Pat Shurmur Aims to Bring Competition and Winning to an Iconic Franchise

The 2017-18 New York Giants began the season with high expectations. Coming off of an 11-5 season and a loss to the Green Bay Packers in the NFC Wild Card Round, several media members picked them to play in Super Bowl LII. However, injuries, in-fighting, and inconsistency led to a disappointing 3-13 record in 2017. Wide receivers Odell Beckham Jr., Sterling Shepard and Brandon Marshall, were hurt for long stretches of the season. Quarterback Eli Manning did not have time to get the ball out due to a leaking sieve of an offensive line. Not to mention the worst moment of the 2017 campaign, when former head coach Ben McAdoo benched Manning before the team’s Week 13 loss to the Oakland Raiders. That decision led to McAdoo’s firing and Defensive Coordinator Steve Spagnuolo took over as interim head coach. After watching Minnesota Vikings Offensive Coordinator Pat Shurmur help take the team to the NFC Championship Game, Giants owners John Mara and Steve Tisch hired him as their head coach. Shurmur aims to bring competition and winning to an iconic franchise.

“This is an iconic franchise. I understand most of the history. I walked by four Super Bowl trophies. As we go forward here, I’m looking forward to leading this organization. I want to be the coach, and I understand the responsibility that comes with being the coach.” Shurmur understands the storied history of the New York Giants, from quarterback Phil Simms, and linebackers Lawrence Taylor and Harry Carson to Manning, defensive ends Michael Strahan and Osi Umenyiora. Shurmur’s goal is to bring the current team in a position to win championships. “Now regarding me, you have hired a career coach. You’ve hired a guy that doesn’t know what he would do if he weren’t doing this. You’ve hired a guy that wants every day to interact with the staff, the coaches, the players, and I do feel like my role is to make everybody as good as they can be. I think if we do that on a day-to-day basis, we’ll get to where we want to be. And, that reestablishes the winning tradition, and put ourselves in a position to win championships.”

The former offensive coordinator (St. Louis Rams, Philadelphia Eagles, Minnesota Vikings) and head coach (Cleveland Browns), knows it will take several steps to bring a 3-13 squad to the Super Bowl. “I’m taking over a team that was 3-13, so we’ve got to own that. There’s a lot of work to be done. Some changes need to be made. Running parallel with this press conference, I’m hiring a staff of guys that will help us be where we need to be, and I think that’s the important piece.” Shurmur is looking for particular qualities when he puts together his coaching staff. Additionally, he did mention that he may not move on from coaches already in the building. “About all of our coaches, here’s what I was looking for. Some of them are here in the building. There’s not six or seven guys becoming head coaches every year, and I don’t think you need to sweep the whole place clean. There are some really good coaches here, and I want first to keep them. There are other guys we’re looking at outside the building that are number one, career coaches, outstanding teachers, communicators, so we’re looking for those type people. Some of them are currently not quite available, but we’ll make sure we get a staff full of guys that’ll inspire our players.”

Shurmur is similar to former Giants Head Coach Tom Coughlin. He requires competition, effort, and respect, but it’s tough love, and he is always there for his players. “Most people will tell you that I’m competitive and gritty and that’s the overachiever’s mindset in me. I feel like we don’t know it all, and I look forward to learning something new every day. Those of you that do know me though, I have zero tolerance for people that don’t compete. I have zero tolerance for people that don’t give effort, and I have zero tolerance for people that show a lack of respect. But, the people and the players that know me, know that I’m willing to hug them at the end of a hard day.” Part of commanding a locker room is knowing where players are coming from and communicating with them. Shurmur brings his past experiences, and the Giants players will communicate what works for them and what they believe in. It’s about co-existing, building relationships and setting expectations. “I think what’s important is; we’re all sort of what we believe and what our experiences tell us. And, so I think what’s important when you’re talking with players that have had success, sit down and start to communicate these are the things that they did well, here are the things that I believe in, and let’s do the things that work best for us. That’s going to be the process as I go through with all the players.”

