Rookie Head Coach Expectations for 2018 and Beyond: Pat Shurmur

There were many teams who had disappointing 2017 seasons. Some teams, like the Cleveland Browns, who finished with an 0-16 record, decided not to fire their coaches. Others, however, like the Indianapolis Colts, opted to clean house in the coaching department. There were a whopping seven coaching changes in the past year, and it may be difficult to diagnose what those coaches should and/or will accomplish in their endeavors with their respective teams. In this edition, I will be analyzing the expectations for 2018 and beyond for newly hired New York Giants head coach Pat Shurmur.
The 2016 season was almost perfect for Giants head coach Ben McAdoo, who was in his first season in that position. The Giants had decided to move on from two-time Super Bowl winning coach Tom Coughlin after a few underachieving seasons, and Giants owner John Mara hired Coughlin’s second year offensive coordinator to run the show on the sidelines for the Giants. The Giants finished with an 11-5 record, earning them a spot in the NFC playoff picture as a wildcard. The G-Men suffered an unfortunate, humiliating loss to the Aaron Rodgers-led Green Bay Packers on a cold evening in Lambeau Field, but that season was still impressive for the Giants.
2017 had high expectations for the Giants, but they underachieved to say the least. After starting 0-4 and losing wideouts Sterling Shepherd and Odell Beckham, Jr. for the season in the Week 4 loss to the Los Angeles Chargers, there was a rise of panic in the Giants’ organization. McAdoo and Giants general manager Jerry Reese were each fired after the Week 13 loss to the Oakland Raiders. McAdoo was also resented in the Big Apple because of his decision to bench QB Eli Manning in favor of backup Geno Smith. This ended Manning’s streak of 210 straight starts, the longest in league history. McAdoo was replaced by interim head coach Steve Spagnoula, who had been the Giants’ active defensive coordinator, for the remainder of the season.
Meanwhile in Minneapolis, Vikings offensive coordinator Pat Shurmur had been making a name for himself as a hot head coaching candidate. The Vikings captured the NFC North division crown with a 13-3 record and were on their way to play in Philadelphia for the NFC Championship game. This was supposed to be a good game, but it was anything but that. The Eagles waltzed away with a 31-7 victory en route to winning the 2018 Lombardi Trophy in a win over the New England Patriots. Shortly after that loss, Shurmur was announced as the new head coach of the Giants. He was officially hired on January 22, 2018. Many look at the Giants’ 2017 record (3-13) and think, “Wow, Pat Shurmur has got a big mess to clean up on New York,” or something along those lines. But those fans could find themselves being very, very wrong.
When I look at the Giants, they are only two years removed from a playoff berth. They are still very talented. Don’t believe me? I’ll show you.
Looking at the defensive side of the ball, the Giants are loaded. They’ve got a great safety in Landon Collins. At cornerback, they have two very talented players in Eli Apple and Janoris Jenkins. At linebacker, they’ve brought in Lorenzo Carter (second round draft pick out of UGA) and Alec Ogletree via trade from the Los Angeles Rams. Returning at linebacker is solid starter B.J. Goodson. Then, there is veteran DT Damon Harrison anchoring the defensive line. To top all that off, Shurmur hired respected defensive coordinator James Bettcher, who held the same position in Arizona last season.
Flipping to the other side of the ball, the Giants brought in much needed offensive line help by signing LT Nate Solder from New England. They have 2017 first round draft pick Evan Engram returning, who had a very impressive rookie season, as well as WRs Sterling Shepherd and Odell Beckham Jr. coming back healthy. At halfback, the Giants drafted Penn State halfback Saquon Barkley second overall in the 2018 NFL Draft. At QB, they have returning veteran Eli Manning, obviously.
With all that said, we still need to look at what Shurmur brings to the table as head coach.
Shurmur is a disciple of the Andy Reid West Coast offense, an offense based off of Bill Walsh’s West Coast Offense. Reid, the current Kansas City Chiefs head coach and seventh most winningest head coach all time, has sent out a grand total of nine former assistants to be head coaches, with Shurmur being one of them, even though he did not go straight from being an assistant to Reid to being a head coach. Reid’s scheme is based off of a series of pass plays anywhere from short screens to twenty yard passes that spread the defense out horizontally in order to create opportunities for the receiver to gain yards after the catch. A couple examples of these receiving routes are bubble screens, halfback screens, slant routes and shallow crosses (Reid is also not afraid to take a shot downfield every now and then). Reid is also a believer in using the passing game to set up the running game. Reid’s offense relies heavily on the backs and tight ends, often using 22 personnel (2 backs, 2 tight ends) and 13 personnel (1 back, 3 tight ends). Which, for Shurmur, fits perfectly schematically, with do-it-all HB Barkley and the perfect “move” tight end, or “U” tight end (utility tight end), as they call it in Reid’s scheme, in Engram.
After looking at all of these variables, it is time for the verdict to be out on what is to be expected from Shurmur in his tenure with the Giants. For 2018, I think the Giants could win between 9 and 10 games in a brutal NFC East division and, really, overall tough NFC in 2018. I think throughout Shurmur’s (hopefully) long career with the Giants, he can have a respectable win % of .613 (an average record of between 9-7 and 10-6). The NFC is a total gauntlet and looks to stay that way for the foreseeable future. Of course, things change, sometimes drastically, but I think this seems like reasonable expectations for Shurmur and the G-Men.