Published 6: 00 PM EST Dec 30, 2019
EAST RUTHERFORD — John Mara welcomed the criticism and embraced the blame for where the New York Giants are at the moment: mired in mediocrity as one of the worst teams in the NFL, despite the four Super Bowl championships represented by the collection of Vince Lombardi trophies in a display case inside the team’s training facility.
Yet as co-owner and team president, Mara was not about to fire himself Monday morning.
So instead, head coach Pat Shurmur paid the price for the organization’s on-field dysfunction after two seasons, and for the third time in five years, the Giants are again searching for a new head football coach.
Shurmur was hired in January 2018 as the successor to Ben McAdoo, who was fired with four games remaining in the 2017 season. Steve Spagnuolo served as interim head coach for the final month before the Giants embarked on a coaching search that included candidates Matt Patricia, Josh McDaniels and Shurmur, who ended up being the choice.
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Shurmur’s two-year record with the Giants is 9-23, including a nine-game losing streak that matched the longest in the team’s 94-year history.
“I think it all starts at the top,” Mara said. “So yes, you can criticize me all you want. It would be warranted. Because it all starts at the top. The success, the failures of the past eight years have been pretty miserable. So I’ll accept my share of blame.”
However, despite the ouster of their coach, the Giants are retaining general manager Dave Gettleman, who rejoined the organization in that capacity together with Shurmur.
“We understand how frustrated our fans are. They expect more from us, and we expect more from ourselves,” Giants co-owner Steve Tisch said. “Our focus now is on developing and improving our football team so that our fans can enjoy the winning team they expect and deserve.”
The Giants are 12-36 over the last three years, the worst record in the NFL.
They have missed the playoffs seven out of eight years since winning Super Bowl XLVI, and this season, with Shurmur at the helm of a roster torn down by Gettleman with an attempt at a rebuild, they finished 4-12.
The final straw was the sound of Philadelphia Eagles fans essentially turning MetLife Stadium into Lincoln Financial Field North for much of Sunday’s game with chants of “E-A-G-L-E-S” at every key moment, roaring with each big Philadelphia play in the fourth quarter.
After that 34-17 loss to the Eagles, Shurmur said: “This is a wins business. I get it. I get it. We’ve been talking about this for, I think, six weeks, right? You’ve been asking me the same questions for six weeks … But that’s the reality of this business. When you don’t win, that’s the line of questioning. I get that.”
Shurmur’s best argument for returning would have been the development of rookie quarterback Daniel Jones, who finished the season “light years” from where he was when he arrived as the No. 6 overall draft pick last April.
Shurmur made the switch from Eli Manning to Jones heading into Week 3, believing that he and Jones would get time to grow together and turn this relationship into something special.
Had he known this would be his make-or-break season with three years remaining on his contract, perhaps Shurmur would have delayed Jones’ insertion into the lineup, in turn strengthening his case to stay and be the one to develop Jones later in the season.
Now the onus will fall on a new coach to get Jones to what he needs to be: a franchise quarterback.
“Where we are right now as a team, where I am right now as a player, is not where we need to be. I feel that, I think this team feels that,” Jones said. “If we want to get where we want to go, we’re going to have to use this, to learn from this. Otherwise, the season would have been pointless. We need to use it to motivate us, use it to improve going into the offseason.”
Shurmur was hired because he was an “adult,” according to Gettleman, and the sentiment was echoed by Mara. He was brought in as McAdoo’s successor to stabilize things off the field, while being the right coach to pick Manning’s successor at quarterback.
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From that perspective, Shurmur did his job. The Giants are more settled than they were two years ago off the field. Now, that does not make them winners — the scoreboard shows it — and for that, Shurmur needs to be held accountable with context.
His in-game rationale with planning and decision-making has been suspect, mostly due to the inconsistency with which he has operated.
His record is what it is — let’s not bring up his two losing years in Cleveland, because the Giants hired him despite that — and there remained a legitimate question as to whether Shurmur was the right coach for the post-McAdoo fallout, but not the one to move the Giants forward from this to another level.
Team brass has provided the answer, and now, less than two years after he was hired, Shurmur has unceremoniously been shown the door.
“It’s been a very frustrating four years. Certainly the record indicates that,” Tisch said. “Those numbers don’t lie. And going forward, John and I want to make sure that those numbers change in the next season dramatically.”
Baylor University coach Matt Rhule, Kansas City Chiefs offensive coordinator Eric Bieniemy and McDaniels are considered strong candidates for the vacancy, with Rhule — who served as an assistant coach on Tom Coughlin’s Giants staff in 2012 — believed to be a leader out of the gates.
“I’m really looking for leadership; that’s the big thing going forward,” Mara said. “Somebody who can come in and take control of this roster, help build a culture that is going to lead to winning.”
What has become a never-ending search now enters yet another new chapter for the Giants, only this time they can only hope to finally get it right, like old times.
Art Stapleton is the Giants beat writer for NorthJersey.com. For unlimited access to all Giants analysis, news, trades and more, please subscribe today and sign up for our NFC East newsletter.
Email: [email protected] Twitter: @art_stapleton
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