When New York Giants head coach Pat Shurmur spoke to the media after practice Tuesday morning, he didn’t speak much about individual players. Perhaps it is a sign of how the team is coming together before as the regular season approaches, but instead of players he talked about about what it means to be a Giant and building team chemistry.
On what it means to be a Giant
The retirement of Victor Cruz is obviously an emotional day for the Giants and it seemed to put the head coach in something of a retrospective mood.
Shurmur said, “Victor Cruz. He retired today. What a great Giant. I remember playing against him when I was in Philly and we were certainly well aware of the impact he could have on a ball game.”
That respect for Giants’ history, however, didn’t start with Victor Cruz’s retirement. Shurmur has been reaching out to past players and coaches since he arrived in New York for perspective and any tips he, or his team, might glean from their experience.
“I think what’s important is they understand what it means to be a Giant from a player’s perspective, and they understand what it takes to win Super Bowls,” Shurmur said. “I talk to everybody, not just players. I called some former (Giants) coaches as well, because I think it’s important to hear their perspective, and I’m always looking for perspective. Maybe there’s something that they say that might help me message the team, or maybe they’ll tell me something that was really special to them as they were building a champion, and so I think it’s important to embrace the great players from the past.”
Antrel Rolle was at practice Tuesday, and Shurmur has reached out to Michael Strahan and Tiki Barber. It goes without saying that Cruz has an open invitation to show up in Giants-land.
Shurmur said, “I had a chance to meet him [Cruz] and be around him, and he certainly doesn’t need an invite from me, but much like all the ex-Giants, I look forward to seeing him at practice any time he wants to be here.”
On developing team chemistry
In one change from Ben McAdoo, coach Shurmur moved the offensive linemen’s lockers together. Previously they had been scattered about the locker room. He believes that little things like that can add up and help build a cohesive team.
Shurmur said, “[Football is] the ultimate team sport and team chemistry is one of the most important things, and that’s why it’s so important. Players can train off on their own and then we could come together and put something together and play, but the ability to train with each other and build that bond that they care about one another and they’re doing what they do for their teammates. I talk about team all the time, and I’m very fortunate here that we’ve got guys that find team things to talk about.”
Shurmur added that, he is “constantly talking team” and said, “I really do believe if we’re going to get where we need to go, we need to be a really galvanized group of guys.”
And since becoming head coach, Shurmur has constantly and consistently talked about the need to build relationships. That too, he believes, can help build and maintain team unity.
“I think going back to when I first got here and it’s one of the things on my list I wanted to do this time around from the last time,” Shurmur said, “is just start to build relationships with the players, and the players understand how important team is. They understand how important presence is, how important a good performance in practice is, and so those are things you talk about and hopefully you head off problems because there’s a pre-existing relationship there. If we just go about our business and all show up, and pretend like we’re just going to do our jobs and then move on willy-nilly, well, it doesn’t work that way.”
On Eli Manning and Odell Beckham Jr.
The Giants’ starting quarterback has barely played in preseason and their superstar wide receiver has yet to play at all. To make up for lost opportunities, the two got in some extra-curricular work Tuesday afternoon. It was a development that Shurmur was happy to see.
“They just want to get on the same page,” Shurmur said, “and at this point, we’re still practicing with all 90 guys. Some of the general reps together aren’t as many, and I can see right now through the window they’re out there doing it again. But I’m used to that. Typically a quarterback will say, ‘hey, listen, after practice let’s get a stop nine. After practice, let’s get this, let’s get that.’ They’re out there doing it now, which is a good thing.”
Despite being born 11 years apart, and with obvious personality differences, Shurmur does recognize one common trait between Manning and Beckham.
He said, “They’re definitely both perfectionists. I think they’re not from the same generation, though. You have Odell and then you have Eli. They give me grief because I talk about his age. It’s real – unless they faked his birth certificate, I think he’s 37. Odell is much younger. Because of that, there’s a difference in how they look at things, but they’re both perfectionists.”
(Note: Strictly speaking, Eli and Beckham are both millennials. The generation is typically given to begin at 1980, and Eli was born in 1981.)
On the rivalry with the New York Jets
Finally, as the new guy in town, Shurmur was asked about the intra-city rivalry between the Giants and Jets. In answering the question, he might have earned the wrath of most of the New York metropolitan area.
“I’ve heard a little bit,” Shurmur said, “but I’m also a guy who thinks you can root for the Yankees and then root for the Mets. But you know I’m a little off center.”
Personally speaking, I can appreciate where he’s coming from. If you’re not steeped in the New York rivalry, it can be hard to see what the big deal is. But still, in New York City, it’s a big deal.
(I’m a Yankees fan who roots for the Mets when they aren’t playing the Yankees. But that’s a story for the comments section.)
But what is Shurmur looking for Friday night? He said, “We’re going to go out and compete with the Jets and try to do what we can to get our team right, and do what we can to try to win the game. That runs parallel, and I’ve heard there’s a little bit of a rivalry here, so we’ll deal with it. I’ve got a lot of respect for Todd Bowles and, certainly, we’ve already talked about one of their players, so we don’t need to go into that anymore. I’ve got a lot of respect for what they are as an organization and I think we’re both going to play this game with the same thing in mind – get our team better, find out what our team is all about.”