Similarly, one of the most critical relationships Shurmur can have is with his starting quarterback. He attended the Manning Academy this past summer, as his son was a participant in the camp. He watched Eli and believes the signal caller has some years left. “First off, I think the relationship is going to be very strong. I’ve watched him, competed against him, admired how he’s played over the years. Got to spend some time with him this summer in the Manning Academy setting, I’ve already spoken to him on the phone, and he’s an outstanding football player, and I can’t wait to get to work with him. I’ve admired the way he’s handled things. I sort of like a calm approach to the position and [I’m] looking forward to getting to work with him. I watched Eli throw a little bit this summer. I walked away saying, he looked really good. He looked fit. He was throwing the ball well. The ball had good velocity coming off his hand. Again, I think he’s got years left. How much? I don’t know. But, I think he has time left, and I look forward to working with him.”

Communicating with each other and learning where the other person is coming from are two tenets that are important to Shurmur. He trusts his players and knows it’s more about them than it’s about the scheme. Setting expectations from the outset and continuing to drive those points home throughout the year is crucial to Shurmur’s success. “Concerning the players, I do believe it’s about the players. We used to have a thing we said in Philadelphia and certainly when we went to Minnesota, that it’s not the plays, it’s the players. I think what’s important is, and we’re going to establish the right way to do things. We’re going to establish what we want as a New York Giants football team. And, what we’re going to do is, we’re going to inspire the players to see it our way. There are reasons why the Giants slipped to 3-13, and we’re going to find out what some of those reasons are behind the scenes, and we’re going to try to get them fixed at the beginning. Now, I will say this, when it comes to coaching and playing, you work together. And, I think what’s important is we establish at the very beginning, the way we’re going to do things, what we expect, and then keep talking about why it’s important so that they believe it as well.”

Shurmur reinforced his point on communication and talking about any issues that arise for his players. In this way, the coaching staff can educate and work with the players towards a common goal. “For a receiver to be a good pro, sometimes is, even though you’re frustrated that you didn’t get the ball, you got to make sure you keep that in check. Or, for whatever reason. Maybe you’re a defensive lineman that’s not getting as many sacks. They need to understand that the pressure you’re putting on the quarterback, even though you didn’t sack him, is just as important. Two quick examples of being able just constantly to communicate with the players. We as coaches are educators, we work with the players, and it’s important that we inspire them to play their very best. And, some of that is going and talking about those types of issues.”

Pat Shurmur |

Establishing standards is the first step to creating the culture Shurmur wants for the Giants. He’s not only looking for guys that will adhere to his expectations; he’s looking for players that love the game. By choosing individuals that love football, meet or exceed expectations and are talented enough, Shurmur will construct an environment that emphasizes the team over the individual. “I think what’s important, and I alluded to it, we need to have a tough, gritty team that knows how to compete. I think what’s important is when we put the roster together, we want first to accumulate 90 players that love to play football. Certainly, they are going to have to have the skill and ability to do it, but we want to put together a group of 90. And then eventually, get to 53. You know, I think sometimes, the good answer for a young player is, I don’t know what I’d do if I didn’t have this game. I think it’s the absolute greatest game in the world. So, we need to find guys that love to play the game, and then we’ll decide whether they’re good enough. And then, we’ll take it from there.”

Giants wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr. is a player that loves football. He’s immensely talented, one of the top three players at his position. That being said, he has struggled to show the maturity that the organization expects, and there are times when he’s unable to control his emotions. Shurmur is excited to meet Beckham Jr. and get to know him. “Well, he’s a tremendous player. I went through the evaluation process at the time I was in Philadelphia, and he was high on our draft board. We loved him as a player. And, really, pre-draft stuff, we loved everything about him. I’ve watched him play and compete. And, when you throw all the other stuff out, and you watch him on the field, he’s outstanding. It makes sense to throw him the football. Alright, I’m just going to say that right away. If I didn’t acknowledge that, then you got the wrong guy up here. I think what needs to happen now is I need to get to know him. I need to know what makes him tick. I need to talk to him about what it is that we’re looking for, for a guy that plays for the New York Giants. And, I think those are the things that go back to relationship building that need to happen very, very soon.”

