Giants coach Pat Shurmur

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Keidel: Could Shurmur Go 1-And-Done With Giants?

So Far, Coach Doesn't Look Like A Boss

Jason Keidel
October 19, 2018 - 10:35 am
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Pat Shurmur is not the first coach to have a turbulent maiden season as Giants head coach.

In 1983, the Giants went 3-12-1 under the man who would become the patron saint of the Meadowlands. Knowing he was lucky to survive his rookie season, Bill Parcells decided that if he were to be fired after his second season, he would go out his way. Parcells found his voice and used his kind of players, who would later be branded "Jersey Guys" -- a gang of blue-collar athletes (Mark Bavaro, Phil Simms, Carl Banks, etc.) who gave Parcells every cell and left their soul on the field. 

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It takes a special leader to get 53 NFL egos on the same page, to summon the esprit de corps that Super Bowl teams possess. One thing that the great coaches have in common is they look like they're in charge. When Joe Gibbs or Bill Parcells or Bill Belichick enter a room to address the press, there's no doubt who's the boss.  

Do you get that sense from Pat Shurmur? Is it clear that he's not only the titular boss of the Giants, but that he's got a Vise-Grip on the locker room? Do the players adore, admire or wholly respect their new coach? When Shurmur enters the room, do you sense that he's in charge?

The players have, at various times, quit on the field. Troy Aikman called the G-Men "lifeless" during their galling loss to the Eagles at MetLife Stadium last week. Shurmur's best player, Odell Beckham Jr., went on ESPN with Lil Wayne at his side and hurled Eli Manning under the team bus. When asked if he enjoyed playing in the Big Apple, Beckham said, "It's a tough question." Sterling Shepard said this week that no Giants have questioned their quarterback's bona fides, but few believe him. 

This is not Shurmur's first NFL gig. He went 9-23 in two seasons as head coach of the Cleveland Browns (and 1-0 with the Eagles as interim coach for their final game in 2015). So if you include his brief, turbulent time as the big man with Big Blue, Shurmur is 11-28 as an NFL head coach. 

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Six games into his Giants tenure, he's already got a thorny relationship with the media, each presser more ornery than the last, grunting his gruff answers to fair questions. They finally scored more than 30 points for the first time since Tom Coughlin was head coach, and they still lost on a last-second, 63-yard feld goal at Carolina. True to form, Beckham was beaming, thrilled with the club's effort, likely because the electric, eccentric wideout finally got his stats. 

How much of this falls on the coach? If you don't care about peripheral noise or locker room murmurs and focus on the field, then remember the Tuna's eternal maxim: You are what your record says you are. And the Giants are 1-5 with a road game coming against the high-scoring Falcons. Of all the NFL clubs since the merger, only the 1970 Bengals and 2015 Chiefs started 1-5 and still made the playoffs. So if Big Blue blows this one, we can eulogize them with great certainty. 

If this freefall continues and the Giants finish 3-13 (or worse), then it's fair to wonder if the head coach keeps his headset. With much talent on offense, a retooled offensive line and a defense that was rather robust just two years ago, many NFL fans (including yours truly) projected the G-Men would contend for a playoff spot. Maybe they needed a couple games to find their gridiron legs, but 1-5 is unacceptable. 

And the man who tutored Case Keenum all the way to the NFC title game has led the Giants to the NFL's 24th-ranked offense, totaling 348.1 yards per game. They aren't any better putting up points, averaging a paltry 19.5 per game, 27th in the league. And despite the dazzling runs by gifted rookie running back Saquon Barkley, the Giants average 87.5 rushing yards per game, also ranked 27th. 

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Shurmur's boss, John Mara, said he is embarrassed by his team's production, called out Beckham for making more noise during the week than he makes on Sundays and publicly wished Beckham did less talking and more playing. You won't find a more stable football franchise than the Giants, or a more muted owner than Mara. So it has to be haunting to hear him so anxious so early in the season. 

Maybe Shurmur gets a mulligan. It's not Big Blue's style to can a head coach after one season. But some coordinators just don't have the chops to transition from sidekick to leading man. So far, Shurmur doesn't look like a boss. And if the Giants need anything right now, it's a singular, unifying voice. And they need a win, something Shurmur has hardly perfected as an NFL head coach. 

Follow Jason on Twitter at @JasonKeidel​.