There’s never a good time for anyone to lose their job. But when such an event happens under such heavy scrutiny as an NFL head coach losing his job, that makes it even harder, especially for the players that head coach leaves behind.
Such were the sentiments expressed by members of the Giants, who on Monday, in between packing up their personal belongings for the long, cold off-season ahead, shared their thoughts about team ownership’s decision to relieve head coach Pat Shurmur of his duties.
The overall consensus of those who spoke was that Shurmur as not alone in the team’s failure to improve on their 5-11 season from 2018.
“It’s a tough day,” said receiver Sterling Shepard. “What we all do affects a lot of people. We all look back and wish we could have been better in different areas. That’s the sucky part about this business.
“You build a relationship with people over the two years we had (Shurmur). He’s a great person, a great guy, and it’s just unfortunate that everything didn’t work out here.”
“It’s disappointing,” said left tackle Nate Solder. “I know when he was hired here, and I know when I came here, there were such high expectations and such high hopes.
“This business is brutal. I think there were a lot of good things that came out of the last couple of years. But that doesn’t matter if you’re not getting the wins. The margin of error is so small, so thin, between winning and losing in this league. You have to find a way to come out on top.”
“I was surprised by it. We’re all upset,” added running back Saquon Barkley, who passionately lobbied for Shurmur in the season’s final weeks.
“I’ve been preaching all season whenever anyone asked me about what I think about if our coaching staff are the right people, I always kept saying it’s easy to point the finger at one person. You don’t want to see anybody go out like that.”
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Of particular interest were the reactions of quarterbacks Eli Manning, whom Shurmur benched after an 0-2 start this season, and Daniel Jones, the quarterback Shurmur chose as the franchise’s future.
Manning, as he’s always done throughout his career, had nothing but good things to say about having worked with Shurmur, saying that they had a great relationship.
“I think he is a great coach, I think he is a wonderful man and (I’m) just disappointed,” Manning said. “I think you always feel responsible when a coach gets fired. It’s obviously because, as players, we didn’t do our part. We didn’t win enough games. I feel for him and all the coaches. They worked hard and did a lot of hard work and a lot of good things.”
Jones, the draft pick who created a stir of epic proportions when he was announced as the surprising sixth overall pick in the 2019 draft, seemed to take it hardest.
“I’m grateful to him for the opportunity. I think he’s an excellent football coach. The players are very, very largely responsible for how this season has gone. I certainly feel responsible, and I think that’s the tough part.”
The Giants have reportedly wasted no time in launching their search for their next head coach. Unlike in the past, team president John Mara said they would not rely on any outside counsel, such as former general manager Ernie Accorsi. Still, at the same time, he did promise an extensive search, which he said will also include the college ranks.
“I’m 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. Somebody who is going to help us with our football re-organization during the process we’re undergoing right now. We’re looking for all those qualities from the next candidate.”
In the interim, the Giants are retaining Shurmur’s assistant staff. However, if any wish to pursue employment elsewhere, they will likely be permitted to do so while those who don’t will have a chance to interview with the next head coach.
As for whoever that candidate ends up being, Solder summed up what the players know what they have to do when they return to work in early April.
“It’s up to us to take a deep look at what we need to do better, those of us that will be here. We need to be a lot better.”