EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. – No Giants player was as tethered to Pat Shurmur quite like Daniel Jones.
It was Shurmur who made the momentous decision to name Jones the starting quarterback and sit down franchise icon Eli Manning in Week 3. Shurmur tutored Jones in the meeting room, counseled him on the practice field and unleashed him on gameday. Jones threw for 3,027 yards and 24 touchdowns and established himself as a worthy successor to the best quarterback in Giants history.
So, it's no surprise that when Shurmur lost his job today, it hit 22-year-old rookie hard.
"It's tough," Jones said. "Obviously, that's I guess part of the business and part of being at this level. But it's tough on me, tough on all of us.
"(I'm) just disappointed. Coach obviously believed in me, coach believed in all of us, and it's disappointing. I'm grateful to him for the opportunity. I think he's an excellent football coach and I really appreciate what he's done for us."
Jones' opinion was hardly unique in the locker room. The Giants struggled in Shurmur's two years as coach, finishing with a 9-23 record, including 4-12 at home (where they fell in yesterday's season finale to Philadelphia, 34-17). They endured a nine-game losing streak this season and never won three games in a row.
But Shurmur was respected and well-liked by the players, who were sorry to hear he was dismissed in an early-morning meeting with team president John Mara, executive vice president Steve Tisch and general manager Dave Gettleman.
That includes the player who lost his job on the coach's decree.
"Coach Shurmur and I had a great relationship," Manning said. "I think he is a great coach, I think he is a wonderful man and (I'm) just disappointed. I think you always feel responsible when a coach gets fired. It's obviously because as players we didn't do our part. We didn't play well enough, we didn't win enough games. I feel for him and all the coaches. They worked hard and did a lot of hard work and a lot of good things. Obviously, just didn't win enough games for them to stay on and move forward, so (I'm) disappointed."
Saquon Barkley was Gettleman's and Shurmur's first draft choice and No. 2 overall in 2018, when he set numerous franchise records and was named NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year. An ankle injury cost Barkley three games this year, but he still rushed for 1,003 yards.
"I was surprised by it," Barkley said of the decision to change coaches. "Upset, we're all upset. I've been preaching all season whenever anyone asked me about what I think about if our coaching staff are the right people, I always kept saying it's easy to point the finger at one person. But at the end of the day, kind of like what DG (Gettleman) said in the (team) meeting, we're all responsible. We're all responsible for these last two seasons. Coach Shurmur is a heck of a person, heck of a coach, and definitely helped me develop over these last two years.
"He's one of the guys that believed in me, believed in D.J. (Jones), for us to get here and live our dreams of playing in the NFL. You don't want to see anybody go out like that. It sucks because, like I said, you point the finger at one person. It wasn't all him, it's all of us. We just need to take that and learn from the lesson, and in the future, to be better."
Sterling Shepard was the team's second-longest tenured player behind Manning. He was here two years ago when Ben McAdoo was fired with four games remaining in the season.
"It's a tough day," Shepard said. "What we all do affects a lot of people. You really get a look at that today. We all look back and wish we could have been better in different areas. That's the sucky part about this business.
"You build a relationship with people over the two years we had (Shurmur). He's a great person, a great guy, and it's just unfortunate that everything didn't work out here."
Like Shurmur, left tackle Nate Solder arrived in 2018, as a free agent.
"It's disappointing," Solder said. "I know when he was hired here and I know when I came here, there were such high expectations and such high hopes. I do believe that they've built a foundation of something great here. It's up to us to take a deep look at what we need to do better, those of us that will be here. We need to be a lot better."
Solder played his first seven NFL seasons in New England, where Bill Belichick has been the coach for 20 years.
"When you have a head coach, you just kind of think that's always going to be the case," Solder said. "This business is brutal. I think there were a lot of good things that came out of the last couple of years. But that doesn't matter if you're not getting the wins. The margin of error is so small, so thin, between winning and losing in this league. You have to find a way to come out on top."
The Giants will continue to try to do that with a new head coach.