In case you hadn’t heard, the New York Giants are not going to the Super Bowl this year. But that doesn’t mean they haven’t made some headlines this week.
After firing head coach Ben McAdoo halfway through the season and, amidst much debate surrounding the opening, the Giants officially named his replacement Monday. Less than 24 hours after Minnesota’s stunning loss to the Eagles, Vikings offensive coordinator Pat Shurmur was named head coach.
There was some immediate backlash from fans, arguing that if Shurmur’s offense just put up seven points in the biggest game of the season, he cannot be trusted to lead a team.
“He just failed his audition,” said one tweet.
To judge Shurmur’s coaching prospects based on one game, however, is a mistake. Shurmur may not have the hype of Matt Patricia or the résumé of Josh McDaniels, and he’s fresh off a humiliating defeat.
That said, it’s a good hire.
The Giants’ offense is, put simply, broken. It’s been broken for the past two seasons. The team hasn’t scored 30 points in a single game since Jan. 3, 2016. For Giants fans, it’s been a remarkably frustrating two years: the talent is there, but the results are not.
Eli Manning has been good, or at least passable. The current receiver corps of Odell Beckham Jr., Sterling Shepard, Brandon Marshall and Evan Engram, when healthy, is perhaps the best in the league. The running backs are certainly not household names, but Wayne Gallman and Orleans Darkwa are more than capable.
And yet despite all this raw talent, the offense just dies at times. Too many three-and-outs, too many wasted possessions, too many slow starts.
It’s easy to blame the offensive line, and without a doubt a huge portion of the blame deservedly falls on their shoulders. Statistically, however, the protection was actually relatively decent as the season went along. McAdoo didn’t do many things well, but he did find a group of misfit linemen who were good enough to prove that the issues go deeper than the offensive line.
That’s part of the reason I like this move: the Giants need an offensive-minded head coach. It won’t be easy to reverse the damage done by McAdoo and fix the offense. But, with some wise offseason acquisitions (a single lineman would be nice), Shurmur can get it done.
Shurmur is an offensive mastermind, but more specifically, he’s a quarterback’s best friend. Just look at this past season: Shurmur worked with two very mediocre quarterbacks in Sam Bradford and Case Keenum. After Bradford got hurt in Week 2 (after a phenomenal Week 1), Keenum stepped in and played at an elite level that shocked the league. Owe some of that to Keenum playing well and a talented group of receivers, but Shurmur deserves a lot of the credit for building the offense around Keenum’s skillset.
Before Shurmur arrived in Minnesota, he worked with Donovan McNabb during his best years, and Nick Foles, another middling passer, during the season in which he threw 27 touchdowns and two interceptions. He was also very successful in his short tenure with the Rams. And yes, he was fired by the Browns after two seasons as head coach, but can you really complain about leading Cleveland to a five-win season?
To say that the Giants could use a quarterback guru like Shurmur is an understatement. Eli should remain the starter next season, and new general manager Dave Gettleman seems committed to that. Shurmur can surely get a lot more out of Manning than McAdoo ever did, but even if he plays at an MVP level, the end of the Eli era in New York is rapidly approaching.
The Giants don’t know who their next signal caller will be. It may be rookie Davis Webb (though due to McAdoo’s incompetence, his potential is essentially unknown). It may be whoever the Giants elect to take with the second pick in this year’s draft. Or it may be an entirely unexpected option, like whoever the Vikings decide to depart with this offseason.
Whoever it winds up being, Shurmur is as good as it gets at developing young quarterbacks to reach their full potential. It’s an encouragingly forward-thinking move for the organization, and one that could pay dividends.
In the meantime, with Eli at the helm, Shurmur works with pieces not too different from what he had in Minnesota: a pure pocket passer, some ridiculously-talented receivers and a defense—now led by newly-named defensive coordinator James Bettcher—with the pieces to be one of the league’s best.
Let’s hope Shurmur can do what McAdoo never could: turn individual talent into a team. I’m betting he can.