Can they lead the Giants back to respectability?
I have no idea if GM Dave Gettleman and head coach Pat Shurmur can turn the New York Giants around after a 3-13 season and five playoff-less seasons in the last six.
What I do know is this:
The Pacifiers and Pampers Era of Giants football is over. Gettleman likes to call the NFL a big-boy league, and both he and Shurmur certainly appear to have their big-boy pants on.
Since Shurmur was hired by the Giants we keep hearing words like “adult,” “mature,” and “professional.”
Why? Co-owner John Mara explained on Friday:
“It’s such a tough job, especially coming off of a season that we came off of with all the issues in the locker room and everything else. You need someone who is a quote adult unquote. Someone who is a professional and has a certain demeanor to walk in there and start to straighten things out.”
What kind of season was that? Let’s go from the top down.
The GM, who thought the players were good enough, blamed the coach by saying they bought into the preseason hype and were unprepared. The coach, who didn’t believe he was part of the problem, pointed at the players. The players, many of whom didn’t have any use for the coach, pointed back at him. Sometimes anonymously to the media. Sometimes they didn’t bother to show up. Sometimes they argued with him or disobeyed. Sometimes they celebrated how they wanted, regardless of consequences to the team. Sometimes they just quit playing right in the middle of games. No one could agree on, or execute properly, a quarterback plan.
The Giants fired the coach and GM before the season was over. They hadn’t fired a coach in-season since 1976. They hadn’t fired a general manager EVER.
That is the quagmire into which Gettleman and Shurmur have jumped. Willingly.
“The New York Giants head coaching job is a job for a professional football coach. That is what Pat is,” Gettleman said via conference call on Friday.
“The interview was outstanding. He was straightforward, he was honest. There was no nonsense. Again, I hate to keep saying it, but for me, he was a professional. That’s really important. I said this before, halfway through the interview, interviewing someone you’re taking notes. Halfway through the interview, I wrote at the top of my notes, this man is a professional and an adult. This is not a position for the faint of heart. We have to win every Sunday and we know that. I just felt very strongly that Pat was the guy for us.”
Since winning the Super Bowl in 2011, the Giants have lost their way. Five playoff-less seasons in six years and now, three coaches since 2015. Giants’ ownership seems to feel strongly that the Gettleman-Shurmur team is the right one to put them back on the proper path.
Mara said Friday that it “became apparent to us very early on that Pat and Dave share a similar philosophy in how to build a team, and that was no small factor in this decision.”
Shurmur said he knew he could work with Gettleman “As soon as he said, ‘Everything starts with the offensive line,’ “ during Shurmur’s interview for the head-coaching job.
The 66-year-old Gettleman and the 52-year-old Shurmur both had to wait for their first opportunities to be the boss, Gettleman in Carolina and Shurmur in Cleveland. They both obviously have had experiences — good and bad — that they have learned from. This is a second, and maybe final, chance for both.
“He (Shurmur) obviously was very honest with himself, just like I had to be honest with myself when things didn’t go right,” Gettleman said. “He’s a very self-aware guy and a very mature guy. He checked absolutely all the boxes for me.”
In recent years it has often seemed that the Giants’ coach and general manager were pulling in opposite directions. There were some players on the roster during the final years of Tom Coughlin’s tenure that he obviously had no use for, yet those players occupied roster space until their rookie contracts expired. Jerry Reese and Ben McAdoo might have been more closely aligned when it came to roster construction, but it didn’t stop them from finger-pointing when their jobs were on the line.
No one knows how the Gettleman-Shurmur relationship will play out. We know they agree that Eli Manning can still play at a high enough level to be the Giants’ quarterback. We haven’t seen how they navigate a free agency period or a draft yet. There will certainly be differences of opinion in evaluation. As Mara said “they don’t have to agree all the time. In fact, you don’t want them to agree all the time, but they have to be able to communicate, respect one another and have similar philosophies. I think we have that now.”
Yes, it appears they do.
“As I’ve said a number of times, the style of the game has evolved over the years. There are basic truths and basic facts that don’t change and you have to do. You have to run the ball, you have to stop the run, and you have to rush the passer. Pat and I completely agree on that,” Gettleman said. “The other thing is that big men allow you to compete. I’ve built teams from the inside out. Obviously, the quarterback position is critical but I’m just dropping straight philosophy here and how you approach it. Those are the things that Pat and I completely agree on.
“The other thing that we completely agree on is the importance of culture and how football is the ultimate team sport. We have to put together a roster that is talented but who love the game of football and love to compete. There is a lot of boxes that he and I are on the same page.”
Neither Gettleman nor Shurmur were “sexy” hires, they weren’t the shiny, up-and-coming new kids on the block. They are, however, solid and experienced football men who appear to share the same philosophy on how to help the Giants find their way again.
As the Giants turn the page on one of the ugliest seasons the franchise has seen in a long time, they appear to have placed their future in capable hands.