Pat Shurmur needs to look past Eli Manning to find long-term success

EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. – Pat Shurmur’s first impression as coach of the New York Giants was positive. He said all the right things, flashed personality with some well-timed jokes and didn’t mention anything controversial during his introductory news conference. His suit fit and so did his stance on some key issues.

Shurmur maneuvered in lockstep with new general manager Dave Gettleman and ownership on Eli Manning’s future and how to handle Odell Beckham Jr. He used phrases such as “clean slate” for Beckham while praising the eclectic playmaker's supreme talent. He declared a “zero tolerance” policy for players who don’t compete, exhibit a lack of effort or don't show the requisite respect to their coaches or the game.

It all served as music to Giants fans’ ears, unless all this Day 1 talk comes without any flexibility. Shurmur’s ultimate success won’t be decided by Manning. It will be by the quarterback after Manning, whether that be Davis Webb, the No. 2 overall pick or somebody else.

Despite Friday’s rhetoric, he better not be all-in on Manning, a 37-year-old quarterback coming off two down seasons. If the Giants are sitting at 1-4 and the No. 2 overall pick and/or Webb are waiting in reserves, he better be willing to pull the trigger. These are the kind of tough decisions he signed up for when he signed on with the Giants.

Anyone who has watched this team knows that all the blame for 3-13 or five of the past six years ending without a playoff appearance doesn’t fall all on Manning. There have been plenty of other problems that have contributed (most notably a sub-par offensive line) along the way.

But Shurmur better be careful about getting too sucked in by ownership and the new general manager concerning a quarterback on the downside of his career. That would be a flawed long-term approach.

“I think [Manning] has years left,” Shurmur said Friday. “How much? I don’t know, but I think he has time left, and I look forward to working with him.”

The future of the quarterback position is one of many concerns that Shurmur faces upon his arrival. He will have to get Beckham Jr. on his side while the star receiver awaits a new contract. That could prove tricky.

Shurmur also needs to clean out a locker room that proved problematic this past season. The Giants had to suspend three defensive backs for conduct detrimental to the team in the span of two months.

That needs to be rectified immediately, and Shurmur intends to do it by establishing the right way to do things from the get-go of his tenure. He’ll make it well-known and then try to inspire the players to see it his way.

“There are reasons why the Giants slipped to 3-13,” Shurmur said. “We’re going to find out what some of those reasons are behind the scenes, and we’re going to try to get them fixed at the beginning.”

This falls in line of the rhetoric from Gettleman since he was hired. Together they have come off as a no-nonsese new regime. Let's see if they can go through with it.

Aside from their agreement that Manning has some good years left, the new general manager and coach also seem to share similar philosophies. Shurmur knew it right away.

“As soon as he said, ‘Everything starts with the offensive line.’ ... And so I think it's very important, no matter how good your offensive line is and your defensive line, you have to address those issues constantly because if you can't block them and you can't pressure the quarterback, this game gets really, really, really hard. I know that about Dave,” Shurmur said. “I know we have a serious mindset when it comes to doing what we can to upgrade in those areas. And some of it may be just inspiring a player on the roster to play better than he's played, you know, and that comes back to coaching. And then we all know that every once in a while, you need to get some new players.”

The Giants might need more than a few. They also need to send some in the opposite direction. This isn’t a team or roster on the brink of a Super Bowl.

At least Shurmur seems to understand that reality. He stressed getting “incrementally better” and eating an “elephant bite at a time.” This will be a process, and not just the one-year version either.

Shurmur is signed for five years. It’s about more than 2018 with Manning as the quarterback, and it's imperative that he remains focused and flexible that his success will be more aptly determined by his next quarterback, not his current quarterback.