I’ve been covering the Giants for more than 20 seasons now and I learned a very valuable lesson several years ago when I was first starting out in the business about putting things in context.
It was during the Dan Reeves era and I remember it being at the start of the 1995 training camp, which back then was held at Fairleigh Dickinson University.
I remember someone asking Coach Reeves what he thought the Giants record would be. Reeves offered up a very optimistic record — I think it was 10-6, along with an explanation of how he thought the Giants could reach that goal.
But when the story was reported, the explanation behind Reeves’ record prediction somehow got lost in the shuffle, thus changing the entire context from optimism to boastfulness, the latter coming back to bite Reeves in the backside when the Giants went on to struggle that season on their way to a 5-11 finish.
Why am I sharing this story? Because it looks as though history is repeating itself, at least up in Buffalo.
Giants head coach Pat Shurmur was asked a question about Bills quarterback Josh Allen, a player whom the Giants were reportedly interested in during last year’s draft.
Shurmur, perhaps mindful about tampering penalties when speaking about players under contract to other teams, had this to say,
I would never comment on how in the mix anybody was. I think that’s behind-the-scenes. That doesn’t do anybody any good. But I can comment on what we thought of him. We thought he was a big, strong thrower. A guy that had a chance to be a starter in the NFL, and he has been for them. I think he’s made steady improvements. He’s a very strong-armed guy. He’s helped them win some big games already. Just like any young player, you see where he’ll make mistakes and then correct them.
That response theoretically should have answered the question considering most everything in life involved a degree of chance — there’s a chance Eli Manning won’t finish the season as the starting quarterback, there’s a chance that the New England Patriots won’t repeat as Super Bowl champions, etc.
There are but two exceptions to this: death and taxes. But I digress.
Apparently the “chance to be a starter” line is what stood out the most among what was otherwise a heaping pile of praise Shurmur offered Allen.
So there was a follow up question regarding what Shurmur meant when he said he thought Allen had a chance to be a starter, if he meant immediately or eventually.
Shurmur, perhaps surprised at the follow-up question, said, “I thought he had a chance to be a starter. But I was asked what I thought of him, and that’s what we thought of him. He had a chance to be a starter.”
One day later, Shurmur’s words about Allen “having a chance to be a starter” and not the he was a “big strong thrower” who “has made steady improvements” sentiments have landed as bulletin board material for the Bills.
The Bills have this tweet displayed on TVs around the building. Sean McDermott seems pissed off that we saw those TVs. Said, “I’m not going to get into that,” when asked if it was bulletin board material. Said what goes on those TVs is “internal messaging.” https://t.co/wmthZNUj1Q— Matthew Fairburn (@MatthewFairburn) September 12, 2019
I don’t want to speak for Shurmur, but in the year plus he’s been the head coach, I notice that often he thinks he has answered a question and then when a follow-up comes along seeking clarification, instead of offering that, he becomes impatient and a little short with his answers, as though he’s expressing frustration that his responses aren’t being comprehended the first time.
In this instance, there really wasn’t anything to see here with Shurmur’s response. His “chance to be a starter” qualifier likely meant that if all things feel into place—if Allen stayed healthy and hit the ground running rather than screw around and rest on his laurels, he had a chance of becoming an NFL starter.
I don’t think it was a slight at all — a slight to me would have been Shurmur’s punting on the question all together or giving a quick one or two sentence answer.
But hey, if that’s what the Bills need to get themselves hyped up for a game as opposed to going 2-0 for the first time since the 2014 season, then good luck with that.