Good thing for Pat Shurmur that the Giants didn’t take a “what have you done for us lately?” approach to hiring their next head coach. Instead, New York proved willing to overlook the dismal NFC title game showing by the Vikings, for whom Shurmur was the offensive coordinator, against a divisional archrival in the Eagles, no less.
On Monday, the day after Minnesota was drubbed by Philadelphia, 38-7, the Giants announced they had hired Shurmur, with whom they had been linked. He replaces Ben McAdoo, who was fired with four games left in the regular season, after which Steve Spagnuolo took over as interim coach and guided New York to a 1-3 record, completing a 3-13 season.
That season, however, did produce two very competitive losses to the Eagles, who went on to notch the NFC’s best record. New York fell to Philadelphia by scores of 27-24 and 34-29, in both cases with Eli Manning producing big passing numbers.
By contrast, Shurmur’s Vikings sputtered Sunday after a 75-yard touchdown drive to start the game against the Eagles. For the rest of the contest, Minnesota accumulated just 258 total net yards and zero points, with the rest of their drives ending in this sequence: interception returned for a touchdown, punt, punt, lost fumble, punt, turnover on downs, turnover on downs, interception.
Shurmur will doubtless be asked about that game by the New York media at his introductory news conference, and he might be pressed for ideas on how else to attack Philadelphia’s defense, given that he will have to do just that, twice a year, with the Giants. Of course, the 52-year-old could always point out that one game, no matter how important, should not trump a season’s worth of work that led him to be named assistant coach of the year by the Pro Football Writers of America.
Shurmur was honored for producing notable improvement in the Vikings’ offense overall, particularly with a quarterback, Case Keenum, who began the season as a backup and was an unheralded journeyman before that. Starting 14 regular season games in place of the injured Sam Bradford, Keenum completed 67.6 percent of his passes, second best in the NFL, for 3,547 yards, 22 touchdowns and seven interceptions, with a career-high passer rating of 98.3.
The loss of star rookie running back Dalvin Cook also complicated Shurmur’s task, but he coaxed a solid rushing attack from Latavius Murray and Jerick McKinnon while helping turn wide receiver Adam Thielen into a first-time Pro Bowl selection. Giants General Manager Dave Gettleman, in his first major move after replacing Jerry Reese, who was swept out with McAdoo, sounded excited about what his new head coach was bringing to the table.
“I can’t wait to start working with Pat,” Gettleman said in a statement. “I know he will provide the type of leadership we need to take our team back to where it belongs. I have followed Pat’s career for many years, and he has had great success wherever he has been.”
Gettleman also took what could be interpreted as a jab at McAdoo, saying that what “struck” him while interviewing Shurmur “is that being the head coach of the New York Giants is not too big for him.” Gettleman added, “He is made for this moment and this opportunity.”
Unlike McAdoo, who was hired in 2016 at age 39 for his first head-coaching job, Shurmur already has had one NFL go-round in that position, when he led the Browns in 2011 and 2012. Shurmur went 4-12 and 5-11 in those seasons, plus 1-0 as interim head coach of the Eagles in 2015 after they fired Chip Kelly, but the Giants might have noted that over the past 10 years, the Browns have had just one season better than 5-11 (7-9 in 2014).
At other NFL stops, Shurmur has served as the offensive coordinator for the Rams and Eagles, and he previously served as the tight ends and quarterbacks coach in Philadelphia under then-head coach Andy Reid. He began his coaching career at Michigan State after being an all-Big Ten center for the Spartans.
“I am looking forward to getting to work with Dave Gettleman and [assistant general manager] Kevin Abrams and starting the process to once again build a championship team,” Shurmur said in a statement. “I have been fortunate to work with many great coaches and players, and I am thankful for those relationships.”
The Giants will likely be counting on Shurmur to produce better play from the 37-year-old Manning, at least for one more season, and to possibly tutor a young quarterback the team could draft with the No. 2 overall pick. “He has an outstanding track record in developing young players, and it is clear his players respond to his guidance and direction,” Giants executives John Mara and Steve Tisch said in a statement.
Mara and Tisch said they “interviewed six talented and qualified candidates” during their coaching search, and two of them, Patriots assistants Josh McDaniels and Matt Patricia, are expected to become the head coaches for the Colts and Lions, respectively, after New England plays in the Super Bowl. Barring any surprise departures, those moves will fill the NFL’s vacancies at head coach, as the Cardinals toppled another domino Monday by hiring former Panthers defensive coordinator Steve Wilks.
Wilks, 48, will be expected to build on the relative success enjoyed by Bruce Arians, who retired after going 49-30-1 in five seasons in Arizona, albeit just 7-8-1 and 8-8 in the past two. “This is not really a rebuild, this is a retool,” Wilks told azcardinals.com. “We have the culture of winning here. We just have to be able to sustain it.
“It’s all about trying to get to the next level and the consistency you need to get to the next level.”
Previous head-coaching hires were made by the Raiders (Jon Gruden), Bears (Matt Nagy) and Titans, who tabbed former Texans defensive coordinator Mike Vrabel on Saturday to replace the ousted Mike Mularkey.
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