Pat Shurmur says he’s built for this. Then again, this is all he has known: This as in being the head coach of a losing a football team struggling to find wins.
“How does it wear on me? I’m built for this,” is what the Giants head coach said on Thursday in response to how a five-game losing streak was affecting his psyche.
The Giants are 2-7 and heading nowhere fast, but Shurmur clearly isn’t ready to concede the season and put his job in jeopardy. Perhaps that’s why he reportedly stood before his team on Wednesday and delivered a message threatening jobs and changes if the Giants don’t perform well against the Jets (1-7) on Sunday at MetLife Stadium. “No excuses,” was the brunt of his message.
While Shurmur didn’t confirm exactly what he told his team Wednesday, he didn’t dilute its essential message.
“When you talk about youth, when you talk about injuries and when you talk about officiating those are all excuses in my mind that you just don’t go there,” Shurmur clarified before Thursday’s practice. “For me, it’s an urgency to win games. That’s what it’s about.”
It wasn’t Jim Fassel pushing his chips to the middle of the table during the 2000 NFC Championship season. But it did offer a glimpse into how meaningful Sunday’s game is to Shurmur and the Giants. The Yankees with their proud storied tradition, never like to lose to the Mets; and the Giants with their four Super Bowl trophies, never like to be beaten by the Jets.
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The backdrop for this year’s regular-season meeting adds even more pressure with the Jets coming off a loss to the previously winless Dolphins and looking like a team doubting itself from head coach Adam Gase to quarterback Sam Darnold. A loss to the Jets would be rock bottom to the Giants’ season the way losing to the Dolphins, 26-18 last week, was to the Jets’ campaign.
Shurmur tried to downplay Armageddon has arrived with a renewed sense of urgency.
“We’re always urgent,” he said. “You coach and play every game like it’s a playoff game and you do everything you can to win. There’s always an urgency to perform well and win.”
Whether Shurmur is indeed “built for this” remains to be seen. Ben McAdoo made a similar statement two years ago just before he got fired 12 weeks into his second season as the Giants head coach.
“I’m built for this. A calm doesn’t suit me,” he said. “A storm does.”
Shurmur, who started 1-7 last year, won’t lose his job during the upcoming bye week if the Giants are beaten by the Jets. There will be six more games remaining to create some sort of positive feeling heading into next season.
“I know we’re on the right path, and I know we’re just a few plays from getting over the top,” Shurmur insisted.
Maybe so, but that hasn’t been evident on the field, where the Giants rank 28th in total defense and 24th in total offense. The Jets, meanwhile, have the lowest ranked offense in the league at 32nd, while the injury-plagued defense is 17th.
It’s amazing how much the two franchises mirror each other: Two teams with embattled coaches trying to establish a new culture; two young potential franchise quarterbacks struggling to find some consistency; two defenses that can’t make big stops when it counts and two fan bases frustrated by the endless losing. At this point any win is a good win for either team.
“I feel the urgency to win … period,” Shurmur said, boiling Sunday’s game to the bottom line.
A win over the Jets would stop the bleeding for the Giants, but certainly won’t earn a pass for the remainder of the season. Shurmur hasn’t endeared himself to Giants fans with his decision-making, play-calling and clock management. But the reality that he has a young team and has endured injuries to key players also figures into the ultimate equation.
For now it’s about beating the Jets before the storm truly arrives.
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