It was another one of those marriages made in heaven. This was the adult head coach with head-coaching experience and the offensive chops to give Eli Manning one last hurrah and then at some point nurture and guide the next franchise quarterback — who turned out to be Daniel Jones — to carry the Big Blue torch back to the Super Bowl.
Pat Shurmur was a breath of fresh air summoned to revive a fallen franchise reeling from bad drafts and the botched termination of the icon quarterback’s iron man streak.
The lights went out the day Shurmur was introduced in the auditorium, and he won the press conference when he smiled and joked: “And we’re off. We have to keep adjusting.”
Bring on the Eagles! Bring on the Cowboys! And please, bring on the Redskins!
But then the games started.
But the winning never did.
And now we arrive at farewell Sunday, farewell to Manning as a Giant, and, barring an upset, or something unforeseen, or handwriting that has been written on the wall in pencil, or an urgent call from Jeff Wilpon reminding the owners that they will still owe three years on a five-year contract, farewell to Shurmur as well.
Ironically, as the day bleeds into what is forecast to be a rainy night, Shurmur will have a chance for his first three-game winning streak as head coach of the New York Football Giants, and possibly eliminate the Eagles from the playoffs at the same time, should the Cowboys best the Redskins.
Nevertheless, a stirring win still would just give him back-to-back 5-11 seasons.
As much as ownership treasures continuity and stability, as much as it has to be pleased with Jones’ development, it will have to ask itself how does it sell a coach who presided over a historic, franchise-tying nine-game losing streak to a fan base that has grown weary of buying mediocrity … and worse?
It may prove to be Pat Shurmur’s Scarlet Letter.
If it does, then he is Dead Coach Coaching on this Sunday.
Shurmur is a good man, and a good offensive football coach, and his players never quit on him, but when John Mara and Steve Tisch convene for their no-holds-barred summit, they will be forced to also ask themselves:
Has Pat Shurmur provided any evidence that he can be the forceful, fearless CEO who can carry us back to wherever they’re hiding that fifth Lombardi Trophy?
Shurmur arrived here still glowing from the Minneapolis Miracle that took him and the Vikings to the 2017 NFC Championship against the Eagles. There was no East Rutherford Miracle. In games that were begging to be won, Shurmur has too often lacked the play-calling savvy and nerve and tactical wizardry to overcome a disgrace of a defense to win them.
He may have been right about puppy progress behind the scenes from Monday-Saturday, but Giants fans care only about what they see on game day. And what they have seen has the natives restless at best, disenchanted, disillusioned, disgusted and distraught at worst.
It is a credit to Shurmur for keeping the locker room from fracturing.
The standard, of course, has to be higher than keeping the locker room from fracturing for head coach, New York Football Giants.
Shurmur has been the wrong coach at the wrong time in the wrong place.
It was the wrong job at the wrong time for the second time in his career.
But by no means does 9-22 rest solely on his shoulders.
General manager Dave Gettleman vowed to kick ass when he arrived, and 9-22 belongs to him, too.
Shurmur tried to make it work with Odell Beckham Jr. Tried to connect with the $90 million man. That relationship lasted less than one full season.
Shurmur wanted to believe that Manning, 37 when he became head coach, had years left. They all did. That belief lasted one year and two games and one Jones.
And yet in Shurmur’s defense, he was dealt a bad hand from the start, and if you have listened to him repeat how young his team is, you better believe he knows it:
An immobile Manning had no chance to win — or get the ball downfield to a frustrated Beckham — behind an offensive line that Gettleman failed to fix.
An abrupt about-face to a rebuilding project began before Halloween 2018 when Gettleman unloaded Damon “Snacks” Harrison and Eli Apple for draft picks, and it accelerated with the shocking trade of Beckham last March.
That started the clock on the Jones Era earlier than anyone saw coming because 2020 was deemed more of the priority than 2019.
Of course, you have to get to 2020 first.
If Shurmur gets to plead his case, he undoubtedly will have to sacrifice defensive coordinator James Bettcher and relinquish his cumbersome play-calling duties. And perhaps point out that Matt Patricia (9-21-1) and Dan Quinn (7-9 in 2018, 6-9 in ’19 but a Super Bowl LI appearance) survived.
So Manning wears his No. 10 for the final time, a number that no Giant will wear again, a Black Sunday for teary-eyed Giants fans whose thanks-for-the-memories cheers will follow him off the field and into the rest of his life. For Shurmur, it is fourth-and-15 again from his 33, late in the fourth quarter. On the eve of Black Monday, no less.
For more on the Giants, listen to the latest episode of the “Blue Rush” podcast: