Pat Shurmur

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Keidel: Pat Shurmur Doesn't Feel Like The Leader The Giants Need

Jason Keidel
December 04, 2018 - 1:38 pm
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What is leadership? 

The dictionary says it's the "action of leading a group of people or an organization." Among the synonyms are guidance, direction, authority, control, organization, initiative and influence. 

Does that sound at all like the character or characters leading the New York Giants? Not at all. There's a team-wide disease infecting the Meadowlands, a malady of heart and will. And it starts at the one place Odell Beckham told us we can't question - effort. 

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More than once, TV analysts, who are former players, have used terms like "loafing" and "quitting" when dissecting the G-Men. It kind of makes you question their longtime handle. When the world first thought of “G-Men”, it was the hardscrabble gang of cops, of Melvin Purvis and the newly-minted FBI men who hunted Pretty Boy Floyd, Al Capone and John Dillinger. These men risked their lives to keep the world safe from the ominous wave of Depression-era gangsters. 

Today's G-Men are better known for infighting, backstabbing and making business decisions that never net a gridiron profit. If the Giants were a stock they would be Enron. And despite Beckham's indignity, we have every right to question his effort, and the team's effort. And that falls on the coach. 

Pat Shurmur does not seem to have his team's full respect, attention or effort. Despite beating the Bears on Sunday, the Giants did all they could to lose. They blew a 24-14 fourth-quarter lead to a team without their starting quarterback, and thus needed overtime to beat Chase Daniel. And despite the narrow win they are 4-8, nestled at the bottom of the NFC East, and all but assured yet another losing record. 

Not only can you question the team's talent, you can question its intelligence and desire. The latter falls on Shurmur, who so far hasn't inspired the club any more than Ben McAdoo did. At least the former Giants coach coaxed them into the playoffs in his rookie season. Shurmur's maiden campaign was over almost as soon as it started with a 1-7 record. 

No doubt Giants fans would happily accept some dysfunction - perhaps another bong boat trip from Beckham - if it meant the Giants were on their way to some frosty gridiron for a playoff game. But the Giants spend as much time explaining their failures as their game strategy.

There's no such thing as a fun or flawless week at MetLife Stadium, no jokes or pranks or friendly banter between players and press. Surely some of this is shaped by the tense persona of the head coach, whose next smile at the dais could be his first. Be as grumpy as you want when you're winning. Try being a little more amiable or engaging when you're losing. David Simon, a former newspaper reporter and creator of the iconic TV show “The Wire,” once wrote that you don't pick a fight with people who buy ink by the barrel. 

Even with his dubious results, Shurmur acts like he's Bill Parcells. He’s always ornery and terse, mocking media questions as if his record granted him layers of Teflon. But you must earn the right to be Belichick and grunt at the media, to talk around their questions, to dictate the terms. There's just nothing about Shurmur that says "boss" - not in the manner of a great coach, as we’ve seen with Belichick, Parcells, Saban, Harbaugh, etc. 

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Don't blame the soft sensibilities of the modern player. Despite their reputations as stone-hearted monarchs, some of footballs biggest control freaks made it work with some of the most legendary divas as long as they had the talent and temerity. Randy Moss had his best season under Belichick. Likewise, Keyshawn Johnson flourished under Parcells, who coached him with the Jets and then again with the Cowboys. And in retrospect, you can say that Jim Harbaugh performed the most Herculean job of all making Colin Kaepernick – arguably the most polarizing athlete on the planet - a Super Bowl quarterback who lost his job, his mojo, and then his playing career shortly after Harbaugh left the 49ers for Michigan.  

Shurmur has four games to prove his detractors wrong. Should the Giants finish 8-8, or even 7-9, then he's earned another shot. One of the reasons Big Blue have been blue bloods of football is the steady hand of ownership and stability at head coach. Hall of Fame GM Bill Polian says if you spend too much time listening to fans, you'll soon be sitting with them.  

But the hallmark of a great franchise isn't just winning. It’s also admitting when you've erred, and rather than futilely clinging to your mistake, moving on and moving forward. Pat Shumur has four games to prove that either the G-Men have the right man, or that they made their second coaching mistake in two years.

Twitter: @JasonKeidel