32 for 32 : Can Pat Shurmur Help Eli Manning Find His Mojo?
Editor’s Note: This is a part of our 32 for 32 QB Profiles series.
The New York Giants brought a premature end, or a long overdue one depending on your point of view, to the Ben McAdoo reign of terror last year. They didn’t even wait until Black Monday to can him. The team then moved to replace him with Pat Shurmur, who had spent the previous two seasons as the offensive coordinator in Minnesota. It was here that he was able to coax surprisingly efficient play from two disparate quarterbacks.
The Giants desperately need someone to re-energize their offense. It was this unit that McAdoo had managed to suffocate towards the end of his tenure. But can Shurmur work his magic again and return Eli Manning to something approaching his former glory?
Shurmur The Tinkerman
Shurmur does have head coaching experience in the NFL. He was the head coach of the Cleveland Browns between 2011 and 2012. Songs are not still sung celebrating his deeds with the team, shall we say, after the team went 9-23 during his tenure. Shurmur was Chip Kelly’s offensive coordinator with the Philadelphia Eagles from 2013-2015, and acted as the interim head coach for the 2015 finale after Kelly was fired. Shurmur oversaw an Eagles victory over the Giants, before being politely asked to leave the organization.
It was off to Minnesota for Shurmur after that, where he landed a gig as the tight ends coach on Norv Turner’s offensive staff. But after Turner left during the season, Shurmur was once more catapulted to the fore. As interim OC, Shurmur oversaw a career-season from Sam Bradford (who he had worked with in Philadelphia). Bradford set an NFL record by completing 71.6 percent of his pass attempts, while also setting career-highs in Interception rate (0.9%), Yards per Attempt (7.0), and QB Rating (99.3). At the end of the season, Shurmur became the full time OC.
In Week 1 of the 2017 season, Bradford put on an absolute clinic, completing 27-of-32 attempts for 346 yards and three touchdowns against the New Orleans Saints. He would sadly attempt only nine more passes all season. In his stead came journeyman Case Keenum. If Bradford’s deeds under Shurmur were impressive, what Keenum achieved under his tutelage was astonishing. Like Bradford the year before, Keenum posted career-best marks in several key categories:
The 2017 Vikings under Keenum relied a lot less on their passing game than Bradford’s 2016 charges. In 2016, the Vikings had the ninth-highest Pass/Run ratio in the NFL with a ratio of 1.65:1, calling the 11th-most pass plays. In 2017, this ratio dropped to 1.10:1, while 22 teams went to the air more than the Vikings. This point will become crucial when we look at Shurmur’s quarterback for the coming season.
In New York
The 2017, the Vikings allowed the ground game to take the pressure off their quarterback and were rewarded with remarkable efficiency from a once thought of inefficient player. The Giants appear dedicated to adopting a similar approach this season. After attempting the fourth-most pass plays in the NFL last season, the Giants front office took steps to remake their offense this past spring.
The Giants could have selected one of the highly-touted quarterback prospects with their second overall pick. Instead, they chose Penn State running back Saquon Barkley. Barkley joins Jonathan Stewart in the Giants backfield after the Carolina Panthers released their all-time rushing leader at the end of last season. The Giants used their second-round draft pick on guard Will Hernandez. This move came after spending big money to bring in Nate Solder from the New England Patriots in free agency. The message is clear, the Giants want to run the ball and run it a lot.
But will this help Manning in the way it helped Keenum? There are more than a few reasons to think that it probably won’t. From a statistical standpoint, Manning has been on the slide since the beginning of the McAdoo head coaching era. He has regressed in several key areas over the last few seasons, as the table below shows.
|SEASON||Passing Yards||Touchdowns||TD %||Yards/Attempt||QB Rating|
Manning didn’t get an offensive unit operating at peak efficiency in 2017. He saw 50 passes dropped, the most of any quarterback last season. However, there is a real risk, in my opinion, that Manning is just not able to execute the role of a starting caliber NFL quarterback any longer. Rather than maximizing his opportunities to unlock greater efficiency, there is a danger that the Giants would instead simply be hiding him in their offense.
If he were to be relegated to the role of game manager, there is enough evidence to suggest that even this job would be beyond him. Manning has never been what one would consider “careful” with the football. He has thrown at least 13 interceptions in every season he has been the full 16-game starter, except 2008 (10). His streak of 13 seasons with double-digit picks is the third-longest in NFL history, behind only John Elway (16) and Brett Favre (17).
The Giants did their new head coach a huge disservice by not addressing the quarterback position early in the draft. It wasn’t until the fourth round that they selected Kyle Lauletta. Lauletta took home MVP honors from the Senior Bowl after passing for 198 yards and three touchdowns and is not a terrible prospect. He is the type of player a good offensive coach would love to get his hands on, so as to develop him into a viable quarterback option for the future.
However, the “future” for the Giants could be sooner than they think. There is every chance that Lauletta will beat out Davis Webb for the backup job in 2018. The Giants, after all, think so highly of Webb that they trotted Geno Smith out ahead of him last season in the game that broke Manning’s consecutive starts streak.
If Manning truly has lost whatever it was that made him Manning, and the Giants are forced to make a change at quarterback, it will be a ridiculously raw prospect they turn to. Could Lauletta, or Webb, or even Manning produce at an average level in 2018? If so, it will be an achievement truly greater than that achieved by Keenum in 2017.
Neil resides near Liverpool in England. He lives with his fiancé and their two daughters, as well as a guinea pig named Piggle.
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