There were no poetry lessons, no pop culture tales of a sex-crazed lion, and no videos of, for example, a man punching a kangaroo to free a dog.
Instead, New York Giants head coach Pat Shurmur, who has in his own way quietly introduced a new and much more professional locker room culture that’s more befitting of the “Giants Pride” concept that somehow was lost in the shuffle, had a very simple message for his 90-man roster who gathered at the team’s headquarters for the start of training camp Wednesday.
“I think the important thing is for us to focus on playing football, focus on getting better,” he said when asked what his message to the team would be.
“I told the rookies this, but when we put a 90-man roster together, the goal is for them to make our team or somebody else’s. There’s 31 other teams watching what we do, and it’ll be a great honor to our roster if all 90 guys make a roster. I think that’s their challenge, to get better every day and use the reps they get to the best of their ability and let the chips fall where they may.”
In addition to repairing a locker room culture that so badly splintered under Ben McAdoo, Shurmur has been true to his word about forging a productive working relationship with the media.
In a move that I haven’t seen made by a head coach in my 20+ years on the beat, Shurmur, before the start of Wednesday’s practice, the final one for just the quarterbacks, rookies and select veterans, came over to greet reporters.
He also spent a few minutes chatting with a group as his players were warming up, answering questions such as if he had the rookies stay around a week after the veterans left last month (he did), what went into his thought process regarding which veteran players he asked to report early, and so forth.
It was a pleasant conversation, one that reminded me of running into your neighbor during an outing and stopping to chat. And it was appreciated by the reporters who often dealt with McAdoo’s brash, condescending style.
Pat Shurmur doing something no other HC has done before since I’ve been on the beat. Greeting reporters before practice. pic.twitter.com/aL21UaNZXg— Patricia Traina (@Patricia_Traina) July 25, 2018
In case there is any doubt about Shurmur, consider his post-practice press conference. I have quickly learned that Shurmur doesn’t really like to get caught up in the minutiae of anything not having to do with Xs and Os.
So when you ask him a football question, you can actually see his eyes light up and hear the eagerness in his voice as he tried to offer an intelligent and informed explanation.
It’s all part of the fresh start approach Shurmur is taking both inside and outside the locker room as he continues to repair fractured relationships and morale in and around the team.
“He basically said you are starting from zero right now,” said defensive end/outside linebacker Olivier Vernon about Shurmur’s approach.
“What you put in right now will determine where you are in the end. Only the players can control that. Coaches add the game plan and schemes but the players make it happen. We have to take ownership and believe in what the coaches are preaching. It’s basically on us as players.”
Quarterback Eli Manning agreed.
“I just think there is obviously in every training camp or each year, there is going to be different distractions and different things going on that the media want to talk about or get asked about,” he said.
“I think we have to do a good job as a team and certain individuals just keeping it and keeping our focus on football and getting better, making improvements, and what we have to do individually to help out the team this upcoming year.”
Expect Shurmur to make sure that happens.
The return of the mighty Quinn
Just when you thought it was all clear to celebrate the Giants moving on from special teams coordinator Tom Quinn, the team goes and throws you a cure ball.
That’s right. Quinn, who didn’t catch on with another NFL team, is back with the Giants this year, working as the assistant to his one-time assistant, Thomas McGaughey, who worked under Quinn when the two were with the Giants in 2007-2010.
The reason, according to Shurmur, is that McGaughey, who during some of the practices open to the media in the spring wasn’t present, is dealing with some health-related issues that apparently will take him away from the job on occasion. So, rather than leave assistant special teams coach Anthony Blevins to fend for himself, McGaughey has turned to Quin.
Love him or hate him — and I suspect many Giants fans feel the latter — it’s important to remember that special teams is still McGaughey’s show to run, which means it will be his schemes and his decisions, not Quinn’s.
I’m probably in the minority here, but good for Quinn for swallowing his pride and stepping back into what is no doubt an uncomfortable situation after his unit was such a colossal embarrassment last year.
In case you missed the wonderful news, general manager Dave Gettleman’s cancer is in remission, according to a report by the New York Post.
The 67-year-old general manager has been battling lymphoma since receiving a diagnosis earlier in the year following a physical. According to the Post, Gettleman has been on a n aggressive chemotherapy treatment course which has caused his hair to fall out.
For those who aren’t aware, I’m also a cancer patient who is in remission (although for a different cancer). I went through an aggressive form of chemo myself (in addition to surgery and radiation) so I know what chemo can do to a person (hint: it makes you want to sleep round the clock).
So, kudos to Gettleman who fought cancer head on and who didn’t let the disease force him to step away from this special thing he’s started.