Beckham Jr. will undoubtedly be an essential part of the Giants offense in 2018. Shurmur intends to get to know his players, what they are capable of doing and emphasizing what they do well in the offensive game plan. Shurmur has a West Coast background, and the run, play-action and screen game are important elements in his attack. “We were a top 10 offense this year. I think that we have an offense that we’re going to constantly try to do the things that our players can do well. I do have a West Coast background. My last three years in Philadelphia, I was with Chip Kelly. So, the tempo and being able to play faster, there advantage to using that strategically. When you can run the ball like we did this year, and we developed a core set of runs, then the play-actions are meaningful. And, that’s how you can drive the ball down the field. So, try to use all those things. Then, when they are trying to destroy our quarterback, certainly the screen game is something that’s very important. So, I don’t know if there’s a label for it. We want to play good offense. We want to play New York Giants offense.”

When it comes to building this offense, and the team as a whole, Shurmur, and General Manager Dave Gettleman are on the same page. It starts in the trenches. Last season was hard on Manning. His receivers were injured, the Giants running game was nonexistent, and his offensive line couldn’t protect him. Manning is not a mobile quarterback, and these factors led to pressures, sacks and an inability for the offense to drive the ball down the field. Gettleman and Shurmur will try to fix these issues by building inside out. “As soon as he said everything starts with the offensive line. And, I think there’s a great example of that, what we went through in Minnesota. We didn’t change the oil up there; we changed the transmission. We went and got two free agent offensive linemen, we drafted a center that played like a veteran, and we transformed the offensive line that helped us do the things that helped us win 14 games. I think it’s imperative. No matter how good your offensive line is and your defensive line, you have to address those issues constantly. If you can’t block them, and you can’t pressure the quarterback, this game gets really, really, really hard. I know that about Dave. I know we have a serious mindset when it comes to doing what we can to upgrade in those areas. Some of it may be inspiring a player on the roster to play better than he’s played. You know, and that comes back to coaching. And, we all know that every once in a while you need to get some new players.”

Pressuring the quarterback has been a staple of the team’s four championship-winning teams (1986-87, 1990-91, 2007-08, 2011-12), and the Giants have replaced Spagnuolo with former Arizona Cardinals Defensive Coordinator James Bettcher. Bettcher was the outside linebackers coach for the Colts in 2012 and the Cardinals in 2013-14 before becoming a defensive coordinator. Shurmur highlighted the fact that Bettcher is multiple in his scheme and has had a top unit over the past few years. “I’ve known James for a while, and I think he’s a rising star in the profession. They’ve played outstanding defense in Arizona for a very long time. He’s a little bit multiple in his scheme, which I think is good. Everybody I’ve talked to, he inspires the player. He’s got a great presence, and we’re fortunate to have him be with us. Very hard to score against, they find a way to put pressure on the quarterback, they do a good job in their coverage schemes. And, they’ve been good at stopping the run. He’s had a top-six defense the last three years. For whatever reason, on the teams I’ve been on, I crossed over against him.”

The new defensive coordinator should help a unit that struggled last year but has a plethora of talent. Giants fans are used to a punishing defense, and we may see that again in 2018. However, Big Blue Nation is furious about last season’s 3-13 debacle and is anxious for the New York Football Giants to make a quick turnaround. “I get furious. I get a quick turnaround. I do know that what’s important is that we get better every day. About players, if each player swaps makes us incrementally better. That’s what we’re looking to do. You eat an elephant one bite at a time. We’re going to do that. And, I think what’s important is we everyday work toward getting to where we need to be. Then, it won’t be a three-pointer at the buzzer. Then, we will have established a team that can sustain that over time.”

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Published on 1/30/18 at 9:05 AM EST. Credit: New York Giants, Pro-Football-Reference, ESPN, and WABC-TV.
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