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Why the Giants are giving Pat Shurmur a second chance as an NFL head coach

The Vikings’ offensive coordinator is the Giants’ next head coach.

Minnesota Vikings v Detroit Lions Photo by Jorge Lemus/NurPhoto via Getty Images

Pat Shurmur is just 10-23 as an NFL head coach. All but one of those games came with the Browns — where he won eight more games than current coach Hue Jackson has in the same amount of time.

The Giants are reportedly betting on the new NFL adage that the Browns don’t count. The team announced Monday it hired the Vikings’ offensive coordinator as New York’s newest head coach now that Minnesota’s season is officially over with the NFC Championship loss to the Eagles on Sunday. It’s a five-year deal for Shurmur, according to ESPN’s Adam Schefter.

But why Pat Shurmur?

Shurmur spent the last nine years in the NFL as either an offensive coordinator or head coach, building a reputation as a quarterback guru in the process. He was the architect behind Nick Foles’ record-setting 2013 season with Philadelphia and Sam Bradford’s development in St. Louis, but his most impressive work has come over the past two seasons.

That’s when he helped Minnesota engineer a turnaround despite a couple of devastating injuries at quarterback. In 2016, Shurmur was promoted from tight ends coach to offensive coordinator in the middle of the season following Norv Turner’s resignation. That reunited Shurmur with Bradford to produce the best season of the passer’s career. While the Vikings finished just 8-8 after reaching the playoffs the previous season, Bradford led the league in completion rate and set personal records in yards per pass and QB rating.

As impressive as that performance was, Shurmur’s 2017 has been even better. With Teddy Bridgewater left rehabbing a traumatic knee injury for the second straight year and Bradford eventually landing on injured reserve with his own knee injury, third-string quarterback Case Keenum stepped into the starting lineup and put together a surprising MVP campaign that included an 11-3 record as a starter.

His work with Minnesota’s ground game was nearly as good. The Vikings lost impact rookie Dalvin Cook early in the season but still ran successfully with a Jerick McKinnon-Latavius Murray rotation. That proficiency, combined with a suffocating defense, pushed the club to the NFC’s No. 2 seed in the 2018 playoffs.

While this renaissance has been vital for Shurmur’s head coach bonafides, there’s still room for concern. In his first four seasons as a coordinator or head coach — two as the Rams’ offensive coordinator and two as the Browns’ head coach — he never ranked higher than 24th in terms of total yardage or points. He’s only coached in two playoff games in his career, one with the Eagles, and the Vikings’ Divisional Round win over the Saints.

And though Keenum has been one of the league’s best quarterbacks this season, and his heroic pass to Stefon Diggs kept the Vikings’ playoff run alive in that victory over the Saints, Minnesota’s top-ranked defense has been a more important figure in the team’s run to the NFL’s upper crust.

The Eagles — an NFC East rival of the Giants — had the Vikings’ number in the NFC Championship Game, holding Shurmur’s offense to a single score in the 38-7 win.

What awaits Shurmur with the Giants?

Shurmur won't have to groom two-time Super Bowl MVP Eli Manning in New York. Manning is one of the most accomplished quarterbacks in NFL history, but the offense as a whole struggled last season under Ben McAdoo. New York's offensive line couldn’t protect Manning, and its rushing attack ranked 26th in the NFL.

Shurmur likes to run the ball to set up play action and short passes, but he has to find a running back who can consistently take pressure off Manning. The Giants will also have to start thinking about life without Manning, who is 37 and will be entering his 15th NFL season. They have the No. 2 pick in the 2018 draft and are widely projected to select a quarterback.

The Giants have talented receivers in Odell Beckham Jr. and Brandon Marshall, who both suffered season-ending ankle injuries in 2017. Rookie tight end Evan Ingram and receiver Sterling Shepard showed flashes of being solid options in the pass game, too.

The superstar Beckham is excited about Shurmur coming on board:

Diggs thinks Shurmur is the right fit in New York.

“As a player, (Beckham) does a lot of things well, so it’s gonna be a fun offense for him to be in,” Diggs said, via Pat Leonard of the New York Daily News. “Because Pat knows how to get people the ball. He’s special. Good coach.”

The Giants' defense, on the other hand, was ranked 31st in 2017, regressing from a unit that finished 10th in the league in 2016. There are productive players on that side of the ball, but they also had issues in the locker roomthree cornerbacks were given suspensions at different points by the team this season. They can bounce back under the right leadership.

Shurmur and current interim head coach/former defensive coordinator Steve Spagnuolo started their NFL careers together under Andy Reid in Philadelphia. Spagnuolo, who was the head coach in St. Louis at the time, hired Shurmur as the Rams’ offensive coordinator in 2009. It’s possible he’ll keep Spagnuolo around for some continuity on defense.

But the defense will have to improve. Shurmur will also have to find a way to protect Manning and improve the rushing attack for the Giants to bounce back in 2018.