Pat Shurmur, who interviews on Saturday for the New York Giants vacant head-coaching position, is an intriguing candidate.
At first blush, the Minnesota Vikings offensive coordinator might seem like just another retread head coach, just another guy who failed the first time and is looking for a second opportunity. There are a lot of those guys out there, including several on the list of candidates the Giants are considering.
What might make Shurmur rise above them?
Well, first of all is it really fair to hold two years as head coach of the Cleveland Browns against him? Considering that the Browns have gone 4-44 over the past three seasons, the 9-23 record they under Shurmur’s direction in 2011 and 2012 isn’t all that bad. Especially with Colt McCoy and Branden Weeden at quarterback.
Here is Joe Banner, who was Browns CEO and fired Shurmur, talking about him recently:
“It was not an evaluation of him,” said Banner, who also worked with Shurmur with the Eagles. “I know Pat really well. I mean, A-plus guy. There’s nothing in the intangible category of quality of person, partner for GM, cares about winning, the players will like and want to support, he’s A-plus in all those kinds of things. Excellent offensive coach.
”If I were interviewing right now, Pat would be near if not at the top of my list of people I’d be looking at.”
Just 52, Shurmur scores high marks for his player development, coaching acumen and relationship building, though with a calm demeanor that more closely resembles Jim Caldwell than Jim Schwartz, some wonder how well he’ll command a locker room.
The Giants have made it obvious they aren’t looking for a newbie, a young hotshot with a thin resume. Shurmur has been a head coach, an interim head coach, a position coach and an offensive coordinator for three different NFL teams.
New GM Dave Gettleman has not expressed a preference for an offensive or defensive-minded head coach. He has said the ability to develop a quarterback will be important.
“It’s really important. You draft a quarterback high, and you’re wrong? It sets you back, because then what happens, there are teams that I call, they’re in quarterback hell. They got solid defense, they’ve got a pretty good offensive line, they got some skill players. They … just … can’t … find the trigger guy. And what happens is they go 7-9, 8-8, 9-7, and they never get high enough to get a real guy, and they’re afraid to trade up and trade the farm to get a guy because they’re [No.] 18, 19, 20 draft position. I call that quarterback hell.”
Shurmur has gotten good play, better than expected play, from quarterbacks at several stops.
- The St. Louis Rams won 10 games in Steve Spagnuolo’s three years as head coach. They won seven of them with Shurmur coaxing Sam Bradford through his rookie season.
- In 2013, Shurmur got a Pro Bowl year out of Nick Foles, who had 27 touchdown passes to just two interceptions. Foles has never come close to matching that success.
- This season, with Bradford hurt in Minnesota, Shurmur has coaxed a career year out of 29-year-old journeyman Case Keenum. Minnesota went 11-3 in Keenum’s as he threw 22 touchdown passes and only seven interceptions. A year ago, he had just nine touchdown and 11 interceptions for the Rams.
The Giants have 37-year-old Eli Manning as the incumbent, and could be developing one — or two — young quarterbacks behind him. If they choose a quarterback with the second overall pick, Gettleman’s words about needing a coach who can develop a quarterback take on added importance.
Vikings head coach Mike Zimmer said last month Shurmur’s adaptability and communication with Keenum have been keys.
“He’s been very adaptable trying to fit the scheme to the players,” Zimmer said. “He did a nice job in the offseason of coming with a plan of using the guys we had and trying to use them to their strengths. And then, obviously, after Bradford went down and really then when Cook went down, being able to adapt to those. He’s done a good job in calling plays. But more importantly probably has been using the players to their strengths.”
At least one ESPN writer believes the Giants are the best fit for Shurmur.
The scenario: Is this the best head-coaching vacancy out there? It could be. The New York market is a tough one, but Giants ownership is willing to do anything to get back to winning ways after this year’s disaster with Ben McAdoo. The pressure to win makes this a high-stakes opening, but the reward is pretty big given the star power and talent on this roster.
The fit: As with Minnesota last offseason, the Giants’ No. 1 priority is fixing the offensive line. If the new coach wants to part ways with Eli Manning when installing his system, New York will need to decide whether it drafts a quarterback at No. 2 overall or puts its faith in Davis Webb, last year’s third-rounder. Shurmur would inherit an offense loaded with weapons from Odell Beckham Jr. to Sterling Shepard and Evan Engram. In addition to a top pick, Shurmur would get a selection in each of the seven rounds and possibly pick up a compensatory pick in another after the Giants lost Johnathan Hankins in free agency. Bottom line, all the pieces to win at a high level are in place in New York. Shurmur was integral in creating a more athletic O-line in Minnesota, getting the most out of Keenum, Latavius Murray and Jerick McKinnon and moving Adam Thielen and Stefon Diggs around from the slot to the outside and back again like a chess master. The Giants might have as many promising offensive weapons as Shurmur had to work with in 2017.
Will the Giants agree that Shurmur is the right fit for their job? We’ll find out.