Pat Shurmur is still head coach of the New York Giants. He held a conference call with New York media Monday afternoon that proved it. Shurmur reiterated during the call that despite being 2-8 and having lost six straight, he is not planning to make any changes to the coaching staff during the bye week.
“No I’m not going to make any coaching changes,” Shurmur said. “It’s important that we coach and play better, period.”
The bye week, without the immediate pressure of preparing for another opponent, gives Shurmur and his coaching staff an opportunity to look at what has gone right, what has gone wrong and figure out ways to address whatever needs to be fixed.
“We as coaches always reflect on where you’re at and where you want to go. I think that’s natural. I’m always looking for things that I can do better to help motivate the team to play in a way where we play winning football,” Shurmur said.
“Each year you’re faced with different challenges. We have some unique ones this year and we’ve got to fight through it and put an effort on the field to win.”
The Giants are, of course, relying more heavily on rookies than any team in the NFL.
“The challenge is for anybody that does anything for the very first time, and they’re talented players, there’s a lot to be learned. There’s pains that come with growing,” Shurmur said. “We’ve just got to be consistent, we’ve gotta raise ‘em right, we’ve gotta coach ‘em hard. We’ve gotta do like you do with any player, but they have the ability to get experience, and we all know there’s no substitute for experience.”
Because I, like Tom Rock of Newsday, am always willing to offer a helping hand to a coach in need, here are some thoughts on things Shurmur needs to do going forward.
Look in the mirror
Part of the reason for his awful .288 winning percentage as a coach is that his teams have not been talented enough. Still, it’s my belief that this particular Giants team, as young as it is, as much as it still needs more talent and as much as injuries have impacted the offense, should still be better than 2-8. It should have a couple more victories this season.
Shurmur needs to recognize he has been a part of that. Many won’t want to hear or acknowledge it, but I still believe there is a way forward beyond 2019 for Shurmur as Giants head coach. I still believe, as angry as co-owner John Mara was Sunday night and as angry as fans are right now, the organization would like to avoid having to search for another coach and start over. Again.
If Shurmur is going to have a long-term future with this team, he is going to have to grow and evolve as a coach. Just like he is hoping his young players will grow and evolve.
That might start with being honest with himself about whether he can both call plays and manage games.
Game after game, we see questionable in-game decisions from Shurmur. Sunday’s biggest was the debatable choice to burn all of his timeouts with more than four minutes left in the game. After the game, Shurmur seemed to question his own decision to do that. He indicated, though, that once he had committed by burning the first timeout he figured he had no choice but to go all-in.
We see some head-scratching personnel usage and unimaginative play-calling. It all makes you wonder if Shurmur is doing too much.
Personally, I have always preferred the CEO-type head coach. Would Shurmur himself benefit from stepping back and overseeing? Would the offense benefit from someone else who could devote their full effort to it calling the plays? For now, that would be offensive coordinator Mike Shula.
Figure out the deal with Saquon
It’s been obvious for weeks that Saquon Barkley is not completely back to the player he was before his high ankle sprain. Shurmur said Monday that Barkley is “fine” and that the team has no intent to shut him down for the remainder of the season.
They do need, though, to honestly assess how they are using him. Should they lighten his workload the rest of the way to protect his future? Maybe. When they do use him they have to figure out better ways to get him the ball in space. They can’t just keep having him run straight ahead into walls of defenders, getting beaten up trying to block and taking unnecessary hits on useless third-and-long checkdowns.
Get rid of the couches
In retrospect, the ping pong tables, corn hole games and couches in the locker room were a cute story, but a mistake. The only thing that remains currently are the couches, and I think they need to go.
The locker room is a work place, not a game room or a players’ lounge. It’s not a good look to see players hanging out on the couches taking naps, texting or otherwise goofing off when the team is losing and they are playing poorly.
I’ve always said players deserve the right to have lives. You can’t be all about your job 24 hours a day — no one can live that way. Still, work time has to be work time.
Simplify things on defense
In answer to a mailbag question I said on Saturday that a team has to be careful not to simplify things so much on defense that they make it easy for opposing offenses to pick them apart.
That is absolutely true. You also, though, can’t ask young players who, as Shurmur said need to be raised right, to do things they aren’t ready to do. I would like to see Deandre Baker, Corey Ballentine and Sam Beal get more opportunities to play man-to-man coverage the rest of the way rather than the more complex zone schemes they seem to be struggling to master.
Fortunately, I thought the Giants moved toward playing more two-high safeties and letting their cornerbacks to do that on Sunday against the Jets. Baker struggled at times, but at least he was in do-or-die man coverage.
Maybe that simplification should extend to the offense as well, especially if the Giants will be fielding a young, patchwork offensive line.