The New York Giants made the hiring of new head coach Pat Shurmur official on Monday evening, less than 24 hours after his Minnesota Vikings were thrashed by the Philadelphia Eagles in the NFC Championship Game.
It was an anticlimactic end to a season that saw Shurmur mold an unassuming offense as its coordinator into a productive unit that went 13-3 with a journeyman quarterback in Case Keenum. Not to mention Shurmur orchestrated the final drive of the NFC Divisional Round against the New Orleans Saints that will be talked about for years to come after Stefon Diggs’ 61-yard game-winning reception as time expired.
As an offensive coordinator for seven years with the St. Louis Rams, Eagles and Vikings, Shurmur has spent plenty of time with NFL offenses over the past decade and he’ll need every bit of that knowledge to try and fix the Giants in 2018.
On paper, New York’s attack was supposed to be one of the most imposing in the NFL in 2017. But injuries sustained by Odell Beckham Jr. and Brandon Marshall which ended their seasons early, along with an inept offensive line and a slacking run game, curtailed any hope of legitimate success.
The Giants were ranked 21st in total yards last season while coming in 31st in points scored. Veteran quarterback Eli Manning was left running for his life with little support around him, which led to his unceremonious and controversial benching by former head coach Ben McAdoo.
Despite rumors of Manning’s demise in New York running rampant after his reinsertion under center following McAdoo’s firing and as the Giants secured the No. 2 pick in the draft where they could select a quarterback, the 37-year-old is still the man moving forward, according to general manager Dave Gettleman.
So what kind of offense might the Giants be running come 2018? If Shurmur’s last year of coordinating Minnesota’s offense indicated anything, it’s that the Giants might get back to basics:
Don’t expect huge changes
Shurmur has kept many parts of the west coast offense in his repertoire after working with Chip Kelly in Philadelphia from 2013-2015. That means pretty conservative play-calling and shorter routes from wide receivers. It allows Manning, like he did under McAdoo, to get the ball out of his hand quicker instead of facing the rush, which could be a constant threat if the Giants are unable to significantly upgrade their offensive line.
Back to the run game
Minnesota’s offense under Shurmur certainly enjoyed running the football in 2017. The Vikings ranked second in the NFL with 501 rush attempts and seventh with 1,957 yards gained. He’s not afraid to run his backs away from the trenches, going outside zone (off-tackle runs, for example) 22.5 percent of his runs, per Pro Football Focus. This shouldn’t be a difficult concept for Giants fans to grasp considering championships have been won over the last four decades because of strong, methodical run games spanning from Joe Morris to O.J. Anderson to Brandon Jacobs to Ahmad Bradshaw. Granted, this kind of offensive set-up is doomed to fail if running lanes are not cleared by the offensive line.
Prepare for play-action
Because of Shurmur’s fondness for the ground game, quarterbacks — no matter their pedigree — have a good chance of succeeding. There’s a reason why Keenum put up a career season after joining his third team in six seasons. Play-action passing, or faking the run, force opposing defenses to stay honest. Linebackers and members of the secondary are forced to pause instead of dropping into coverage while the defensive line might alter their routes to the quarterback in anticipation of a rush attempt. This will give Beckham Jr., Marshall and the developing tight end Evan Engram more of an opportunity to get open quicker.