A week from now the New York Giants will finish their season, ending with double-digit losses for the fifth time in six years. By Sunday evening or Monday morning following the game we will likely know the fates GM Dave Gettleman and coach Pat Shurmur.
Will one or both be back for third seasons? Will they both get swept out as the Giants try yet another reboot?
I don’t know. I think I have a pretty good idea how this might shake out, but nobody really knows anything until moves are actually made.
It’s time, though, for me to take a stand. To tell you what I would do if the decision were mine, if I owned the Giants. I have hinted at it in recent weeks and if you have really been paying attention you might know where this is headed, but I haven’t come right out and said it.
So, here it is. If I was making this decision here’s how this would go.
Shurmur would be out as head coach. Gettleman would get to stay.
Why Shurmur out?
I don’t like giving Shurmur the quick hook. And yes, two seasons is a quick hook. Only bad teams and franchises that are adrift find themselves in need of a third head coach in five years.
Unfortunately, this is where the Giants are. They are lost at sea and I’m not at all sure that Shurmur has an idea how to get them back to dry land. Shurmur is a good man. In some capacities, he is probably a really good football coach. I just think the two-year body of work with the Giants, all I can really judge because while I know what his record was with the Cleveland Browns I wasn’t really paying attention to it, tells us that Shurmur doesn’t appear to have what it takes to be a winner as a head football coach.
There are too many times when the Giants don’t look prepared to play. There are too many in-game situations that get handled poorly. There are too many times when the coach on the opposing sideline seems to get the better of Shurmur when it comes to matching wits in late-game situations.
Shurmur talks about how young the Giants are, and his comment a few weeks ago that they are “historically young” just sounded like silliness from a guy trying to case-build to keep his job. The Giants ARE young. They are not THAT young.
Still, my point is this. Simply playing young players isn’t enough. They have to be developed and coached like young players, and I’m not sure Shurmur and his staff truly understand how to do that.
One example could be how the Giants have seemed to misuse players in the secondary much of the season.
Another, in my view, was Week 9 against the Dallas Cowboys. The Giants hadn’t won a game in four weeks, yet late in the first half they found themselves leading the Cowboys 12-10 with a minute left in the half.
With a young team and a rookie quarterback, the minimum responsibility of the head coach is to get to halftime with a confidence-building lead. Instead, Shurmur chose aggression, Daniel Jones, threw an interception, Dallas kicked a field goal and went to the locker room with a 13-12 lead just moments after trailing 12-3.
Shurmur was critical of Jones for the mistake. Problem was, rather than protecting Jones the coach put the rookie in a position where the mistake was possible, perhaps even predictable. That’s on him, not the kid.
It’s just one example, but it has stuck with me.
Another thing that sticks in my craw is the idea that an offensive head coach can’t figure out how to maximize Saquon Barkley, his best player and probably one of the half-dozen top play-makers in the league. We have written about that for months, all the way back to last summer.
In answer to questions, Shurmur will often say something like “well, this is what teams do.” Pat, nobody cares what everybody else does. What are you going to do to get the best out of your own players? It sometimes makes me wonder if Shurmur actually has his own real offensive philosophy, or a real long-term vision.
I’m not buying the “well, the Giants need Shurmur to develop Jones” argument. This kid came to the Giants extremely well-coached in the art of quarterback fundamentals. Shurmur has been good with quarterbacks during his career, and he has mostly been good with Jones. I see that. He’s not the only guy on the planet who can coach a quarterback, though.
These Giants are not a dominant team. They aren’t a 12-win team. I keep coming back to the idea that as constructed they should right now be more than a three-win team, even if that means five or six wins right now. I keep asking myself if, when the Giants get to the point where they have that 12-win talent, Shurmur is the guy who can get that out of them.
I think the answer is no.
So, who then?
I think the first thing I do is go to Baylor and tell Matt Rhule he can have whatever coaching staff he wants. That was the sticking point with the New York Jets a year ago, the team’s refusal to allow him to hire his own coaches. Go look at Rhule’s Baylor staff. It’s filled with guys who have NFL experience. Let him bring those guys and whoever else he is comfortable with. Rhule, to me, is the home run swing. It’s a huge risk because he’s never done it at the NFL level, bu he has rebuilt two horrible programs (Temple and Baylor).
Failing that, I would turn to Ron Rivera. It’s not sexy, but who cares? This guy is a good coach, better person, has enough credibility around the league that he could likely bring in quality coordinators and position coaches, and he and Gettleman have had success together before.
If I had to go to Plan C? I’m not sure what that would be. I just know it wouldn’t be Jason Garrett.
Why would Gettleman stay?
I have said many times in recent years that it took many years of awful personnel decisions for the Giants to get into the mess they were in when Gettleman became general manager. Getting the team back on track was never going to be a quick, or easy, fix. Getting this team back to a point where it was re-stocked with a roster that could be consistently competitive was always going to be a process.
Yes, perhaps I was overly optimistic about the Giants’ chances to be at least competitive in 2018. Always, though, there had to be an understanding that there was much to be done. You can’t fix a half-dozen or more years worth of mistakes in one or two offseasons.
I said above that I didn’t like giving Shumur the quick hook because only bad teams and bad franchises find themselves in a constant state of starting over. To me, that’s even moreso the case when it comes to the front office.
Stability is always the goal, and we know the Giants had never fired a GM until removing Jerry Reese in 2017. Now, obviously stability for its own sake isn’t good, either. Still, if you don’t want to find yourself in a state of perpetual change you need to give the decision-makers you hire enough time to fully implement their plan and see if it will succeed.
For Gettleman, I don’t believe two offseasons has been enough time. Some of you who disagree with certain decisions and look only at the won-loss record will disagree. Some of you will say the old man is a dinosaur who has already had too much time.
Gettleman hasn’t been perfect. Far from it. Reese was fond of saying “no one ever bats a thousand in personnel.” He was right. Former Minnesota Vikings GM Jeff Diamond once told me that to succeed you simply have to be right far more often than you’re wrong.
In my view, the two drafts Gettleman has conducted have been promising. We can argue about Saquon Barkley vs. trade down — both sides of that argument have merit. We don’t know yet if Daniel Jones will be as good as Gettleman thinks we will be. If he is, Gettleman’s work will be seen in a much different light. We don’t know yet how good any of the players Gettleman has drafted will ultimately be, but I believe there is a lot of promise.
Gettleman’s trades and free agent signings have been a mixed bag. Many want to criticize the Nate Solder signing, and while Solder hasn’t lived up to he contract he received I still consider that signing to have been necessary.
Now, I certainly understand the argument that if you are going to oust the coach and keep the GM that you open yourself to the possibility of having mismatched decision-makers. Admittedly, I thought the Giants should have swept Reese out in 2015 when they removed Tom Coughlin. I thought there was ample evidence at the time that Reese’s tenure had run its course and that it was time to start from scratch.
If you believe, as I do, that much of the problem with the 2019 Giants has been coaching, misuse of personnel and poor in-game decision-making then you can’t blame those things on Gettleman.
The other thing to consider is that much of the work of the past two years has been aimed a clearing salary cap space, getting dead money off the books and getting the organization into a position where it had both draft assets and cap room to try and upgrade the talent base.
Heading into the 2020 offseason, Gettleman’s work has finally put the Giants in that position. In my view, he has done enough good things over two offseasons to be granted the opportunity to continue his work and see what he can do with the upcoming opportunity his work has created.
So, that’s what would happen if the decisions were mine to make. They aren’t. We’ll find out in a week what will really happen.