunity.