EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- Each day, every practice, a little bit more becomes apparent about how coach Pat Shurmur will operate as the New York Giants head coach. It appears to be a steady, patient approach, with the intended consequence to show confidence in and protect his players, at least publicly.
Maybe that should have been evident with offensive lineman Ereck Flowers and cornerback Eli Apple taking just about every first-team snap in the spring and early part of the summer. Regardless, it has been cemented with Shurmur’s early approach to the summer.
The Giants haven’t shuffled their lineup much throughout training camp. Whoever has started the summer working with the first team has remained there through the first preseason game. Not much has changed after the preseason-opening 20-10 loss to the Cleveland Browns, either.
Davis Webb remained the No. 2 quarterback when the Giants returned to practice on Sunday. Jon Halapio remained the first-team center. Curtis Riley was immediately reinserted as the starting free safety upon returning from a hamstring injury. William Gay remained the first option at nickel cornerback and Cody Latimer as the third wide receiver.
To this point, patience is undoubtedly a virtue for Shurmur at his first training camp with the Giants. There are no rash moves or decisions. It’s as if nothing he sees on a specific day -- whether at practice or in a preseason game -- will spur drastic change. Shurmur appears to be thinking big picture rather than spur of the moment. Only time will tell if it’s effective.
Shurmur was even asked how Webb responded Sunday to a preseason performance the other night that he admitted wasn’t his best.
“Responded to what?” Shurmur said, seemingly surprised at the insinuation it was a poor performance.
Shurmur later added: “He’s out there working, trying to get better, just like he does every day. I don’t think his demeanor has changed.”
Webb went 9-of-22 passing for 70 yards on Thursday night against the Browns. Almost all his misses were high, due to what coach and player attributed mostly to being over-amped.
Webb returned to practice Sunday and received more first-team snaps than at almost any point this summer. Starting quarterback Eli Manning’s reps were limited, but rookie Kyle Lauletta remained the clear-cut No. 3 quarterback.
“That was a two-fold [situation,]” Shurmur said. “That gave [Manning] a little less [work] and that allowed the other quarterbacks to get a little bit more.”
This appears to all be a part of Shurmur’s plan. He’s not taking an old-school approach and being hard on his players publicly, even after rough performances. Maybe behind closed doors it’s different, but publicly he’s being very calculated with his praise and lack of critical analysis.
It goes along with the approach he’s taken with star wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr. ever since being hired as coach. Shurmur went out of his way to massage that relationship right from the start.
It seems to be working on that end.
“Coach Shurmur is great,” Beckham said last week. “When we first met in LA, we just sat down and talked football, and just to see his mentality and how he’s going to run the ship -- it’s just been phenomenal to come in here every day. It’s like you're back at the workplace and you love it, and he makes it fun for us. He’s just doing a great job. He’s got everybody doing what we’re supposed to be doing.”
It's in contrast to what existed before Shurmur’s arrival. Former coach Ben McAdoo never developed those intimate relationships with players. There always appeared to be a distance, even if he also tended to veer away from any public criticism of players despite obvious circumstances.
Shurmur is taking the form of a stern, yet likable “players coach.” That will undoubtedly be tested as the season progresses, and especially when the Giants hit inevitable turbulence. Every team does throughout the season.
Perhaps he’s building a foundation that will allow this year’s Giants to better cope with adversity.
“I like his command on the field. I like his demeanor,” co-owner John Mara said of Shurmur at the start of training camp. “He was great to work with throughout the draft, throughout free agency, fits in very well. He’s mature, you know. He’s done it before. I think he realizes the issues that he had in Cleveland and the mistakes he made, what he would’ve done differently. I think he’s ready to become a very successful head coach.”
Among those previous mistakes was not having an offensive coordinator with the Browns. Shurmur did double-duty in that regard with the Browns. He admitted that needed to change this time around, and he hired veteran coach in Mike Shula as offensive coordinator with the Giants to make sure he has all angles covered.
Only time will tell if Shurmur’s approach will ultimately pay dividends. Webb’s ability to bounce back and reward his coach’s confidence in him will be the first major test.