EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. - No matter what you think of the Giants right now -- whether you think Eli Manning is done, whether Odell Beckham Jr. looks slower, whether you believe the offensive line is salvageable, or if you think they made a wrong decision when they chose their new coach -- this is their reality. Reinforcements are not coming. They are what they are.
So what can Pat Shurmur do about it? Can he find any way to spark his offense, salvage the season, and knock the Giants off what sometimes seems like an irreversible course towards another disastrous season? They are 1-3 as they prepare to face the Carolina Panthers this Sunday, so there's some urgency to this question.
Is there any way he can to fix this mess?
The answer is yes (probably). And here's a look at some of the steps he can take:
1. Stop coaching scared
Maybe that's unfair. Maybe a more accurate word is "conservative." But no matter how many times Shurmur and Manning insist there are deep passes being called that the defense takes away, it's certainly not obvious. Through four weeks this offense has appeared to be an endless series of constant quick, short passes and a less-than-full commitment to the run.
It looks as if Shurmur is trying to coach around his weak offensive line, which would be understandable. But a "conservative" game plan is what's driven this offense down the last few years. Shurmur admitted he should stick to the run more -- especially with a player like Saquon Barkley. He should call more downfield shots, too. Or if he is calling them, he and Manning should stick with them regardless of the defense.
I know Manning said taking risks isn't the smart thing to do. But it's what they did during the Kevin Gilbride years. And the offense during that time was pretty good.
2. Stay on the attack
Shurmur has made a couple of mistakes, which he admitted: not using his timeouts late in the first half against the Saints, and punting instead of going for it on a short fourth down in Dallas. Those are minor things, but they could develop into a bad trend.
Sure, it's risky. Sometimes it's better to sit back, try to avoid mistakes and play a field-position game. But at 1-3, what do the Giants have to lose? Plus, being aggressive in situations like that could lead to a spark and a little energy for the offense. Players will love it because they think like that, despite the evidence that their offense can be pretty good. It would show a lot of faith from the coaching staff, too. And that matters.
3. Get the ball to Odell, no matter what
Shurmur believes this and he has said as much multiple times. Same for Manning. But recently there's been too much talk about how defenses take Beckham away. When Manning was asked this week if it would make sense to throw it to Beckham anyway, even when he's covered, if the potential reward is worth the risk, he said, "That usually leads to bad plays."
But it's Beckham, the $90 million receiver, we're talking about here. It can often lead to good plays. Give him a chance. Let him try to get the ball away from the defender. Trust that he'll get open between the three guys covering him and break free. Don't avoid targeting him when he's surrounded and toss it instead to a lesser receiver. Trust the best player on the team to make a play.
4. Run Saquon Barkley -- a lot
One theme that has been consistent through the years of Giants struggles is their alarming lack of a running game. A lot of that is on the offensive line, which obviously isn't fixed. But for the first time in what seems like forever they now have a dynamic, explosive running back who can make big runs even when holes aren't there.
So use him. Even Shurmur admitted that the 10 carries he got on Sunday was too few. Barkley has been pretty good about getting four or five yards on many of his runs, and he's always a threat to break off a big one. And since he's a threat, the more he's used, the more defenses will have to respect the run. That could open up the play-action game. It could also lure a safety towards the line of scrimmage, which could give Beckham more room to run free.
5. Get creative
This is not Ben McAdoo's offense, where he annoyed a fan base by running the same personnel group out there all the time and some eerily similar plays. Shurmur is more "multiple" in the way he deploys his players. And there has been some creativity in the routes his receivers run.
There needs to be more, though, because his receivers are not getting open quickly enough and they obviously don't have a quarterback mobile enough to escape the pocket and extend a play. They need more things to keep the defense off balance -- whether it's trick plays, or nonconventional routes, or whatever.
Shurmur has been hailed in the past as a brilliant offensive mind. It's time to let some of that brilliance show.