Less than two years ago, the Giants gave Pat Shurmur the keys to a dysfunctional mess of a locker room because they believed he was the "adult" who could clean it up. And in many ways he did. The room is far more professional than it was back then.
But that didn't matter as much as maybe it should have in this bottom line business. Shurmur went 9-23 in his two seasons with the Giants, including 4-11 with a franchise-record-tying nine-game losing streak this year.
In the end, the 54-year-old Shurmur never had a chance.
Shurmur was fired by the Giants solely because he didn't win -- in the end, the most important thing that matters for a coach. Never mind the context of why, the flawed roster in transition, or even the progress shown by so many of the young players under his care. The bottom line was that fans were fed up with the "behind the scenes" progress Shurmur touted and all those good practices he said his team had. All they saw was the price of their tickets, no hope of the playoffs, and five seasons of double-digit losses in the last six years.
So John Mara and Steve Tisch knew someone had to be accountable for that. There was no way they could sell their fan base on the status quo again.
It's not the wrong call, really, because winning is everything in the NFL. But it is a bit of a disturbing trend for a Giants team that used to be a model of stability. They gave Shurmur a five-year contract back in 2018, presumably because they knew his program would take some time to build -- especially once they made the transition from Eli Manning to their Quarterback of the Future. That showed commitment both to Shurmur and to the necessary patience that is usually part of their plan.
But now, they will be searching for their fourth head coach in the last six seasons -- fifth if you count interim coach Steve Spagnuolo. It's an unprecedented level of instability for this franchise that just doesn't accept that kind of turnover. It hasn't been anywhere near this bad since Bill Parcells resigned after the 1990 season and the Ray Handley nightmare was a short bridge to Dan Reeves -- three coaches in a span of four seasons.
This floundering is worse, because it's not clear even the Giants know the direction that they're headed.
And Shurmur deserved better. He was a flawed coach, to be sure. He probably should have given up play-calling duties to focus on the big picture of game management. Maybe then he wouldn't have made so many time management gaffes and would've kept Saquon Barkley more involved in the offense. He definitely whiffed on his choice of defensive coordinator, though James Bettcher sure did look like a great choice at the time.
But look at the hand Shurmur was dealt.
Despite the Giants' insistence that they could win and rebuild at the same time, they were in tear-down mode almost from the moment Shurmur arrived. He desperately tried to make things work with dynamic receiver Odell Beckham Jr., until the diva became too much for even the coach to defend. And he's just one of the talented players the Giants took away, joining the likes of Olivier Vernon, Jason Pierre-Paul, Landon Collins and more. The defense was gutted, out of necessity, in the name of cleaning up the locker room and clearing out salary cap space.
It was the right plan that will pay dividends in the near future, but it didn't leave Shurmur enough with which to win.
And then it got worse. The Giants had a decent array of offensive talent with Barkley, Golden Tate, Sterling Shepard and tight end Evan Engram. But those four weren't on the field together for a single game in 2019. In Week 2, Shurmur pushed for the switch from Manning to rookie Daniel Jones, which was probably the right move for the franchise's long-term future. But everyone had to know that playing a rookie quarterback so soon was going to bring short-term pain.
By the end, Shurmur had 10 first- or second-year players in his starting lineup. Engram played only eight games this season due to injuries. Safety Jabrill Peppers played only half a season. Barkley missed nearly a month. So did Tate and Shepard. Janoris Jenkins, the Giants' best corner, was just released.
So yeah, Shurmur didn't win a lot. Vince Lombardi or Parcells probably wouldn't have won a lot with this group. Who knows if Shurmur would've won in the long-term with the Giants. But in the short-term it sure looks like he was set up to fail.
If this were fair, patience would've prevailed and Shurmur would've been given another year to see if a staff shakeup, an influx of high draft picks and free agents, and the development of some young players could've helped him get the Giants back on the right track. Instead, the Giants decided to switch gears again, and all that will end up helping someone else.
But to be fair to his bosses, Shurmur put them in a tough spot by not being able to squeak out just a few more wins. The truth about the Giants is that they don't like change, and they're surely not proud of all their recent upheaval. They were looking for any reason to keep Shurmur and avoid what became inevitable. They probably would've accepted even the flimsiest reason or excuse.
The numbers, though, are unavoidable. Shurmur won less than a third of his games, which only adds fuel to the fire of what is now a dismal career record as a head coach. Maybe the future would've been bright for the Giants under Shurmur. There were certainly signs that it was possible.
But the bosses didn't think they could afford to wait for that to play out.
It's an increasingly impatient league, and Mara and Tisch are no longer immune to the quick-fix temptations they once shunned. So Shurmur is out. And now, fair or not, the future of the Giants belongs to someone else.