Pat Shurmur has believed that Daniel Jones was the right quarterback for him and his offense since long before the Giants took him with the sixth overall pick in the draft. He's loved everything about him: His arm, his mobility, his unshakeable demeanor.
Now all Shurmur has to do is convince the Giants that he's the right coach for Jones.
So far, so good, of course, after the 22-year-old rookie's impressive debut in the Giants' come-from-behind, 32-31 win in Tampa on Sunday. Jones did everything anyone could have expected, throwing for 336 yards, making plays on the run, and running for two touchdowns, too. And Shurmur seemed unleashed, running what might have been the most creative offensive scheme he's used in his 19 games in New York.
If that's the way it's going to work, if Shurmur's offense can bring out the best in Jones and vice versa -- and the 54-year-old coach can keep Jones' development on an upward trajectory -- then the Giants could be set for years to come. The Shurmur-Jones pairing could be the next Tom Coughlin-Eli Manning or Bill Parcells-Phil Simms, because every quarterback needs stability in the coach's office. More importantly, every young quarterback needs the right coach.
But until the sample size is far more than one game, the jury is still way out on whether Shurmur is that guy. He has a 16-36 record as a head coach, including 6-13 with the Giants. And especially when his offense struggled out of the gate under Manning's direction this season, some around the NFL started to wonder if he was feeling the heat.
Now, it would be wrong to suggest Shurmur was on any kind of hot seat. The last thing the Giants want is more upheaval in their organization two years after turning over their front office and firing their former head coach, Ben McAdoo, after just two years on the job. But it would also be a mistake to think Shurmur's record doesn't matter to his bosses, or that everyone in the front office is completely sold on Shurmur long-term.
What is accurate, though, is that nothing is more important to the Giants' future than Jones. He will be the Giants' starter for the next four years at least, and the hope is he adds another dozen after that. The Giants know the value of a franchise quarterback, and that to them is far more important than anything -- including a head coach.
So what they want is the right head coach, the right offense, the right play-caller, to make sure Jones is what they expect him to be.
And they won't have a lot of patience if they start to think they are wrong.
That's why Shurmur, more than anyone, needed this move to work out, and needs for it to keep working. He is the one that convinced his bosses it was time to make the switch. The Giants are loyal to Manning for obvious reasons. They brought him back under the pretense that he'd get a chance to play. And two games, when he was undermined by his receivers and defense, hardly seemed like a fair chance.
But once GM Dave Gettleman and ownership signed off on the move, the legacy and immediate future of Shurmur and Jones became intertwined. That's why, it seemed, that Shurmur's demeanor had changed. He clearly sensed that things weren't working with Manning, that he couldn't run his wide-open scheme, filled with rollouts and running quarterbacks, behind Manning's 38-year-old legs.
He was freed to do what he wanted: to call the offense he always planned.
Now it just has to work.
Again, for one day, it did. Jones was spectacular, and Shurmur's offense looked completely brand new. Jones' ability to escape the pressure allowed his undermanned receiving corps time to get open down field. He slipped out of pressure that surely would have resulted in sacks with Manning in the pocket. His ability to run put the defense on its heels and gave them an added dimension to consider that they haven't had to against the Giants in at least 15 years.
And Shurmur didn't hold back. He appeared rejuvenated by calling the game he always wanted to call.
It likely won't always be as easy as it looked on Sunday, of course. With Saquon Barkley out for a month and likely more with a high ankle sprain, defenses are going to dial up even more pressure on Jones. And the more film there is of him running Shurmur's offense, the better opposing coordinators will become at trying to defend it.
But the Giants know there will be bumps along the way. That's why there is no edict for Shurmur to win or make the playoffs, or else.
There is only this: Jones is the future of the Giants organization. Coaches are always expendable. The Giants hired Shurmur knowing he'd have to shepherd a young quarterback into the future at some point, so they believe he's the guy to do it. But he still has to prove it. Even if there are struggles along the way -- and there certainly will be -- the arrow on Jones has to be pointing up.
Because Jones is going to be part of the Giants for a long, long time. Shurmur is the one who needs to convince the Giants that he should be, too.