The New York Football Giants have the worst record (12-36) in the NFL over the last three years. Now, the coach who oversaw two of those seasons is gone. On Monday, after New York completed a 4-12 campaign, Giants co-owners John Mara and Steve Tisch fired head coach Pat Shurmur.
“The last three seasons have been extremely disappointing for the organization and our fans,” Mara said in a statement released by the team. “Pat has been a successful and highly-respected NFL coach for 21 years and he is not solely responsible for our record. But we came to the conclusion it is best to have a fresh start with the coaching staff.”
Mara and Tisch also announced that they will be retaining Giants general manager Dave Gettleman, who has been in his role for the last two years, “in 2020 and hopefully for many years after that,” Mara said in the statement. “We believe he is the right person to lead us going forward. Dave has a long record of success.”
Despite the joint statement from Mara and Tisch, multiple reports have stated that the Giants ownership was divided about keeping Shurmur and Gettleman, with Tisch preferring change and Mara preferring stability. It’s unclear what part of this team deserves to be stabilized, however, given that it has fewer wins over the last three years than the Browns, who infamously went 0-16 one season during that stretch.
Shurmur coached in both Cleveland and New York, and he leaves both cities after two years with a 9-23 record. (Hey, at least he’s consistent.) The nine wins across two seasons are fewer than former Giants coach Ben McAdoo recorded in his 11-5 debut campaign. After overseeing a Vikings offense that flourished behind quarterback Case Keenum in 2017, Shurmur was hired in 2018 with the expectation that he would turn the Giants around after they went 3-13 in 2017. Instead, they went 5-11 in 2018 and 4-12 in 2019, with Shurmur failing to inject much creativity into New York’s offense. He rarely found new ways to get Saquon Barkley the ball (Barkley lined up in the slot 10 times this season; Christian McCaffrey lined up there 66 times), and he didn’t instill much pocket presence in Daniel Jones, the no. 6 draft pick who started his career with two spectacular wins but lost his next eight games. Jones fumbled 18 times this season, the most for a player in a single season since Daunte Culpepper fumbled 23 times for the Minnesota Vikings in 2002. Jones reached that mark in just 13 games.
The decision to fire Shurmur didn’t come as a surprise. The choice to keep Gettleman, though, is more consequential and controversial. Gettleman came to New York after the 2017 season, and in his time in charge he’s proved to be a good scout but a terrible manager. Gettleman clearly has a decent eye for talent, drafting Barkley, guard Will Hernandez, defensive end Lorenzo Carter, and receiver Darius Slayton. But he nullifies any value he brings there by eschewing modern team-building logic. Gettleman began his Giants tenure by mocking the analytics departments that have propelled the Ravens to become the league’s best and most exciting team. Whereas most franchises subscribe to the notion that having as many draft picks as possible is a good thing, Gettleman goes the other way. His philosophy is essentially the opposite of that of Bill Belichick and the Patriots.
“All kidding aside, having 12 picks is crazy,” Gettleman said before this spring’s draft. “One of the things I have talked about is that you don’t want to draft a player that you are going to cut. Every guy you draft, there is a reason you are drafting him and a reason that he should make your club. First-, second-, third-round draft picks at the very least, you are looking for a big rotational player.”
Gettleman has never traded down as a GM, during his time with either the Panthers or the Giants. After the 2018 draft, he told reporters that he had only been offered “a bag of doughnuts, a hot pretzel, a hot dog” for the no. 2 pick that became Barkley, even though the Jets traded away three second-rounders to move up to the no. 3 spot. Gettleman also said that once the Browns surprised everyone by taking Baker Mayfield at no. 1 overall in 2018, he didn’t even want to field phone calls for the no. 2 pick. Considering that quarterbacks Sam Darnold, Josh Allen, Josh Rosen, and Lamar Jackson were still on the board, not taking phone calls for that pick was borderline malpractice.
Gettleman also reportedly didn’t call other teams when he wanted to trade Odell Beckham Jr. last offseason. The Giants signed Beckham to what was then the largest deal for a receiver in league history in August 2018, later saying “we didn’t sign him to trade him.” But Gettleman soon began to shop Beckham and completed a deal with Browns GM John Dorsey, his friend of 37 years, without first asking other teams if they could beat Cleveland’s offer. “The 49ers were stunned,” according to a joint report from ESPN’s Jordan Raanan and Pat McManamon. “[San Francisco general manager John] Lynch and Gettleman had multiple conversations spanning weeks. Despite the 49ers monitoring the situation closely, they ultimately never heard from the Giants before the trade was made.”
Gettleman also let safety Landon Collins leave the Giants in 2019 free agency rather than franchise-tagging him or trading him at the 2018 deadline. Based on the record-setting contract that Collins signed with Washington, he likely would’ve netted New York more than the third-round compensatory pick he may get the team next year. In October, Gettleman dealt third- and fifth-round picks in 2020—including the no. 68 pick in the draft—for Jets defensive end Leonard Williams, who was in the final year of his contract. Williams did not register a sack in seven games with the Giants this year and is now due to become a free agent.
Gettleman is not entirely safe, according to ESPN’s Adam Schefter. Schefter reported Monday that Gettleman and Dorsey may be at the whims of the teams’ next head coaches, who may have input on whether they stay. For Gettleman, that could mean his future may depend on the preferences of Baylor head coach Matt Rhule or Pats offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels, both of whom have been linked to the Giants’ vacancy.
If Gettleman does return, it’s still unlikely that quarterback Eli Manning will play for the Giants again. His contract is set to expire, probably ending his 15 years with the team that included two Super Bowl wins over the Patriots.
This team is a long way away from those Super Bowl teams. New York’s 12 wins from 2017 to 2019 are the franchise’s lowest total over a three-year span since the mid-1970s, before the league went to a 16-game regular season. On the bright side, the Giants have nowhere to go but up.