A Multistep Plan to Fix the Giants Over the Bye
So much for the sense of urgency. Giants head coach Pat Shurmur strangely waited until his team fell to 2-7 before finally spelling it out for his players that if they didn’t step up the effort, jobs would be lost.
Well, judging by the team’s response, it sure does look as though his words went in one ear and out the other.
The question now, as the Giants head into their bye, is how can they fix it moving forward? The roster is what it is, so that is unlikely to change that much.
And contrary to the call of many fans, head coach Pat Shurmur is unlikely to be fired right now.
But there are a few things that the Giants can do the rest of the way if they wanted--things that would hopefully give the Giants a boost in the right direction.
Sit Players Down
No matter how the coaches try to spin this with the players, the season is lost. There will be guys who are going into survival mode by making business decisions to either force their release or to protect themselves.
Those are the guys who need to be shown the bench. If this is truly about the future and finding out what you have on the roster, get some of these younger players behind the underperforming veterans a chance to go out there and show you if they have anything worth getting excited over for next season.
That’s not to suggest they tank, but after singing the praise of Sam Beal for two years, wouldn’t it have been nice to have seen Beal a little bit more in this game and not waited until Janoris Jenkins left with a concussion?
And are Cody Core and Buck Allen that bad at their respective positions that they can’t even get a look-see on the offense?
Look, the roster is what it is, and at this point, you’re not going to be able to make wholesale changes. But would it hurt to see what some of these other guys who thus far have primarily been on special teams or have been inactive can contribute?
Demand Pat Shurmur Give Up the Play Calling
This probably won't happen, but it needs to. Every week Shurmur makes a head-scratching decision or two or three that makes one sit there and wonder what he’s thinking.
Beyond that, Shurmur hasn’t shown the creativity he did when he was the offensive coordinator with the Vikings--when was the last time you saw the Giants run an off-tackle run or a trips formation to isolate Saquon Barkley against a linebacker?
And why, against the Jets with the receivers separating, didn't Shurmur have the tight ends stay in to help the young tackles, Nick Gates and Eric Smith, with blocking?
This is just one reason why Shurmur needs to detach himself from the offense and be more of a total game manager. Right now, Shurmur has no one above him leaning into the headset to veto an ill-advised move.
And that’s a scary thought because when he calls for a sequence of plays that fall short of the desired goal, that only ends up hurting the team.
Look, some head coaches can be successful when they call their plays—Andy Reid is an exception, and the jury is still out on Sean McVay with the Los Angeles Rams.
But if you look at the successful head coaches who have winning programs years after year—Bill Belichick, Pete Carroll, John Harbaugh, Tom Coughlin, and Mike Tomlin all come to mind—they all have one thing in common: the CEO style of management.
None of those coaches are so tied up with one side of the ball because they have delegated the play-calling responsibilities but still have the autonomy to lean into the headset and veto something with which they disagree. For the most part, being free of the play-calling duties allows them to make better decisions regarding clock management, challenges, and all the other nuances that go into running a football team on game day.
In Shurmur’s case, he’s not only trying to run the offense, he’s trying to run the sideline, and he’s also trying to bring along a rookie quarterback. And that's just way too much for one man to handle no matter how many years he's been in the league.
Lighten Saquon Barkley’s Load
It’s hard to fault the Giants for wanting to get Saquon Barkley on the field as much as they can. But they’re not doing themselves or Barkley any favors with his workload, especially when he’s trying to play through a high ankle sprain that regardless of what he or the Giants say, isn’t right.
Barkley's pass blocking has seemingly fallen off a cliff from last year, and it wouldn’t be a stretch to wonder if that’s because his ankle doesn’t allow him to establish an anchor to make those blitz pickups.
And running this kid up the gut without a lead blocker behind an offensive line that’s struggled to run-block is begging for Barkley’s career to be shortened.
If Barkley is part of your future, why not lighten his load a little bit now and give some of those snaps to Wayne Gallman so that you don’t wear off all the tread on Barkley’s tires before he turns 25?
Turn the Locker Room Back into a Locker Room
That means get rid of the Ping-Pong table and the plush couches and recliners that are in the middle of the room. Seriously, this isn’t a country club; it’s a locker room, a place where players should congregate to work.
The country club atmosphere that Shurmur instilled in that room with all those little amenities sent the wrong message to all those young players who came in here and had to learn how to be a pro. In essence, they were rewarded with perks that weren't necessarily earned.
With things having gone sour, Shurmur now needs to be the bad cop in taking away all these perks he approved.
Adjust the Coaching Staff
Suggesting that someone lose his or her job isn't necessarily a fun path to travel down, but when one is talking about a results-oriented business, and the people in question aren't making forward progress, it's something that has to be considered.
The two assistant coaches that are likely to draw the most scrutiny are defensive coordinator James Bettcher and offensive line coach Hal Hunter.
Bettcher is a good and hard-working man, but the fact that he was given several of his former Cardinals players from his hey-day in Arizona and the defense is no better than it was last year is a significant black mark against him.
As for Hunter, it is fair to ask why this unit, despite the upgrade in talent, has taken a step backward in the run blocking.
Watch the Giants defense, and chances are you'll come away thinking that they're being asked to run before they've learned how to walk.
How else can all the breakdowns that are still happening after ten games be explained?
Sometimes if someone is struggling, you have to simplify things and return to the basics to reset. AS far as the Giants are concerned, instead of playing that loose zone as often as they do, why not try man coverage and send some pressure off the edges?
Seriously, can it be any worse than what they’ve done so far?