One of the many things that undermined Ben McAdoo's tenure with the Giants was his attempt to be a head coach and call the offensive plays at the same time.
Apparently, Pat Shurmur is going to try to do that double-duty, too.
That has been expected since Shurmur was revealed to be the new head coach of the Giants, but it was confirmed (pretty much) by Giants GM Dave Gettleman at the Senior Bowl in Mobile, Ala. on Wednesday. He said that based on his interview and conversations with his 52-year-old coach, he expects Shurmur will be the Giants' play caller.
"I believe so, yes," Gettleman said.
Despite what happened with McAdoo, the Giants won't stand in Shurmur's way if that's what he ultimately decides to do. For one thing, he's done it before - in 2011, his first year as head coach of the Cleveland Browns - and even though it wasn't a very successful endeavor, at least he knows what the dual jobs entail. And for another, Giants management generally doesn't interfere with coaching decisions.
They certainly wouldn't interfere with the plans of a coach in his first year.
Also, Shurmur is coming off an incredibly successful run as a play caller with the Minnesota Vikings as their offensive coordinator. Despite being down two starting quarterbacks (Teddy Bridgewater, Sam Bradford) and losing their starting running back (rookie Dalvin Cook) early in the season, Shurmur's offense still ranked 11th in the NFL (10th in scoring) and journeyman quarterback Case Keenum had a career year.
As a result, Shurmur was recently named the NFL Assistant Coach of the Year by the Pro Football Writers of America.
Still, there are cautionary tales for coaches who call their own plays, including out of Shurmur's own background. He tried that in 2011, but the Cleveland Browns finished 29th overall in offense and 30th in scoring. He was his own offensive coordinator in that first season too, and it didn't help that the NFL lockout wiped out much of the offseason when he would've been installing his scheme.
The next year he hired Brad Childress as his offensive coordinator and handed over the play-calling duties. The Browns' offense wasn't much better the next season - 25th overall, 24th in scoring - and Shurmur and his staff were fired.
He did have a ringside seat for a more successful version of the play-calling head coach when he was the offensive coordinator for Chip Kelly's Eagles from 2013-15. Shurmur helped with the offensive game plan, but Kelly called the plays on game day. The Eagles' offense ranked second, fifth, and 12th in the NFL in Kelly's three years.
That's one reason why many believe that Shurmur will hire an offensive coordinator even if he calls his own plays. That, at least, would allow someone else to take some of the game-planning work off his plate during the week - and would be another voice in his ear on game day.
McAdoo, of course, didn't have that until the middle of last season when he finally ceded the game-day play-calling duties to his offensive coordinator, Mike Sullivan (possibly under some pressure from ownership). And before that, even when the Giants went 11-5 in McAdoo's first season as head coach, he never seemed comfortable - and was never successful - in his dual roles.
As offensive coordinator under Tom Coughlin, McAdoo's offenses ranked 10th and eighth in 2014-15. But when he tried to call plays and be a head coach at the same time, the offense sunk to 25th in 2016 and 21st in 2017, and famously didn't score 30 points in a single game during his entire tenure.