EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. – The Coach’s Corner, Giants.com’s exclusive weekly interview with head coach Pat Shurmur:
Q: When you were asked this week about the division race, you said, “Our focus is on Arizona.” Some coaches keep their players constantly apprised of where they are in the division race. Are you more of a game absolutist? You just want them focused only on the game and let everything else take care of itself?
Shurmur: “I am. That’s a good way to put it. I’ve never heard it that way. That’s true, I am a game absolutist. I think it’s important that, because it’s such a long season, you just have to play each game and really try to overcome the challenges that each game presents. Then, at the end, you add them up.”
Q: When Golden Tate was asked yesterday about the possibility of Saquon (Barkley) returning, he said, “We can spray the ball around everywhere, which makes it tough to cover us.” Is that the way you look at him possibly returning, or are you just looking forward to getting the ball to Saquon again?
Shurmur: “When you add another outstanding player to the mix, it helps balance things out. Certainly, we all know what Saquon brings to the game. His ability to run the ball, his ability to catch the ball, and then he’s really good in pass protection are all three things that it’ll be great to have him back. Not to mention his leadership and his spirit and all that.”
Q: Since he was sidelined, he’s been a vocal presence, encouraging the running backs, staying engaged on the practice field. You don’t see that all of the time. Do you think he is special in that regard?
Shurmur: “He is. And again, let’s speak about this with the idea that if he’s back. So when we talk about it, if he’s back. If he’s back, he certainly adds… Yeah, his encouragement and his value added and all of the things that he does are very important.”
Q: As a coach, particularly an offensive coach, I’m sure turnovers turn your stomach. Do you have to learn to live with them a little bit more because Daniel (Jones) is a young quarterback, or are you an absolutist there, too, with zero tolerance for turnovers?
Shurmur: “Zero tolerance, certainly. I’m an absolutist there as well. We have to minimize turning the football over. That’s obviously important. It’s also important that the players remain aggressive. There’s a fine line between being aggressive and being careless with the football. As a quarterback, you have to be a good decision-maker throughout the down, early, middle and late. I think a couple times the other day (last week at New England), those turnovers were late in the down. Those are things that he can get better at.”
Q: After you said it at your news conference, Daniel was asked about his month since he became the starting quarterback. He said, “I’ve been inconsistent overall. I’ve been good and bad.” As you look at the month, what are one or two things that you’re most pleased about with what he’s done?
Shurmur: “He’s very self-aware, which if you’re self-aware, and I think we’re that way as coaches, too, then you’ll find ways to improve. We won a couple games and we lost a couple games. From a team standpoint, that’s inconsistent, too. Forget who we’re playing against. Each week, you’re charged with going out and winning games. I think that mindset will serve him well as he moves forward, because there are certainly a lot of things to learn. Certainly, there are a lot of things that he’s been able to learn from, and certainly, we’re looking forward to seeing him lead us to victories.”
Q: At practice yesterday, and you’ve done this before, during a drill, you worked one-on-one with Daniel. I think Eli (Manning) was there. I haven’t seen head coaches often do that during team or seven-on-seven periods. Do you still enjoy that part of the job, the individual instruction? And even though you’re responsible for everyone, do you still like the one-on-one work when you get to do it?
Shurmur: “Yes, I do. I do spend a lot of time with Daniel one-on-one in drive-by settings. We have meetings, obviously. Mike (Shula) and (Ryan) Roeder are doing an excellent job with him, but I think it’s important that he hears things from me, as well. I try to do that with all of the players at all of the positions. I guess as the head coach, you’re always looking for coachable moments, and when they appear on the practice field, I think that’s where it’s important to work with the players.”
Q: (Running back) Buck Allen joined the team this week. At that position, how tough is it to learn an offense on the fly in the middle of the season?
Shurmur: “Very difficult. But we have a specific game plan for this week. That’s how he’ll start to learn the offense, obviously, through the plan that we’re going to put together for Arizona.”
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Q: The defense has had at least three sacks in each of the last five games. Is it more comfort in the scheme? Effort? What do you see there?
