On Monday following the last game of the season the Giants fired head coach Pat Shurmur. Personally I thought he deserved another year to turn things around. I had prepared a post on reasons to keep Shurmur and decided to post it here anyways even though it is now water under the bridge.
The San Francisco 49ers made Kyle Shanahan the head coach in 2017 after three years of three different head coaches. They gave him a six year contract and were set on committing to a long-term rebuild. After two years the 49ers were 10-22 under Kyle Shanahan. They had a young team and were beset by injuries including their quarterback – Jimmy Garoppolo. They were competitive and lost five games by one score to finish 4-12. The 49ers front office stuck with Shanahan and it paid off as they now sit at 13-3 and the top seed in the NFC going into the playoffs.
The similarities to the Giants are eerie. Pat Shurmur signed a five year contract with the Giants in 2018. Shurmur is the first Giants head coach to receive a five-year deal since Dan Reeves when he was hired in 1993. It expresses a commitment to a long-term rebuild. The Giants are 9-23 under head coach Pat Shurmur after two seasons and finished 4-12 this season. The Giants 2019 season was also beset by injuries.
Saquon Barkley – out 3.5 games high ankle sprain
Golden Tate – out 4 games suspension
Sterling Shepard – out 6 games – concussions
Evan Engram – out 8 games foot injury (IR)
Jabrill Peppers – out 5.5 games back fracture (IR)
Ryan Connelly – out 12 games tore ACL
Janoris Jenkins – released (missed last 3 games)
Over the last two seasons the departure of Odell Beckham, Landon Collins, Snacks Harrison, Olivier Vernon, Janoris Jenkins, Weston Richburg, Jason Pierre-Paul and Kerry Wynn may have been best for the team in the long run but you take an immediate hit short term.
In addition the Giants started a rookie quarterback for 12 games. The Giants fielded a young new team. There are only two players that have been on the team before 2016 – Eli Manning and Zak DeOssie. Eli was sat down to start the rookie quarterback after week two and Zak DeOssie was placed in IR after week 12. Only three players were acquired in 2016 and five in 2017. The rest of the team became a Giant over the last two years. That is 63 players.
Besides being a newly formed team they are a young team. As of the end of October the Giants led the league in rookie snap counts beating the second highest team by 500 snaps. Eight rookies have averaged 62.7% of the team snaps for their respective side. The top three are DeAndre Baker has averaged 91.5% of the defensive snaps, Dexter Lawrence has 78.4% and Daniel Jones has 74.9% of the offensive snaps . The other five are Sam Beal, Julian Love, Corey Ballentine, Oshane Ximines and Darius Slayton. All five have averaged over 30% of their respective side snap counts. For the most part the Giants are recently getting good play out of the rookies and they have shown improvement as the season went on. That reflects positively on the coaching staff. Here are the top ten teams with the most rookie snap counts as of 10/31/2019 and their season win/loss record. Of the ten teams only the Vikings had a winning record and they were number 9 on the list.
|Team||Rookie Snap Counts 10/31||Wins||Loss||Tie||Win %|
Update (1/1/2020 Here are the final 2019 most rookie snap counts)
Teams with the most snaps played by rookies this season:
1. Dolphins: 6,551
2. Giants: 6,372
3. Redskins: 5,428
4. Raiders: 5,236
5. Jaguars: 5,071
6. Broncos: 4,591
7. Cardinals: 4,276
8. Lions: 4,266
9. Rams: 4,122
10. Buccaneers: 4,077
— Field Yates (@FieldYates) January 1, 2020
Of the 56 rookie quarterbacks that started 8 or more games only 25% had a win-loss percentage of over .500. The Giants in 2019 were the perfect storm. A rookie quarterback, the highest rookie snap counts, key players lost (injuries, trades, cuts, suspension) and prior season records of 3-13 and 5-11.
The team has played hard all season and even in the second half of the season when they were clearly out of the playoff picture. In the last eight games they have two wins, one overtime loss, two games decided by a score or less, two games that were a one point difference going into the fourth quarter and one tie going into the fourth quarter. The players like Shurmur. Many have vocalized their support of him. Daniel Jones has credited Shurmur for his development.
The development of Daniel Jones this season is perhaps the biggest reason to keep Shurmur. Jones games include the following with the number of rookies all-time that share each accomplishment.
