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The Giants sunk to unimaginable depths in 2017 and on Sunday absorbed another major body blow when Patriots defensive coordinator Matt Patricia, their top choice for head coach, reportedly chose the Detroit Lions over New York.
This happened on the same day,
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, no less, that Tom Coughlin’s Jacksonville Jaguars punched their ticket to the AFC Championship Game in Foxborough to contrast with the Giants’ 3-13 disaster that got Ben McAdoo fired before Year 2 was up.
But losing games is one thing. Losing a coach to the Lions is another.
New England offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels’ presumed jump to the Indianapolis Colts takes the Giants’ top two names off the board,
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, leaving only Minnesota Vikings offensive coordinator Pat Shurmur of their three preferred candidates still available for hire.
And who knows? Shurmur could end up being the right man for the job. Though it might be difficult to hire him without also signing free agent QB Case Keenum, whom Shurmur reportedly prefers to take with him, after Keenum’s 61-yard TD pass at the buzzer Sunday night sent Minnesota to the NFC Championship Game in Philadelphia.
In any case,
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, it was truly a statement of the Giants’ fall from grace on Sunday when Patricia passed on Big Blue’s four Super Bowl trophies and storied history for the Lions, who have never even reached the big game in the Super Bowl era.
And imagine if Shurmur were to then choose the Arizona Cardinals’ opening,
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, where he is a strong candidate, too? Panthers defensive coordinator Steve Wilks perhaps would be the next man standing and might be a great hire in the long run, over the Giants, but the Giants would be hiring a coach they had previously ruled out of the running.
The Daily News first reported on Wednesday that both Patricia and the Giants saw a match in each other, but it was always between the Lions and Giants, and it would seem the bond between Patricia,
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, 43, and Detroit GM Bob Quinn, a former Patriots exec, was strong enough to swing the rocket scientist’s mind back to Motown.
Maybe the Lions also were more willing to break the NFL’s tampering rules than the Giants.
Clubs by rule are not allowed to even come to an agreement with a coach whose team is still alive in the playoffs, but that’s just what Detroit did with Patricia, on Sunday, per ESPN, despite the Patriots hosting the Jaguars in next weekend’s AFC Championship Game in Foxborough.
So the Giants could answer by coming to an unofficial agreement with Shurmur, despite his Vikings advancing, to avoid losing another coveted coach.
The alarming reality for the Giants,
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, though, is that their coaching job isn’t as attractive as it once was.
The Lions have a franchise quarterback in Matthew Stafford, 29, a foundation in a turnover already underway since Quinn’s 2016 hiring, a strong defense, and two playoff appearances in the past six years — one more than the Giants.
The Giants’ quarterback situation by contrast is in flux. Eli Manning,
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, 37, coming off a tear-filled benching with his future unknown, as of now appears to be the team’s 2018 starter,
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, with Davis Webb developing and the No. 2 overall pick in April’s draft possibly a QB,
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Perhaps more damaging than that uncertainty, though,
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,was the full implosion and fracture of the Giants’ locker room and franchise model the past two years, to the point where the Giants no longer stand as the gold standard but are just another organization in a downswing looking for ways to start winning again.
John Mara hired Dave Gettleman as GM to try to get the Giants back to what they’re supposed to be,
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, but it’s going to take time,
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,the jettisoning of bad apples from the roster is only just underway,
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, and that ongoing and unfinished process could be one of the turn-offs to a candidate.
Gettleman, 66, also is here as an experienced personnel man with a no-nonsense attitude whom the Giants hired to make the big calls on personnel. Perhaps Patricia wanted say in that area and saw a more collaborative operation with Quinn.
Odell Beckham Jr. is a special talent but the challenge that comes with coaching him, especially in the context of the Giants trying to restore a culture of professionalism and dignity, is significant.
Mara’s firing of McAdoo no doubt could be a factor, as well. The Giants’ team president signed off on phasing out Manning and when the decision blew up in their faces, a domestic abuser, Mara let his head coach take the fall. This came one year after the re-signing of kicker Josh Brown, stained the Giant brand.
The Giants and Mara, though, had built reputations as a model franchise and owner by operating with certain principles and there is a path back there again. Gettleman’s hiring was part of that and so will be the coaching hire.
Shurmur, 52, as the Daily News first reported, rose into the Giants’ first tier of candidates in this coaching search through the interview process. The 19-year NFL coaching veteran is part of the Andy Reid coaching tree and has a lot of the qualities that Mara said he wanted in his next coach.
Shurmur has head coaching experience and a 9-23 record in two years with Cleveland (2011-12) that arguably looks favorable in the context of what the Browns have become. He also went 1-0 as Eagles interim head coach filling in for the fired Chip Kelly in 2015, beating the Giants of course, 35-30.
He has extensive experience as a coordinator, including as Steve Spagnuolo’s offensive coordinator in St. Louis in 2009 and 2010, which could keep Spags with the Giants after enduring the final four games of this past season as interim head coach replacing McAdoo.
And Shurmur has a long resume of quarterback work, from Donovan McNabb to Nick Foles to this season’s success with Case Keenum (though his top two quarterbacks in Cleveland were Colt McCoy and Brandon Weeden).
Shurmur also has football in his blood. He is the nephew of the late Fritz Shurmur, who coached in the NFL for 24 years and was Green Bay’s defensive coordinator from 1994-98, winning Super Bowl XXXI under head coach Mike Holmgren with Reid as the tight ends/assistant offensive line coach.
So Shurmur or Wilks still could be exactly the coach the Giants need. Losing Patricia might not haunt the Giants in the long run. On Sunday, though, it said something about the state of the Giants that Patricia chose Detroit instead.
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