Shurmur: “Probably both. There was a lot of conversation about how we were going to create a pass rush all summer. Nobody seemed to believe when we said that we had some guys that were going to be better than they were a year ago, and then we added a couple of guys that would help us. I think that’s what has happened. Markus Golden, he’s a year removed from an injury, and prior to that, he had 12.5 sacks. It doesn’t surprise me that he’s getting some pressure on the quarterback. He works hard. Then some of the young players are playing hard and getting better.”
Q: Markus has at least half-sack in each of the last five games. Is he becoming the player that you expected him to be when you signed him? Not only the sacks, he’s been disruptive.
Shurmur: “He has been disruptive, which you need to be on the edge. I feel like he’s done a really good job playing the game and playing hard, and he’s had an impact on every game.”
Q: One guy who arrived without much fanfare was (linebacker) David Mayo, and he’s had a career-high tackles total in each of the last three games. Being able to plug in a guy like that when you had players injured and have him produce, how important has that been?
Shurmur: “Very important. Dave is a good football player. Unfortunately in his career, he hasn’t had as much of an opportunity to play on first, second and third down as he has here. But he’s made the best of it and we’re pleased with what he’s done.”
Q: Sam Beal returned to the practice field. You have those four young corners, three of whom really haven’t played (Beal, Julian Love and Corey Ballentine). DeAndre Baker has been starting. In your perfect world, would those players develop and become a quartet you can use together?
Shurmur: “Well, it would be nice if they all developed the way we think they should. I think they’re all young. With regard to Sam, this will give him the opportunity to improve here over the next few weeks until we make the decision to put him up. I think the important thing is for those guys to play and to practice, play in games, learn things, improve, have success, and do all of the things that you have to do. Certainly, they have youth on their side.”
Q: You said during one of your news conferences that sometimes young players can be your best leaders. The captains are all older, veteran players. You have a lot of young guys. Who among them do you see as future or even current leaders on the team?
Shurmur: “I think you’d have to go down the line on all of the players that are playing and having an impact. We have one of the youngest teams in the league. So we have a lot of young players, probably too many to list, that have a chance to, number one, improve their play to the point where they can handle what they’re doing, and then have influence on other people. I think that’s the challenge. As time goes on, you’ll see kind of how that leadership works its way to the top.”
Q: The Cardinals offense often deploys four wide receivers and is run at a fast pace with a lot of no-huddle. Is this an offense that puts pressure on the defense in unconventional ways as you look at it?
Shurmur: “It’s a little unique to some of the offenses we play. But playing fast, playing from no huddle, playing with tempo, it’s not new to the NFL. We just have to do a good job of defending it.”
Q: A lot of quarterbacks you want to flush out of the pocket. Is (Kyler) Murray one you want to keep in the pocket, because he can make plays with his feet, too?
Shurmur: “I think he can have success in both places. He’s a very talented passer who can make plays from the pocket. We need to pressure him. Certainly, part of his charm is his ability to escape and extend plays and make big plays. That’s certainly always the challenge when you play a quarterback that can move around like he can.”
Q: Defensively, they’re a big pressure team that blitzes a lot. We sit here every week and say it’s a big pressure team. What stands out about them?
Shurmur: “Every defense pressures. Every defense plays zone. Every defense plays man. The challenge you face every week is certainly guys winning their one-on-one matchups, and they have very talented players. With whatever they choose to do, it’s… We talk about all of the good defenses we’re going to play every week. It’s just like every week. You need to secure the ball, run the ball, and throw the ball efficiently. I think that’s the challenge. That’s what makes it fun as a coach, to try to find the things that work against a defense and get them called at the right time.”
Q: I would imagine in your time in the league, you’ve come across Larry Fitzgerald a few times. To see someone that’s playing at that high a level in his 16th season, is it safe to say you’re an admirer of his?
Shurmur: “Absolutely. He’s been good for the Cardinals. He’s been great for the league. I admire not only how he plays, but also how he handles his business. He’s a classy, classy guy, and it appears to me like he has high integrity. I don’t know him as well as some, but I certainly have admired how he’s handled his business and how well he’s played.”
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