EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- This spring has a different feel and purpose for the New York Giants. They are starting anew with a different coaching staff running the offseason program.
Coach Pat Shurmur has a goal in mind this spring and summer, and it’s to “set a new direction heading into 2018.” Change is in the air at 1925 Giants Drive, with repurposing the culture being the intended result.
This is necessary after the debacle that unfolded last season. The Giants finished 3-13 and were dysfunctional both on the field and behind closed doors. They had three cornerbacks suspended for their conduct. They had teammates almost throwing fists in the locker room. They had offensive linemen tossing in the towel on the season before it was over.
It was ugly, and Shurmur is left trying to pick up the pieces and put them all back together rather quickly with a veteran group.
“For the most part, we're trying to get things started, take advantage of the extra time we have and we want to grow away from basically what happened a year ago, the 3-13 season,” said Shurmur, whose team began its offseason workout program Monday and has an extra week to work with this spring because it has a new head coach. “We want to grow away from that and try to grow into a team that's competing to win a division, compete in the playoffs, and then hopefully hold up that fifth Lombardi trophy.
“That's what we're trying to do and just try to get better one day at a time, and I think it's important for all the players to understand that getting better by themselves, it's just as important for us to get better together. ... I think that's the beauty of being able to work together here.”
It’s important to Shurmur that all Giants players are at the facility this spring and summer. Star wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr., who is looking for a new contract, and defensive end Olivier Vernon were in attendance on Monday after missing most of last year’s offseason program. Offensive tackle Ereck Flowers was the only known absence for the first voluntary workout under Shurmur.
That’s not a good sign for the young tackle. This spring holds more weight for everyone than in the past with the Giants installing new offensive and defensive schemes and trying to change the culture.
“I think it's important for the guys to be here, especially with a new offense, a new defense going in as well, a new coaching staff -- just to get familiar with everything going on,” quarterback Eli Manning said. “Right now you can kind of come in and coaches can take it slow a little bit and you're learning. You ask questions and you can kind of all learn it together, which is good. When guys start missing these meetings and these workouts on the field and stuff, you get behind and then you have to re-teach it. You've got to slow things down again for guys to catch up.
“Obviously, I think it's an opportunity for us to start learning this offense, ask the right questions, make sure we have a good idea of what we're doing when we get out there to practice.”
Shurmur addressed the team as a whole for the first time on Monday. Safety Landon Collins came away with the impression that Shurmur was stern and very serious. The Giants went straight to work before most of the other 31 teams have even assembled. This is their built-in advantage following the offseason turnover.
Shurmur is the Giants’ third head coach in four years. For Manning, it’s the third coach of his career. Each is a little different flavor.
The veteran quarterback is still in the getting-to-know-you phase with Shurmur. Monday was the first day they were allowed to officially talk football and go over the playbook.
“I think Coach Shurmur did a great job of just talking about the focus on getting better and everybody being here together and learning and getting things kind of squared away on playing better football. I think that's the mindset,” Manning said. “You saw his enthusiasm, his excitement to have the guys back in the locker room, and I think you felt it with the players also with being here and excited about getting better and winning more football games.”
There is a lot of work to be done after last year’s disaster, beginning this spring.