Shortly after the Giants began their head coaching search, a team source described the pool of candidates as "uninspiring." That wasn't an indictment on their abililties. Their names just didn't generate any buzz.
But just because there was no Bill Belichick, Nick Saban, or Jon Gruden in the (realistic) group doesn't mean the Giants didn't pick a winner. Pat Shurmur, as dull as the hiring may seem, might just be the right guy to turn the Giants around.
Shurmur was officially named the Giants' head coach on Monday, and will be introduced on Friday. And while he doesn't come with a handful of Super Bowl rings, TV fame, or a Q rating, he comes with plenty of experience and a trail of NFL success. He may seem like a bland choice based on name recognition, but he's a far better choice than the man he's replacing.
Ben McAdoo, while hired for sound reasons, proved to be too inexperienced and too overwhelmed to handle the demands of the head coach's office.
Shurmur knows what he's getting into because he's done it before, and he made mistakes from which he can learn.
That's huge, even if it's not exciting that he has a 9-23 record as a head coach from his two years (2011-12) with the Cleveland Browns. He's experienced the "dumpster fires" that McAdoo once lamented come across a coach's desk everyday. He went through the learning experience of calling his own plays as a head coach (which led to him hiring an offensive coordinator to help out during his second season). He faced the media in both good times and bad (mostly bad).
That's what Giants co-owner John Mara wanted. He said his next coach "has to be somebody who has either had head coaching experience or at least has been a coordinator for a significant period of time, because I think if you don't have that the odds are really stacked against you." And he had good reason for that. McAdoo was a risk - a risk that made sense at the time given the way Eli Manning thrived in McAdoo's offense in 2014-15.
In Year 1, it paid off. But, in Year 2, the demands of the discipline, the media obligations, the other logistics, the play-calling, it all became too great for someone who had never done it before. Eventually the house of cards collapsed as McAdoo crumbled under the job's weight.
The risk of that happening with Shurmur is far less.
Of course, it might be true that he's one of the many, many fine NFL coaches who can be successful as coordinators, but just can't make the transition to the big chair. But there are many examples of coaches who struggled in their first jobs and had success in later tries.
The platinum standard, of course, is Bill Belichick (36-44 in Cleveland from 1991-95, then a god in New England since 2000). But there's also Pete Carroll (6-10 with the Jets, 27-21 in New England, then a Super Bowl champion in Seattle), Marv Levy (31-42 in Kansas City from 1978-82, 112-70 and four straight trips to the Super Bowl in Buffalo from 1986-97), and many others.
It doesn't always happen, of course, and sometimes the success the second time around is only mild. But like a quarterback entering his second season after seeming lost as a rookie, at least a second-time head coach knows what he's looking at, and what he's supposed to do.
And besides, it's unfair to judge Shurmur based on his two years with the Browns. He took over the team during the NFL lockout, making it impossible to really install his program before the start of his first season. In the midst of his tenure, the team was being sold, creating a bit of chaos in management (which is the usual for the Browns). He was also saddled with Colt McCoy and Brandon Weeden at quarterback in those seasons (though it's worth noting that both had the best seasons of their careers under Shurmur's direction).
In the end, talent will define Shurmur's tenure. Can Manning still play? Can the Giants find an adequate replacement? Can GM Dave Gettleman build even a decent offensive line? The answers to those questions are the ones that will matter most.
But the other questions - the ones that dogged McAdoo in his second season - should be gone. Shurmur knows from experience what works and what doesn't when it comes to running his offense, disciplining his players, dealing with the media (even if this will be his first taste of New York). Imagine if McAdoo could have looked back and seen how his combative, condescending attitude with the media was a failure, how his friendly approach with players didn't work, how his discipline was viewed as uneven. He could avoid making the same mistakes twice. He'd have to be a better coach, right?
That's where Shurmur is. He has two years of mistakes and good decisions to look back on as he plans the Giants' future. He has a chance to right what once went wrong. The man can coach. Just look at what he did with the Vikings' offense this season with journeyman quarterback Case Keenum, or what he did in Philadelphia as the Eagles offensive coordinator in 2013 with quarterback Nick Foles. He has long been considered by many around the league to be a brilliant offensive mind.
But the big office, the one where the "dumpster fires" pile up on the desk can change everything. It can turn the best coach into an overwhelmed office manager. When that happens, the players, the fans, and everyone can sense it, and that's usually when everything falls apart.
Don't expect that to happen to Shurmur the second time around because he's already fought those battles. This time he knows what he's in for, and he shouldn't be overwhelmed. That's why experience mattered to Mara. That's why he wanted a coach who took the job with lessons learned and something to prove.
That's what the Giants needed, far more than a coach with a big name or a dazzling resume. They needed a coach who understands what it takes to be a head coach, and that's what they got in Shurmur.
He already knows what he has to do to get this job done.