EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. – Pat Shurmur began his press conference after the New York Giants' most recent loss with his eyes staring down at a piece of paper, either at the stat sheet or notes. It didn’t matter much. He had seen with his own eyes what had happened on the field.
Shurmur spoke in a hushed tone for a few seconds about his defense before tailing off. It was only momentarily. Then his voice began to rise.
“On offense, we need to score more points...” he said with each word rising a decibel level. You could imagine while he spoke that there was smoke rising from his head as he addressed his team’s most recent offensive stumbles.
Shurmur clearly wasn’t happy after the 20-13 loss to the Redskins that led into the Giants' bye week. It has been a consistent theme throughout a disappointing first half of the season.
Shurmur doesn’t regularly scream, yell or rant at the podium despite his frustrations. This is what fans see publicly, but he doesn’t do it behind closed doors with his players, either. Those who spend time with him regularly insist his moods are predictable, steady and consistent. There is no being demoralized or moping.
“That’s not my personality,” Shurmur told ESPN. “Same approach no matter what.”
His message to the team following that loss was they needed to “stick with it,” according to veteran wide receiver Russell Shepard. It has been a consistent theme. There were things they could build on and miscues to use as teaching moments.
Wide receiver Sterling Shepard said that there was a team meeting recently where Shurmur played a compilation video that focused on the Giants’ offensive problems. It allowed them to sit down as a group and reflect on what has gone wrong. It held everyone, including the team’s star quarterback and wide receiver, accountable.
“The compilation was of everybody,” Shepard said. “Everybody.”
This is how Shurmur goes about his business. He doesn’t dress down his players publicly. He doesn’t see the benefit in that approach.
“What you do is you look at the things,” he said. “You build on the things that are good and you try to make corrections on the things that aren’t. That’s what you do as a teacher. That’s what you do as an educator. You just keep working. You try to make changes, and in areas where you’re not making changes you try to make those players better. That is how it goes.”
Special-teams captain Michael Thomas has come to understand this approach. It’s something Shurmur has explained to his team.
“I’ll say this because he’s addressed this with us because maybe even some of us have asked him, ‘Hey coach, maybe hold us accountable just a little bit more visibly,’” Thomas said.
“The answer he gave us made perfect sense. I’m not going to scream, yell, knocking over coolers, throwing over chairs because I don’t want this to be about me. I’ll give you all the tools you need to win. I’ll give you any resource you need and I’ll tell you what we need to do to get better. I’ll hold you accountable that way. I’ll tell you what we should’ve done better and what we need to better moving forward. But me yelling, me throwing chairs, screaming, cursing, throwing guys under the bus in the media is not going to help us and that is not me. He kept it real and we understood that.”
If anything, Shurmur has been consistent in his first year as Giants coach. He’s continually pounded it into his players that they’re close to turning things around and there are reasons for optimism. Based on their on-field effort -- which hasn’t been the problem -- they’re still playing hard for their coach. His message is resonating.
Several players described Shurmur as “steady.” Defensive captain Landon Collins called him “laidback.” Shurmur insists it shouldn’t be confused with a lack of emotion.
“Steady also is you steadily show emotion at the right point and the right time,” Shurmur said.
This, they say, is Pat Shurmur. It’s by design.
Veteran cornerback B.W. Webb appreciates that Shurmur has been “straightforward.” Several players noted the lines of communication with Shurmur are open more than they had been under their previous coach, Ben McAdoo.
Shurmur admitted to speaking with quarterback Eli Manning on multiple occasions over the weekend. He outlined the expectations for this week and the second half of the season.
“Yeah, it’s always good,” Manning said of the conversations. “Communication is important. We’ve always been good at that, and be on the same page. It’s always helpful just knowing where everybody stands.”
This is especially relevant with the Giants seemingly on the verge of a change at quarterback. Manning hasn’t been guaranteed anything other than to start against the 49ers. The Giants would like to see rookie Kyle Lauletta at some point in the second half of the season in order to have some tape on the fourth-round pick heading into the offseason.
Shurmur’s approach may be somewhat familiar. He is a disciple of Kansas City Chiefs coach Andy Reid, who he worked under for 10 years in Philadelphia. Reid often used to say after blowout wins or bad losses that things were never as good as they looked or never as bad as they looked.
Shurmur appears to be following in the footsteps of his mentor.
“I’m doing like I would do if we’re winning,” Shurmur said. “And when we start winning, that won’t change at all. That’s what I’m doing.
“We realized obviously that we were going to have to make some changes and I know there were a lot of expectations -- we all have expectations. I expect to go out and win every game and when you don’t you try to make changes. And we’ve made a lot of changes. Make changes, get better and then go forward.”
If there is one thing Shurmur hasn’t done, it’s panic. He’s been confronted with some peculiar firestorms and handled most of them relatively well. There appears to be minimal long-term damage from star wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr.’s criticism of quarterback Manning during an interview with ESPN and Lauletta’s recent arrest for motor vehicle violations and related disorderly persons offenses.
Shurmur was quick and firm with his public disapproval. He fined the offending players and had one-on-one conversations with them. The specifics of those meetings were kept between the attending parties.
Beckham has spoken on multiple occasions about the open lines of communication with his new coach. Shurmur began texting his star receiver not long after he was hired and even went out to California for a meet-and-greet of sorts in the offseason. They still talk, text and meet regularly.
Even throughout the losses, ownership has been supportive. John Mara said recently that he still believed the right leaders were in place to get the organization back on track. Shurmur said they’re in the loop on all major moves.
“We talk about everything that happens,” he said. “All the big decisions. All the things that are going on. We talk often.”
They’ve had plenty to talk about. It hasn’t been the season the Giants expected.
But Shurmur insists he’s been himself through the ups and downs. He appears to be holding up well even if at times -- like that moment when he had to speak about his offense after the Redskins loss -- it hasn’t been easy.