After Sunday’s set of barstool-clenching championship tournaments, the Jacksonville Jaguars and the Minnesota Vikings are officially eliminated from the postseason. Super Bowl dreams officially crushed, these teams join the other 28 organizations that are in offseason reconstruction. Less than 24 hours after the Vikings loss, offensive coach Pat Shurmur answered John Mara’s call, and the New York Giants announced their new play caller on Monday. Shurmur is inheriting a team that saw a more disastrous season this year than ever before in its 92-year history. So what can the G-Men expect from Shurmur as he begins his duties this week?
With four franchises worth of knowledge under his belt over the course of nine NFL jobs, there is no doubt that he is a good choice for Big Blue. This is a team which saw their offensive line deteriorate at a rapid pace throughout the entirety of this past season. The club wasted no time in hiring Shurmur, who—despite one of the most poor offensive outputs of the season the night before in the NFC Championship Game—has won seven division titles over his 19-year NFL career. Shurmur spent Monday morning tying up loose ends in Minneapolis before polishing off the deal with Giants officials. Now, it’s time to get to work.
The first issue on the list? Building a staff. The Oakland Raiders former head coach Jack Del Rio is said to be Shurmur’s targeted defensive coordinator, according to league sources. This move will officially push interim head coach Steve Spagnuolo out of New York (despite Shurmur’s long history with him in Philly and St. Louis), as Spagnuolo indicated that he has no intention of returning if he was not offered the head coaching position permanently. Whomever fills the position will have his work cut out for him, repairing the relationships that have been severed in the Giants’ secondary over the drama surrounding cornerback Eli Apple. Former Carolina Panthers special teams coordinator Thomas McGaughey is expected to join the Giants in that same position.
Shurmur will also have the opportunity to contribute to the decision regarding a potential 15th season for Eli Manning. Dave Gettleman, the Giants new general manager, has reportedly told Manning that he plans to keep the veteran quarterback on the team for the remaining two years of his contract. But that wish is no guarantee that Manning will start, and Shurmur is expected to join Gettleman in Mobile, SL for the Senior Bowl to examine 2018 draft prospects. The bowl will showcase the skill sets of Josh Allen and Baker Mayfield—both of whom were very popular performers this fall—but will not feature the draft’s top-rated quarterbacks Josh Rosen and Sam Darnold, as they are not seniors.
Other options? Second- and third-stringers Davis Webb and Geno Smith both disappointed in the 2017 season; though Webb is only coming out of his rookie year, as the 87th pick in round three of last year’s draft. Shurmur offered support of Manning in his interview with Gettleman, but could also advocate for the pursuit of a free agent if Manning is ultimately traded; perhaps Sam Bradford, whom he tutored to success with the then St. Louis Rams back in 2010? Two years after Shurmur accepted a job with the Eagles, Bradford was traded there, and after the firing of Chip Kelly that year, Shurmur was promoted to interim head coach. When he was denied the permanent position in favor of Kansas City Chiefs offensive coordinator Doug Pederson, he took the position of tight ends coach with the Vikings. Bradford was later traded to the Vikings, and two months later, Shurmur found himself coaching Bradford for a third time as their offensive coordinator. Pattern much?
It is inarguable that Shurmur’s history with transforming playmakers was key in the decision to employ his talents in New York. In John Mara and Steve Tisch’s statement announcing the hire, they specifically noted: “He has an outstanding track record in developing young players, and it is clear his players respond to his guidance and direction.” Bradford is not the only example of Shurmur’s quarterback whisper. He performed similar magic on Case Keenum, who lead the Vikings in a masterful last-second win over the Saints in the NFC Divisional Playoff Game last week with the Shurmur-orchestrated play later dubbed “The Minneapolis Miracle.” He also spent time with the Eagles, who blew out Minnesota on Sunday night with the help of one of the greatest quarterback performers of the off-season, Nick Foles; another of Shurmur’s students.
Certainly, after his less than memorable two-year stint as the head coach for the Cleveland Browns, Shurmur knows what it is to take over a dysfunctional franchise. The fans can only hope that this second chance will prove more profitable. History has alluded that head coaches who have held the position in the past with another franchise are more likely to be successful on their second go-round; 14 of the last 20 Super Bowls have been won by second-time head coaches (Pete Carroll is in this category, though he had held head coaching positions with three different franchises). Provided Shurmur and Gettleman equip the G-Men with a staff that will whip them back into shape, and Shurmur begins the vetting process for the starting quarterback position as quickly as possible with the guys they already have—so as to determine where their second overall draft pick is used—Big Blue might actually be back in the game.
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