EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. – The Coach’s Corner, Giants.com’s exclusive weekly interview with head coach Pat Shurmur:
Q: One play can turn a game, and one game can turn a season. Until it does, do you have to kind of take the temperature of where these guys are emotionally? A lot of them aren’t used to losing games, like Dexter (Lawrence, who played at Clemson), and DeAndre (Baker, a former star at Georgia). Do you have to gauge where they are emotionally?
Shurmur: “I think the important thing is you get into the process of what it takes to win. We get into the process, go out and try to put an effort on the field to win a football game. That’s what we’re going to try to do this week.”
Q: From what you’ve seen, are the players where you want them to be regarding their attitude?
Shurmur: “The players are fine. The players are working through it. We’ve had a good week of practice, and we’re looking forward to playing Detroit.”
Q: The topic of the week is the turnovers. Daniel (Jones) said yesterday, “It’s a huge focus of mine.” Do you want him obsessing about it, thinking about it or can that take away from his instinctiveness or his aggressiveness at all?
Shurmur: “No, that’s primary for a quarterback, obviously, protecting the football, especially in the pocket. Interceptions happen for whatever reason. But the fumbles in the pocket, he has to do a good job of protecting the football.”
Q: At practice, are you constantly reminding him about keeping two hands on the football?
Shurmur: “We practice it all of the time.”
Q: Are you verbally reminding him?
Shurmur: “Yeah, we coach him. Absolutely.”
Q: Regarding preparation, Eli (Manning) had so much experience that he could look at an upcoming opponent and suggest plays for the game plan. Is Daniel at that point yet or is it still too early in his development?
Shurmur: “No, Daniel has good ideas. He’s always… every quarterback I’ve been around has thoughts with regard to the game plan.”
Q: Saquon (Barkley) is always so upbeat, even through the injury. He had a (32-yard) run called back the other day. He was still encouraging everybody in the game, in the locker room after the game. Have you ever seen him frustrated or down at all?
Shurmur: “No. He’s super competitive. He doesn’t get down, he doesn’t get frustrated. I haven’t seen it.”
Q: A guy who is as important to the team as he is, to set that example, how important is that?
Shurmur: “It’s very important. I think your better players have to add value by being good leaders. I think he’s done that.”
Q: Rhett Ellison had the touchdown catch the other day. After the game, I don’t know if a reporter spoke to him. They were at Evan (Engram’s) locker, Golden (Tate’s) locker, Saquon’s locker. Ellison just comes to work and does his job and seems almost underappreciated.
Shurmur: “Not by me. The fact that someone didn’t want to ask him questions about it, that’s their business. I can’t be concerned about what other people think of things. But in my mind, he’s a very valued member of our team. He’s a good blocker. When we throw him the ball, he catches it. He handles his business like a pro. He’s steady and consistent, and for the most part, he’s always out there.”
View rare photos from the all-time series between the New York Giants and Detroit Lions.
Q: You’ve had eight different players start at linebacker and 11 different players line up at the position. You brought in two players this week. We talk about continuity at different positions. Does the constant change at linebacker affect the defense?
Shurmur: “Any position where you don’t have the same players playing all the time… you have to get ready for the opponent, but they also have to get used to the scheme. So, yeah, that has an effect.”
Q: Deone Bucannon, one of the newcomers, considers himself a hybrid linebacker/safety. He has a safety number (29). Does he give you flexibility to try some different things?
Shurmur: “We’ll see how much he can do here in the first couple of weeks. He has some familiarity scheme-wise, but we’ll just have to see how fast he can get up and going.”
Q: You were asked at your news conference about the pass interference challenges (0-for-four last week and just 17% overturned league-wide). The numbers aren’t good, but do you have to ignore that and decide whether or not to challenge simply on the merits of that particular play?
Shurmur: “Well, that’s true. It has to be worth something big, like a big play or a game-changing play, to some degree, that you think was officiated wrongly. That’s when you do it. A six or seven or eight-yard gain, you probably wouldn’t do it. But something that was maybe a third down, or a 40 or 50-yard play, then it’s something, in my mind, to consider. Again, I have faith in the system. But I do know the reality. In the real world, only 17, less than 20%, are being overturned. In my mind, what I think is egregious or obviously wrong isn’t always what the mindset of the person determining whether it should be overturned is.”
Q: This week you play in Detroit against the Lions, whose secondary has Big Play Slay (Darius Slay) and Big Play Tray (Tracy Walker). Even without (Quandre) Diggs, they’re known for being very competitive in the secondary…
Shurmur: “I’ve competed against the Lions for many years. They are. They’re very talented in the secondary. They do a good job of challenging. They play a lot of man-to-man. That certainly can change on a game-to-game basis, but they play a lot of man and they challenge the receivers well.”
Q: You’re also familiar with (quarterback Matthew) Stafford, who loves to throw the deep ball. Does your defense have to be a little more cognizant of defending the deep pass this week?
Shurmur: “Well, they’re always aware of it. But he is an aggressive thrower. He’s a top tier quarterback in this league. He’s played well, he’s played really well for a very, very long time, for many years. Certainly, we’re running up against another outstanding quarterback that can change the game with a couple of throws.”
Q: Jamal Agnew has had a 100-yard kickoff return this year. Two years ago, he had a long punt return touchdown against us. Does a guy like that get the attention of your special teams?
Shurmur: “Absolutely. Any player on the field that can score touchdowns certainly warrants extra attention.”
Q: You had some big news in the Shurmur family this week with (son) Kyle going up (to Kansas City’s active roster from the practice squad). As a dad, how much pride do you feel? And how did you find out? Did he call you?
Shurmur: “He texted me that he was being brought up. I’m proud of what Kyle has done. He’s very competitive, he’s very tough. In my opinion, he has great poise. He’s a student of the game. He studies it, and it’s something in his life that’s very, very important to him. I know that with this, he’ll be ready to play.”
Q: You learned a lot from working with Andy Reid. Has Kyle told you what it’s like for him to work with Reid and what he’s getting out of it?
Shurmur: “We talk a little bit. Some of the things that I’ve heard, I’m reminded of having worked with Andy. Quite frankly, for a young player, or really a player of any age, I’m certainly very, very thankful that he’s with Andy.”
Q: This is your first game as a head coach in Michigan. You grew up there. When we talked last year, you said, ‘I’m a Michiganer.’ Is it special going home in your position now?
Shurmur: “It’s nice to go home. It’s always nice to be able to see family and friends and get a short visit. But this is a business trip. This is about the Giants playing the Lions, and certainly the focus will be on my team and the game we’re going to play.”
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