What kind of head coach will Pat Shurmur be for the New York Giants, if and when he officially gets the job? There is no way to know for sure, but we can look for clues. To get some thoughts on Shurmur we turned to Arif Hasan, long-time writer and podcaster for SB Nation’s Minnesota Vikings website, Daily Norseman.
Below, Hasan’s thoughts on Shurmur’s time in Minnesota and what he might bring to the Giants.
“The Giants got a good one”
This, of course, is the point. Finding a good coach who can win and will last longer than the 28 regular-season games Ben McAdoo coached before having his key card deactivated. Hasan believes the Giants have done that:
“It’s always difficult to tell if someone will succeed at head coach based on their behavior as a coordinator; some coordinators do poorly or may not call plays and still perform well as head coaches while excellent coordinators can fail when promoted. With all that said, I think Pat Shurmur is a great fit as a head coach for any organization, and the Giants got a good one.”
Flexibility on display in Minnesota
One of the loudest and most obvious complaints about McAdoo was that he was inflexible. When he came to the Giants he had really only worked under Mike McCarthy and had only learned one approach and one offensive system. When it didn’t work, McAdoo had no other plan. Hasan sees Shurmur differently:
“Shurmur’s greatest strength as a coordinator is also one that suits head coaches well: flexibility. He’s adaptable and designs offenses and game plans around the strengths and weaknesses of his players while modifying those plans around what opponents do.
“Last year, the offensive line was much weaker and the running game was a nonentity, so they resorted to consistently short passes to move the ball and had the lowest depth of target in the league. This year, their depth of target is in the top half because of those changed circumstances.
“Knowing that the Vikings offensive line is improved but still sometimes a liability, he relied heavily on play-action to give receivers time to get open downfield while protecting Keenum in the pocket. Against teams that sell out against deep passes, he’ll move from play action to quick, short passes that eat up space underneath until the opponent responds, in which case, he has a shot play lined up.
“While he may or may not be calling plays in New York, the example of his adaptability to circumstances — especially after losing Sam Bradford and Dalvin Cook early in the year — speaks well to his overall coaching. His plan for Bradford was much more aggressive than it was for Keenum this year, for example.”
Listening and learning
This goes back to McAdoo really having learned only from McCarthy. Per Hasan, Shurmur has a broader range of experience:
“He’s been open to taking in lessons from his travels around the league, including Jeff Fisher, Chip Kelly, Norv Turner and Andy Reid.
“He also takes feedback from players well; Keenum and Stefon Diggs are both active in discussions with Shurmur about plays or philosophies that they think work or don’t work and he incorporates that into his decision-making process. That should translate well both for his ability to work with coordinators and for his ability to take in genuine input from players.”
Handling the locker room
We know there was dysfunction in the Giants’ locker room in 2017, and that at least some players did not believe in the head coach. For Shurmur, this will be one of his biggest challenges. Hasan’s take:
“I’m not sure how he manages contentious locker room personalities, as it seems like there haven’t been many challenges from the Vikings on that front. From what I can tell, he did an excellent job managing a stressful environment in Cleveland, though you’d have to speak to people who follow the Browns more closely.”
Coordinators, and more
Who would Shurmur want on his coaching staff? From Hasan, a few names:
“I also couldn’t tell you who he may look to as a coordinator, though I think it is unlikely that he brings in Vikings quarterback coach Kevin Stefanski, as Stefanski has been with the team for over a decade and may be tapped for the OC job here. He could reach out to Steve Spagnuolo of course, but he might also reach out to people like Eagles safeties coach Tim Hauck or Eagles linebackers coach Ken Flajole. He’s got a lot of connections around the league.
“Still, I think it’s a good hire because of how adaptable and responsive he’s been throughout his career not only to the condition of the team but the people willing to provide him with feedback.”