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‘Valentine’s Views:’ Pat Shurmur needs to give Giants a reason to keep him

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And it has to involve more than developing Daniel Jones

New York Giants v Chicago Bears
Pat Shurmur
Photo by Dylan Buell/Getty Images

Fire Pat Shurmur!

That is what many New York Giants fans would like to see team ownership do. Or, wish it had already done.

Is that what the organization should do? More importantly, is it what they will do once this season is mercifully over?

The Giants, I truly believe, do not want to replace Shurmur. I have taken that stance a number of times, most recently on both the ‘Valentine’s Views’ podcast and on the ‘Locked on Giants’ podcast with host Patricia Traina.

Co-owners John Mara and Steve Tisch don’t want to put the franchise through another upheaval. They don’t want to hire a third head coach since 2015. Or spend a year paying Shurmur money not to coach, like they spent a couple of years paying Ben McAdoo not to be their coach.

They don’t want to go down that road. They might, though, finish this season without a choice.

Shurmur, 7-20 as Giants head coach, needs to give the franchise a reason to believe that he is the right man to lead the Giants back to respectability. As the weeks roll by, the losses pile up, the mistakes continue to repeat themselves and you need a high-powered telescope to find signs of progress it is difficult to argue that Shurmur is doing that.

Giants’ ownership wants to win, not be embarrassed by the product on the field. Mara and Tisch don’t want season after season to end with empty seats at MetLife Stadium, or seats filled with more fans of the opposing team than Giants fans.

This is seven of eight seasons now that the Giants have not reached the playoffs, and it will be six of seven in which they finish with a losing record. It is not the Wilderness Years of the late 1960s and early 1970s. Yet. Is is, though, a dark and regrettable period in franchise history.

Shurmur, and GM Dave Gettleman, were hired to clean up a mess. They were hired at a time when the locker room was fractured and players were in open revolt against the coaching staff. They were hired at a time when a two-time Super Bowl-winning GM had seemingly lost his way.

The first part of the job was to restore professionalism to the Giants’ workplace. That part has been accomplished. ‘Kudos’ to Gettleman and Shurmur for that.

The second part of the job is to rebuild a talent base that had slipped. That job isn’t nearly finished, but the Giants have made inroads. There is a potential franchise quarterback in place. There are a number of quality young players, acquired via draft or trade, who should become long-term building blocks. There have been miscues, but there is some reason to be optimistic there.

The third part of the job is to develop that talent and begin to win games. The Giants aren’t winning games, obviously. Are the young players developing? In spots, perhaps. In other spots, perhaps not. What we aren’t seeing is development from the offense, defense or special teams as a whole.

Gettleman and Mara said before the season started that when the 2019 season ended they wanted to feel like progress had been made, whatever the final record.

Shurmur insists that is happening despite the losing.

“I see the young players improving. I see us competing in games, we’re just falling a little bit short. Most of the games, unfortunately, are within a score for most of the game, or we’re ahead and somehow, we just can’t find a way quite at the end,” Shurmur said. “But I do think that there’s improvement behind the scenes. It seems like each week we add another young player to the mix of guys. Then they go out and do some good things, and then they do some things that remind you that they’re young.”

Behind the scenes improvement is nice. It has to translate on the field, though, and it’s not.

Offensively, the Giants are averaging 19.7 points per game. They averaged 23.1 points per game a year ago. Blame injuries and a rookie quarterback if you want, but I’m not buying. Daniel Jones is playing because Shurmur thought he was better than Eli Manning and gave the Giants a better chance to win games. For what it’s worth, I’ve said many times he made the right decision. Injuries? The Giants averaged 28.0 points in four games without Odell Beckham Jr. last year.

Defensively, the Giants allowed 25.8 points per game a year ago. They are giving up 28.0 points per game this season. They gave up more than 400 total yards five times a season ago, and have already done that five times in 11 games this year.

Special teams? Punter Riley Dixon is having a terrific year and the coverage teams are fine. The placekicking is a mess and the return game is a weekly question mark.

The Giants consistently fall far behind early in games, seven times this season facing double-digit first-half deficits. They have not been able to solve pass protection or coverage issues despite, on paper, upgrading the talent at those spots.

I wrote recently that Shurmur is increasingly sounding like a man trying to build a case for returning next season. Talking about vague “behind the scenes” progress isn’t enough. He has to show some ability to get better results on the field.

If the standard of progress isn’t met, and the organization believes that the coach is largely responsible for that, the Giants will simply have to do something they don’t want to do.

A few other thoughts

  • Leonard Williams is presenting the Giants with a conundrum. He does some good things, but most of it is what you might call “hidden production.” He has eight quarterback hurries in three games as a Giant, but zero sacks and only six tackles, three solo. He still does not have a sack this season. He’s playing like a solid complementary player, but when you give up a pair of draft picks for a free-agent-to-be you are going to have to pay big money to keep you want more than that. You want a guy who is actually making plays. Williams hasn’t done that. If he can’t, the Giants will be in the position of having to pay too much for too little, or tossing a pair of draft picks in the trash and letting him walk away.
  • You really should read Joe DeLeone’s piece on how the struggles of long-snapper Zak DeOssie are affecting Aldrick Rosas. Joe is a collegiate long-snapper, and this topic is in his wheelhouse. As for DeOssie, he’s had a terrific career but at this point rebuilding Rosas’ confidence is more important than honoring DeOssie’s accomplishments. If that means moving on from DeOssie and signing experienced long-snapper Colin Holba off the practice squad — or bringing in someone else — so be it.
  • It was good to see Sam Beal get snaps the other day. Maybe it was even OK in the short-term that Beal’s snaps came at the expense of rookie DeAndre Baker. Maybe the message that the Giants aren’t simply going to run him out there because he was a first-round pick will be a good one. Long-term, though, I think I would rather see at least some of Beal’s snaps come at the expense of Janoris Jenkins. Baker isn’t going to get better standing on the sideline.