Giants’ head coach Pat Shurmur apparently has completed his staff, notably finishing with offensive coordinator Mike Shula , who recently was fired by Carolina after their loss to New Orleans in the playoffs.
Shurmur wanted fellow quarterbacks coach Kevin Stefanski from Minnesota, but the Vikings denied an interview. So Shurmur settled on Shula.
Shula’s hiring likely was heavily influence by GM Dave Gettleman, as the duo spent some time down South over the past few years. Despite having Cam Newton as his offensive centerpiece, Shula’s offense was ranked 19th overall this past year (323.7 yards), fourth in rushing (131.4), 28th in passing (192.3) and 12th in points (22.7).
But Shula likely will be more of stabilizing force in his new role with the Giants. Shurmur had indicated that he will call the plays. That will leave Shula with the task to devise the offense likely around Eli Manning and Odell Beckham Jr. as well as the rising core of other receivers who rose to the occasion last year.
One major staff hire that quickly has slipped under the radar since his hire a few days after Shurmur has been defensive coordinator James Bettcher, who is viewed as one of the brightest, young defensive minds in the game. Bettcher was hired from the Arizona, where his units were in the top six over the past three years in his role.
Ironically, Gettleman’s influence also brought Thomas McGaughey from Carolina for special teams. Rounding out the staff are a collections of seasoned assistant coaches, some who spent some time with former head coaches Ben McAdoo and Tom Coughlin.
Shurmur and Shula’s task can be made easier if the Giants draft Saquon Barkley with the second overall pick instead of taking one of the prophesized quarterbacks.
Many draft and college football analysts see Barkley as the best overall player in the draft, and he would immediately solve the team’s lagging running back problem.
Barkley and Wayne Gallman, who showed signs last season, gives the Giants two potential breakaway backs, both of whom also can be passing targets out of the backfield to heighten the Giants’ envisioned air attack. Orleans Darkwa, their lead back last season, is a free agent and will explore his options.
Gettleman appears to be sold on Eli Manning at least for the next two years, so the Barkley pick would make sense. Plus, there are indications and whispers around that the team still has high hopes for quarterback Davis Webb.
With Manning, Beckham, and Barkley in the fold, Gettleman will need to focus his salary cap room to reinforce the Giants’ offensive line. Resigning Justin Pugh may be difficult, but it should be a priority within reason, of course. Weston Richburg and DJ Fluker are also free agents.
To free up some more room, Gettleman will need to sort through the roster and start to clean it out.
Some of the likely candidates to go are wide receiver Brandon Marshall, and cornerbacks Dominque Rodgers-Cromartie and Eli Apple. Marshall would save the Giants $5.1 million, and Rodgers-Cromartie would give them back 6.5 million.
Apple has been a major headache over the past two years, and he would save the team less than a million.
Janoris Jenkins also had his issues and his departure would save $7 million, but $6 million would be counted as dead money against the cap.
Looking at it all, it will be a very interesting spring ahead.