Fennelly: Giants Entering 2018 With a Fresh Slate and Fresh Faces

After a 2017 season that went completely sideways on them, the New York Football Giants decided to purge themselves of the people that drove this storied franchise into football oblivion and replace them with individuals who are dedicated to restoring the franchise back to its rightful place in the pantheon of NFL powers.

On Friday, they added the newest piece of the puzzle when they introduced Pat Shurmur as their new head coach. Shurmur is what both CEO John Mara and GM Dave Gettleman call ‘an adult’ which is a direct shot at former head coach Ben McAdoo and GM Jerry Reese who were uncomfortable with the media. Shurmur comes to the Giants with a bevy of experience, all on the offensive side of the ball, but with no specific style other than he is “a football coach”.

How novel, especially after we recently heard Gettleman state his intentions of restocking the roster with players who love to play the game of football. Apparently, the organization had gotten away from the core principles that comprise a winning football team. What are they, you ask? Big bodies that play the game the way it is supposed to be played.

Shurmur believes that is what his new team is going to focus on. Football. Under Ben McAdoo, the Giants lacked discipline and focus and were completely unprepared to compete. Under Shurmur, you can bet those will be the strengths of his tenure here.

“You have hired a career coach,” he said at his introductory presser on Friday. “You’ve hired a guy that doesn’t know what he would do if he wasn’t doing this. You’ve hired a guy that wants every day to interact with the staff, the coaches, the players, and I really do feel like my role is to make everybody as good as they can be. And I think if we do that on a day‑to‑day basis, we’ll get to where we want to be, and that’s re-establish the winning tradition and put ourselves in a position to win championships.  And I understand that’s a journey.”

At the same time, Shurmur laid down the law in regards to what players can expect from him.

“You’re going to try to all figure out who I am.  Some would say I’m a little serious.  Alright, I get that.  But I do think this is a serious business.  It’s played and coached by adults.  We just happen to do it with a young person’s enthusiasm, and I think that’s important.  Some will tell you I have a healthy sense of humor.  Those are the people that know me.  I’m okay laughing at myself, and I own all that.  Most people will tell you that I’m competitive and gritty, and that’s the overachiever’s mindset in me.  I feel like we don’t know it all, and I look forward to learning something new every day.  Those of you that do know me, though, I have zero tolerance for people that don’t compete.  I have zero tolerance for people that don’t give effort, and I have zero tolerance for people that show a lack of respect.  And I think that’s something that you’ll know about me as we get to know each other better. But the people and the players that know me know that I’m willing to give them a hug at the end of a hard day.” 

The subject of WR Odell Beckham, Jr. came up and Shurmur said all the right things. He admires Beckham’s talent and looks forward to working with him but also had a message for all players, such as the dissident CB Eli Apple, who basically walked to his own beat last season.

“It makes sense to throw him the football,” said Shurmur. “I’m just going to say that right away.  If I didn’t acknowledge that, then you’ve definitely got the wrong guy up here. But I think what needs to happen now is I need to get to know him.  I need to get to know what makes him tick, and I get to ‑‑ I need to talk to him about what it is that we’re looking for for a guy that plays for the New York Giants.  And I think those are the things that go back to relationship building that need to happen very, very soon.”

Shurmer’s already taken care of a lot of the pending business and answered some key questions even though Friday was his first day at 1925 Giants Drive. He has spoken with QB Eli Manning and assured him that he will be under center in 2018.

“You know, I watched Eli throw a little bit this summer, and I walked away saying, ‘He looked really, really good.’  He looked fit,” said Shurmur. “He was throwing the ball well.  The ball had good velocity coming off his hand.  And again, I think he’s got years left.  How much, I don’t know.  But I think he has time left, and I look forward to working with him.”

He has also hired a hot defensive coordinator in Arizona’s James Bettcher and added Thomas McGaughey as his special team coach. Shurmer said he will call the plays on offense but that could end up being a shared responsibility with whoever he hires as his offensive coordinator.

Under the previous regime, the Giants were locked into specific strategies and they payed dearly for it. McAdoo’s offense made it easier for opponents to gameplan for them. Shurmur plans on being unpredictable. He comes from a West Coast background but has also coached under Chip Kelly and Mike Zimmer, who ran two completely different types of offenses.

On defense, Bettcher employs a plethora of formations and fronts and runs his defense based on the offense he’s facing. He uses a suitcase full of formations, running a hybrid 3-4 that morphs into a 4-3 when needed and also nickel and dime packages. It’s been working since his Cardinal defenses have been ranked in the top six in the NFL the past three seasons.

“I’ve known James for a while, and I think he’s a rising star in the profession,” said Shurmur. “He’s played ‑‑ they’ve played outstanding defense in Arizona for a very long time.  He’s a little bit multiple in his scheme, which I think is good.  Everyone I’ve talked to, he inspires the player.  He’s got a great presence, and we’re really, really fortunate to have him be with us.  Very hard to score against.  They find a way to put pressure on the quarterback.  They do a good job in their coverage schemes, and they’ve been good at stopping the run.  He’s had a top‑six defense the last three years, and for whatever reason on the teams I’ve been on, I’ve crossed over against them.”

The Giants have needed a change on special teams for years and McGaughey gives them new approach. Under longtime ST coordinator, the Giants were last in the league in special teams in 2017. McGaughey, who once worked under Quinn here as an assistant, led the Panthers’ special teams to a 10th ranking the past two seasons.

Now, comes the time to evaluate the roster. Gettleman has already revamped the scouting department and promises to build this team from the inside out. That means going out and finding those “hog mollies” to man the trenches. Shurmur agreed that the offensive line was a priority this offseason.

“As soon as he said, ‘Everything starts with the offensive line.’  And I think there’s a great example of that, what we went through in Minnesota,” said Shurmur. ” We didn’t change the oil up there, we changed the transmission.  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.  And so I think it’s very important, no matter how good your offensive line is and your defensive line, you have to address those issues constantly because if you can’t block them and you can’t pressure the quarterback, this game gets really, really, really hard.”

That could mean a complete overhaul of the current group. Ereck Flowers and John Jerry are signed through 2020. Justin Pugh and Weston Richburg are impending free agents but are both coming off injury-shortened seasons. The jury is still out on rookies Chad Wheeler and Adam Bisnowaty. This is a unit that could have five new faces on it come opening day.

That’s only one element the new Giants’ braintrust will zoning in on. Just about everything’s in play right now and after the 2017 meltdown, fans are welcoming as much change as possible.



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