With a month of swift change concluded, New York Giants fans can take solace in common thinking between their new leadership group.
Officially, Pat Shurmur has been head coach of the New York Giants for just over a week. Much like the introduction of general manager Dave Gettleman, the New York fan base, befuddled by a 3-13 record that featured losses on and off the field, found a sense of hope and purpose through Shurmur’s opening remarks last Friday.
‘This is an iconic franchise. I understand most of the history. I walked by four Super Bowl trophies,” Shurmur said. “As we go forward here, I’m looking forward to leading this organization, and I want to be the coach. I understand the responsibility that comes with being the coach.”
It should be no surprise that Shurmur’s comments have brought a sense of déjà vu to Big Blue, as many of Shurmur’s philosophies, his ideas to restore the franchise to its former state of glory duplicate Gettleman’s statements in his own introduction on December 29.
The final days of the Ben McAdoo/Jerry Reese era were defined by chaos, a sense of silliness that will take awhile to erase. But the synergy between Shurmur and Gettleman, the duo handpicked to lead the Giants out their 13-loss abyss, has given cause for hope entering one of the most uncertain offseasons in team history.
Giants co-owner John Mara, who introduced Shurmur last week to the media, revealed that it was the similarities between Gettleman and Shurmur that helped earn the new coach his job.
“It also became apparent to us very early on that Pat and Dave share a similar philosophy in how to build a team,” Mara said. “That was no small factor in this decision.”
As if officially signaling the end of the Reese era, Gettleman and Shurmur, through very different wordings, have honed on a source of the Giants’ offensive woes, namely the offensive line.
Shumur, coming off a 13-3 mark and NFC Championship Game appearance in Minnesota, was quick to point out a change in blockers led to the resurrection of the Vikings. Unlike the Giants, Minnesota was active on the line in the offseason, adding tackles Riley Reiff and Mike Remmers via free agency, and center Pat Elflein through the draft.
“We didn’t change the oil (in Minnesota); we changed the transmission,” Shurmur recalled. “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.”
The colorful Gettleman won Giants fans over with his unique term for his big men on both sides, a term that will no doubt dominate New York headlines over the next few years.
“I believe in the hog mollies,” Gettleman said of his linemen. “We’ve had some great groups here, had great groups everywhere I’ve been, and we’re going to get back to that. They do allow you to compete.”
Under Reese, the Giants were active on all fronts of player addition, with the exception of the offensive line. Fresh off their 11-5 mark in 2016, a deceiving tally thanks to several defensive bailouts, little effort was made to work on the protectors.
DJ Fluker, to his credit, turned out to be a solid addition on a one-year deal, but the offseason budget was otherwise dedicated to flashy additions like Brandon Marshall and the re-signing of Jason Pierre-Paul.
In the draft, tight end Evan Engram and not an offensive lineman, was the first-round pick. Tackle Adam Bisnowaty was added in the sixth-round, but spent most of the year on the practice squad, while inexperienced free agents, like rookie tackle Chad Wheeler and veteran guard Jon Halapio were forced into action.
Gettleman made it clear that the hog mollies won’t be overlooked again.
“We’ve got to fix the o-line. Let’s not kid each other,” Gettleman bluntly said. “I told you at the top, big men allow you to compete and that’s what we’ve got to fix.”
In turn, Shurmur stated that once he knew that he and Gettleman had the same philosophies went it came to the line, he knew New York was the place for him.
Perhaps more importantly, Gettleman and Shurmur are on the same page when it comes to the third member of the Big Blue leadership triumvirate: quarterback Eli Manning.
With many believing Manning’s New York future to be in doubt after the most tumultuous season of his career, Gettleman and Shurmur have stated that, until further notice, Manning will lead their first season in charge.
A so-called quarterback “guru” in his previous ventures, guiding quarterbacks like Donovan McNabb, Nick Foles, and, most recently, Case Keenum to the best numbers of their respective careers, Shurmur relished the opportunity to meet and work with Manning, whom he previously met last summer at the latter’s quarterback camp.
“I think the relationship is going to be very strong,” Shurmur said of Manning. “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.”
Gettleman has dispelled the notion of some of Manning’s naysayers, who insist it’s time for the two-time Super Bowl champion to move on. Namely, Gettleman told fans to look to Manning’s performance against the NFC champion Philadelphia Eagles on December 17 as proof that the youngest Manning brother is still the ideal man for the job.
In that game, Manning led a ragtag group of Giants against the full force of Philadelphia, throwing for a season-high 434 yards and three touchdowns in a narrow 34-29 defeat. The Eagles defense allowed just three 300-yard games this season, and Manning was responsible for two of them, throwing for 366 yards in the teams’ first meeting, a 27-24 Eagles win in September.
“Eli has won a lot of games. He’s a great competitor,” Gettleman remarked. “He’s very intelligent and he and I are going to talk. If what I saw against Philadelphia was not a mirage, and I don’t believe it was, then we’ll just keep moving.”
To overcome this brutal year, the 3-13 Giants have gone through plenty of changes, and more are sure to come once the offseason officially begins. Ironic, then, it’s a sense of sameness that could be the thing that begins their redemption.