By Ernie Palladino
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If Pat Shurmur indeed becomes the new head coach of the Giants after the Vikings’ season ends, be it this week or the first week in February, he’ll walk into a mess.
But it’s a fixable mess. As hopeless as 3-13 sounds, no condition outside Cleveland’s city limits is permanent. He can certainly turn the Giants around, and it may not take a miracle catch to do it.
He can start by accomplishing the following five things:
Visit “Seven Heaven” On A Regular Basis
The first time he convenes his new team for offseason workouts, Shurmur should call his offense together and state unequivocally, “Boys, we’re looking downfield!”
Whether Eli Manning remains the starting quarterback or it ends up being Davis Webb, Josh Rosen, or someone else, the offense has to abandon the dump-off mindset of Ben McAdoo and adopt the vertical look that allowed it to put up 35 points seven times in 2015, McAdoo’s final season as offensive coordinator.
Shackling a receiving corps that presumably will again feature Odell Beckham Jr., Sterling Shepard and Evan Engram to 10-yard out patterns is counterproductive. So Shurmur needs to open things up. Let the quarterback air it out. Yeah, Marcus Williams won’t be there to whiff on his receivers for 61-yard touchdowns, but just getting the big yardage chunks will help Big Blue’s offense immeasurably.
Help The QB
The quarterback can’t get the ball downfield unless he has time. New general manager Dave Gettleman will attempt to take care of that when he looks to refashion the offensive front with his beloved “hog mollies,” the beefy blockers he favors. But it will be up to Shurmur and his staff to find a proper combination. He might start by shifting Ereck Flowers over to the right side since Gettleman will probably buy or draft a real left tackle.
Change The Culture
There was too much locker room nonsense last season. Shurmur was regarded as an overall intense guy in Cleveland. The subsequent years coordinating the offenses in Philadelphia and Minnesota might have taken the edge off, but a little selective butt-kicking by him will be necessary.
First, bring in Beckham and tell him to grow up. Let him know that if he costs his team 15 yards because of some mindless end zone act he will pay for it.
Then, knock on Gettleman’s door and get Eli Apple the heck off the roster. He’s a child — an entitled one at that — and Shurmur will have a big-boy job ahead of him. The last thing he needs is some criticism-resistant 10-year-old threatening to walk out of film meetings and offering his own opinions on team culture and chemistry.
Those two acts will send an immediate message to the rest of the whiners that they can either get on board Shurmur’s bus or get out of town.
Develop The Next Guy
Shurmur is known as a quarterback whisperer, who, unlike Colts-bound quarterback guru Josh McDaniels, did his thing with people not named Tom Brady. He did wonders for Nick Foles in Philadelphia. He turned journeyman Case Keenum into an effective quarterback this year.
Regardless of how the quarterback situation shakes out, Shurmur has to make life after Eli a functional part of his plan. If Manning stays, the new coach has to find a way to get Webb or the next guy playing time. That won’t be as hard as one might think. McAdoo already did the dirty work of ending Manning’s consecutive starts streak, so Shurmur won’t have to give the two-time Super Bowl MVP the kid-glove treatment interim coach Steve Spagnuolo gave him over the final four games in 2017.
Get Along With The Press
Absolutely none of that has to do with strategy, but it’s important. The Giants need friends after a year of in-house turbulence and McAdoo’s outward arrogance.
Reports suggest Shurmur is not exactly Mr. Saturday Night, but he doesn’t have to be all warm and fuzzy in the interview room. He doesn’t need a comedy routine. But he should be a lot more open than McAdoo ever was, especially if the winning doesn’t happen as soon as he’d like.
Take the example from Spagnuolo, whose easy-going manner actually softened the season’s dysfunctional tone at the end.
At least it will remove one headache.
Please follow Ernie on Twitter at @ErniePalladino