- three games with 4+ passing touchdowns (3 rookies),
- five games of 300+ passing yards (3 rookies),
- five games with 2+ passing TDs and 0 interceptions (5 rookies).
- one game of 300+ passing yards, 5 TDs and 0 interceptions (only rookie)
This season Jones has the second highest 1st down conversion percentage (47.6%) for rushes among quarterbacks with over six rushes.
To mess with this development by bringing in a new head coach does not appear to be in the best interest of quarterback development. Shurmur who was credited as being a “quarterback whisperer” has performed well in regard to quarterback development. Here is a list of rookie quarterbacks all-time that had 25+ total touchdowns. There were only nine and Jones accomplished it in the least amount of games.
|Player||Year||G||Cmp%||Yds||Pass TD||Int||Rate||Y/A||Rush Yds||Rush Y/A||Rush TD||Tot Tds|
The allure of a new coach is inviting. Looking at some potential candidates two that stand out are Don Martindale, the Ravens defensive coordinator, and Josh McDaniel, the Patriots Offensive coordinator. The Ravens have been the first and second team in minimal points allowed the two years that Martindale has been the defensive coordinator. However the year before he was defensive coordinator the team was already the sixth best team. So he took an already very good defense and made it better. The same can be said of Josh McDaniel. The year before McDaniel took over as offensive coordinator the Patriots were already the third best team in offensive points scored. It is attributable to Josh McDaniel that he maintained a good offense for seven seasons. But I am sure Bill Belichick was helpful in achieving that. (Note: I like both these potential new coach prospects and will cover them with others in a future post).
Now lets look at what Shurmur was handed. In 2017, the year before Shurmur took over, the Giants were 31st in offensive points scored. The next year they were 16th and this year they are 19th. For defense in 2017, the year prior to Shurmur, the Giants were 27th in defensive points allowed. They improved to 23rd the next year and fell to 29th this year. The point is that some of these coaching candidates that look real good started with much better teams. Shurmur started with a bottom tier team on both offense and defense. Coupled with the young rookie secondary this year it is not surprising the team has not won much. It is not fair to expect Shurmur to turn around a young, new, bottom-tier team in two years. One more year with high draft picks and favorable salary cap would provide the opportunity to succeed.
The biggest Giant turnaround was by new coach Jim Fassel in 1997. They went from a 6-10 team to a 10-5 team and lost in the first round of the playoffs. However the prior 1996 Giant team was tenth in the league in defense for points allowed. They had two All-Pro players in Michael Strahan and Jessie Armstead. They also had two talented cornerbacks in Jason Sehorn and Phillipi Sparks. Shurmur started with a 3-13 team that has nowhere near that defensive talent of the 1997 team.
The future does actually look promising. Daniel Jones has performed exceptionally well and has definitely improved as the year went on. Saquon Barkley had a Pro-Bowl rookie season. After an early season injury he looks back to his stellar self. DeAndre Baker has improved dramatically from a tough rookie start at cornerback. Markus Golden has had a outstanding year getting the most sacks by a Giant since Jason Pierre -Paul in 2014. Our fifth round draft pick of Darius Slayton has shown real promise. The defensive front three have been tough to run on in the middle. This is a good core to build around. I forget where I saw it but one analyst predicted the Giants to win the NFC East in the 2020 season.
Over the last five seasons the highest coach turnover has been three different head coaches. There are only eight teams that have had three different head coaches since 2015. They are the Cardinals, Browns, Broncos, Dolphins, Giants, 49ers, Buccaneers and Titans. Of those eight probably only the Browns and the Giants are considering going to a fourth coach in six years. The Browns made it official Sunday and are going with their fourth head coach in six years. There is a lot to be said for holding the course and not constantly changing head coaches. San Francisco stuck with their initial plan of Kyle Shanahan. This even though he had a similar losing record as Shurmur. That decision has paid off with the number one seed in the playoffs. Hopefully the Giants decision is closer to the 49ers than the Browns.
As I said this is water under the bridge now. I believe the new coach will benefit from the work done over the last two seasons. I wish Pat Shurmur well in his future endeavors. Never the less it is time to move on. It is an exciting time as a Giant fan and I look forward to the new coaching staff and what I believe will be a better team in 2020. Go Giants!