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Analysis: Mike Shula wasn’t Plan A for Giants, but that might be OK

Maybe he’s not a great play-caller, but the Giants won’t ask him to do that

Carolina Panthers training camp David T. Foster III/Charlotte Observer/TNS via Getty Images

The New York Giants have hired Mike Shula as offensive coordinator, and the Big Blue Freakout is in full swing.

There are Giants fans ready to bury Shula already, judging this as an awful hire before the man has even done any work in New Jersey.

Here is some of the reaction:

Shulas experience is bad experience Mike Shula is the walking talking definition of nepotism this is a bad hire!!!! Never underestimate the power of stupid people in large groups! Posted by Late for Dinner
This is definitely the "we missed out on our two options" of hires Posted by Joshua Ryan
Bahahahaha and the dumpster fire keeps burning…this #2 pick better be epic…that’s all we have to look forward to. Posted by JamieKage

Even Panthers fans are sympathetic.

Is it really that bad?

Step back from the ledge and remember — this will NOT be Mike Shula’s offense. He will not be designing the bulk of it, installing or creating the scheme, or calling the plays. Head coach Pat Shurmur will be doing that.

Shula will be working with quarterbacks, which he has vast experience doing. He will be the responsible for making sure players run the offense the way Shurmur wants it run. As a veteran play-caller he can be a sounding board for Shurmur. As a coordinator, Shula’s play-calling was criticized but not his ability to find creative wrinkles to add to the playbook. Perhaps he can help Shurmur find a few of those each week.

I asked Bradley Smith of SB Nation’s Panthers’ website, Cat Scratch Reader, for his thoughts on Shula. Here is what he sent me, via e-mail:

Aside from the 2015 season, Mike Shula’s time in Carolina was marred with disappointment. One of the biggest problems we had with him was he couldn’t adjust to what the other team was doing during the game. He also is terrible at situational play-calling and can get predictable at times. Panthers fans as a whole pretty much hate him at this point because his lack of play-calling ability hindered the offense so much. To be fair to him, every fan base hates their offensive coordinator and he got a lot of hate that he really didn’t deserve. Even when his play-calls were good, but didn’t work because of bad execution by the players, he still took the blame.

Basically, if the Giants are hiring him to call plays it’s a terrible idea. If they’re hiring him to consult with the play-caller and craft the offense, then it’s a good hire. Shula is creative, and he can make an offense work around the personnel he’s given... as long as you don’t let him manage the situational play calling duties.

My film guys like his offensive scheme. You can look through our film room section on our site and possibly glean some content from there -

Here are a couple of tweets from those Cat Scratch Reader film guys:

Here is how Shula’s offenses in Carolina stacked up statistically:

The rushing offenses have, statistically, been excellent. A big chunk of that, though, came from quarterback Cam Newton. In Shula’s five years in Carolina, Newton ran for less than 500 yards only once. So, without a mobile quarterback can Shula add much to the run concepts that will be in Shurmur’s offense? We will see.

Our own Dan Pizzuta has expressed mixed feelings about the hire, but on the positive side he also expressed some optimism about Shula’s ability to build creative wrinkles into an offense.

It is obvious that Shula was not the Giants’ first choice for the job. Shurmur wanted Kevin Stefanski, with whom he worked in Minnesota. That, though, didn’t happen. There is some indication that the Giants might have made a late push for Nick Sirianni, the former Los Angeles Chargers wide receivers coach who will become offensive coordinator of the Indianapolis Colts.

Shula isn’t a young, up-and-coming, untested coach like Stefanski or Sirianni. He is 52 and has been coaching since 1988, 30 years ago. He has warts. His tenure as Alabama head coach (2003-2006) didn’t go well. He has been an offensive coordinator in the NFL twice before, calling plays and designing offenses for nine years. There has been some good and some bad in the work that he’s done.

I said it before but it is important to remember that this will be Shurmur’s offense, not Shula’s. If Shula’s experience and reputation for creativity can add a few things to it, that will be a good thing.

Let it play out, Giants fans. Hiring Shula might not have been Plan A, but it might end up just fine.