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Pat Shurmur Could Be Just the Right Coach to Fix the Broken Giants

The Vikings offensive coordinator is expected to join New York after Minnesota’s playoff run is complete

Minnesota Vikings v Detroit Lions Photo by Jorge Lemus/NurPhoto via Getty Images

Pat Shurmur has had a great 24 hours.

One day after the Vikings’ miracle win over the New Orleans Saints put them in the NFC championship game, the offensive coordinator is expected to be the next head coach of the New York Giants, according to NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport.

Shurmur was promoted to Minnesota offensive coordinator in November 2016 when Norv Turner resigned the position, and he inherited a mess that quickly crumbled as the most injured unit in football. Yet in his first full season on the job, Shurmur became the hottest non–Josh McDaniels offensive mind on the coaching market as his Minnesota offense remained one of the most dangerous in football even as it lost its starting quarterback and running back in the first month of the season. In his one healthy game, Sam Bradford looked like an MVP. Even more impressive was Shurmur’s development of Case Keenum, who began his career as a fringe practice squad player for the Texans and who was best known as a member of Jeff Fisher’s Rams until Shurmur developed a scheme that turned Keenum into an above-average quarterback. Shurmur often employed stack and switch tactics against man coverage this season to give cleaner releases to Stefon Diggs and Adam Thielen, who had breakout campaigns. Minnesota finished the regular season 11th in total yards, 10th in points scored, sixth in first downs, and fifth in offensive DVOA, as the Vikings finished 13–3 and gained a first-round bye.

Shurmur will need to lead a similar renaissance in New York, after the team had a disastrous 2017 season in which players feuded with coaches, players feuded with players, and the head coach benched Eli Manning. The offense had the fewest points of any NFL team (not counting the Browns, who were 32nd). Despite that mess, however, the Giants have the talent to quickly return to playoff contention, but Shurmur may not have been their first choice. The Giants also interviewed Patriots defensive coordinator Matt Patricia and offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels, and news of Shurmur’s hire leaked after Patricia had been connected to the Lions and McDaniels to the Colts. With the Cardinals also in the mix for Shurmur, the Giants may have wanted to grab the last seat in a game of musical coaching chairs.

Giants co-owner John Mara made clear that the team was prioritizing experience in its head-coaching search, and though Shurmur may not be a household name, he fits that bill. Shurmur spent a decade at Michigan State as tight ends coach and one season at Stanford before being hired by the Eagles to coach both tight ends and linemen in 1999. He was promoted to QB coach two years later, and worked with Donovan McNabb until being hired as the Rams offensive coordinator in 2009 and 2010. Shurmur was hired as Browns head coach in 2011 and didn’t impress, going 9–23 in two seasons, though that mark would be glorious by 2018 standards. He went from Cleveland back to where he started, serving as the offensive coordinator in Philadelphia under Chip Kelly, where Shurmur merged his West Coast philosophy with Kelly’s we’re-gonna-go-so-fast-they-won’t-know-what-hit-them offense. (After Kelly was fired that season, Shurmur served as interim head coach for one game and beat … the Giants.) The Vikings offense this season was an amalgamation of those experiences.

Now the Giants need him to develop a new offense for the team. New GM Dave Gettleman has indicated that the Giants plan to keep Eli Manning, but the team is also poised to select a quarterback with the no. 2 pick in the draft. That would mean that Shurmur can scheme an offense for Manning, easily the most experienced quarterback he’s ever worked with, while also grooming a signal-caller of the future. The Giants offensive line needs a lot of work, but Shurmur will have a lot of toys to play with in the receiving game. The same stacking and route-combination concepts that unleashed Thielen and Diggs might work wonders with Odell Beckham Jr. (assuming he returns), Sterling Shepard, and Evan Engram.

More important to Shurmur than any specific scheme, however, is the ability to maximize a player’s skill set. In Philadelphia and Minnesota, Shurmur demonstrated a willingness to adapt to his team’s needs, and after Ben McAdoo’s rigidity broke the Giants’ 2017 season, Shurmur’s flexibility may be his most important trait.

An earlier version of this piece incorrectly stated that Shurmur joined the Vikings when Norv Turner resigned; Shurmur was promoted to offensive coordinator when Turner resigned.