EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. - Pat Shurmur has been described by the people that hired him as "an adult," "a professional football coach," "mature," and "a presence."
He'll need to be all that if he wants to gain control of a Giants locker room that sometimes seemed more like a day-care center last season.
That's a big reason why the Giants hired the 52-year-old Shurmur, a man with previous head coaching experience and a long NFL resume, rather than some younger, hot-shot assistant. In two years under the inexperienced Ben McAdoo, the Giants' locker room devolved into a mess of discipline issues, in-fighting, and players who seemed more about themselves than the team.
The Giants wanted someone who could walk into their building and immediately gain control. And on his first day in that building, Shurmur made it clear that's what he intends to do.
"I have zero tolerance for people that don't compete," Shurmur said. "I have zero tolerance for people that don't give effort. And I have zero tolerance for people that show a lack of respect. But the people and players that know me know that I'm willing to give them a hug at the end of a hard day."
With the exception of the "hug" part, that seems to put Shurmur closer to Tom Coughlin on the scale of disciplinarian coaches than to McAdoo, who sometimes seemed to have no idea how, or no desire to discipline players on his team. Shurmur didn't dive deep into his discipline plans on Friday, nor did he speak of any specific players.
But he made it clear that he considers football to be "a serious business. It's coached and played by adults."
"I think what's important is we establish at the very beginning the way we're going to do things and what we expect," he said. "And then keep talking about why it's important so that they believe it as well."
That sounds like a simple enough philosophy, but it was lost on some of the Giants players in recent years. Cornerbacks Janoris Jenkins and Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie both were suspended last season for violating team rules - Jenkins didn't show up for work after the bye week, and DRC stormed off the field and had a confrontation with coaches. Eli Apple had so many incidents he was benched multiple times and barely played at all down the stretch, and he became such an issue in the locker room teammate Landon Collins called him a "cancer."
Then, in the final week of the season, a season-long attitude problem with tackles Ereck Flowers and Bobby Hart boiled over when both players, nursing injuries, declined to practice, according to a team source. Hart was cut by new GM Dave Gettleman, and Flowers was inactive for the final game of the season.
With that kind of locker room dynamic for a 3-13 team, the last thing the Giants needed was a rookie coach who wasn't sure how to sort it all out.
"You know what? It's such a tough job, and especially coming off of a season like we came off of - 3-13 with all the issues we had in the locker room - you need someone who is an 'adult', who is professional and who has a certain demeanor to walk in there and start to straighten things out," Giants co-owner John Mara said. "I think he has all those qualities, but time will tell."
Mara said Shurmur checked all the boxes he was looking for - "someone with intelligence, leadership skills, a presence, a professional demeanor."
Left unsaid: Some of those were qualities that McAdoo clearly didn't have.
"I just feel excited, enthusiastic and extremely optimistic that Pat Shurmur is the New York Giants head coach" Mara added. "It was a great decision and I can't wait for the season to start with him putting all the pieces back together."
Shurmur is excited to get to work too, even if the task of rebuilding the Giants' locker room seems rather large.
"I think what you do is you start initially with the locker room by developing relationships with those guys that love to play football, and you're constantly talking to them about what it means to be a good pro," Shurmur said. "For a receiver to be a good pro sometimes is even though you're frustrated that you didn't get the ball, you've got to make sure you keep that in check. Maybe you're a defensive lineman that's not getting as many sacks. They need to understand that the pressure you're putting on the quarterback, even though you didn't sack him, is just as important."
That seems like a simple, easy-to-follow message. And so is this one from Shurmur:
"We're going to establish what we want as a New York Giants football team," he said. "And what we're going to do is we're going to inspire the players to see it our way."