EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. – Shurmur Sez, Giants.com’s exclusive weekly interview with head coach Pat Shurmur:
Q: You’ve coached a long time and it’s always a letdown when you’re officially eliminated from the playoffs, particularly after you’ve been playing so well. As a coach, do you react to that by simply moving onto the next task?
Shurmur: “I think what’s important is we stay in the moment and we get ready to play the Colts, and we do it because that’s what we do. We’re players and coaches and this is our profession. So you move forward and you always try to put your best effort on the field to win the next game.”
Q: The players take their cue from you. Do you think it’s important that you approach this game as you did the first 14 games? Is it important for them to see that from you?
Shurmur: “Oh, absolutely. I think that’s the thing about this league, you need to remain consistent in your approach and tryeach day to make this the best Thursday of the year. Tomorrow,the best Friday of the year. The more you play the game, the better you get, and I think we have to still constantly look for improvement moving forward.”
Q: The offense struggled the other day against the Titans. You didn’t have Odell (Beckham, Jr.). As you watched the tape, did they make a particularly strong effort to stop Saquon (Barkley)?
Shurmur: “We didn’t have Odell the week before and we performed very well, so it had nothing to do with that. It had to do with the players on the field and the way we coached the game. So we have to do a better job. I have to do a better job of putting them in better positions, and we need to execute better.”
Q: The game was played in a downpour, particularly in the second half. In those conditions, do you have to adjust your playcalling, or do stay with the plan you started the game with?
Shurmur: “No, I don’t think you adjust it. We threw the ball more than we wanted to, but in the fourth quarter we’re down by 17 points. In the first three quarters, we were trying to do what we do, and we just didn’t get as many yards running the ball. We had penalties that knocked us off schedule, we did some of the things that we did early in the year that hurt us that showed up again. We have to eliminate that.”
Q: Eli (Manning) threw 21 passes to the wide receivers, who caught only nine of them. Were the throws poor, were thereceivers not getting separation, did they drop too many?
Shurmur: “Anytime you don’t complete a pass or a string of passes, certainly there’s multiple reasons for it. We had drops, which you can’t have in any conditions, and then there were some balls that were off target. And then there were times when we didn’t have time to throw, so it’s a combination of everything.”
Q: Saquon has talked about the history of the franchise and some of the great players who have worn a Giants uniform. He is the first Giants rookie running back to make the Pro Bowl since 1965. How did he react to that?
Shurmur: “To the Pro Bowl selection? Other than congratulating him, I haven’t had much conversation with him. My sense is he’ll take it in stride, just like he’s done everything this year, and take it for what it’s worth and understand it’s a great honor, but know that he’s got to try to get better each week.”
Q: Aldrick (Rosas, who was named to the Pro Bowl this week) last year missed seven field goal attempts and three PATs. When you took the job and began studying the roster, did you at some point look at those statistics and think you might have to get another kicker? Did you change your mind about him at some point?
Shurmur: “No, I never really changed my mind about him. He made our team. We felt he gave us the best opportunity to win. He did a good job in the offseason and he was our kicker, he is our kicker and he had an outstanding year.”
Q: He’s 28-for-29 on field goal attempts, which is pretty remarkable.
Shurmur: “Yeah, it’s good. That’s what you’re looking for, consistency, and he made some long kicks, some tough kicks, and when you have a guy that you can count on like that, it’s huge for your football team.”
Q: Michael Thomas had seven tackles and a sack last week. How well has he played since moving into the starting lineup for Landon Collins (who is on injured reserve)?
Shurmur: “Michael’s a true pro, and he’s also our (Walter Payton) Man of the Year (Award) candidate. He is a guy that I can really appreciate where he comes from. He’s a professional, he handles things the right way, and he’s certainly a guy that’s had an impact on our season.”
Q: As a special teams captain, when he steps into the back of the defense like that, does he naturally gravitate toward a leadership role there as well?
Shurmur: “He’s done that in the past, and I think he just showed on defense what he’s shown on special teams.”
Q: You call the offensive plays, so during the week you spend most of your time with the offensive coaches. How much time do you spend in a typical week with the defense and special teams? Do you sit in on meetings?
Shurmur: “I’m involved with all phases and offer suggestions. We talk pregame planning and game planning, and then obviously I’m involved throughout the game and how it’s called. So I’m aware of what we’re doing. Certainly, our coordinators do their jobs. I trust them to do it well and I’m certainly in-tune with what we’re doing in terms of how we’re trying to cover, how we’re trying to pressure, how we’re trying to defend the run, so on and so forth.”
Q: Are you sometimes more proactive – “I want you to do this” or “I want to see that.” or do they come to you and say, ‘This is what we’re going to do,” and you okay or suggest an alternative?
Shurmur: “I think it’s a little of both. I think there’s areas where I have suggestions on how to help them game plan, but I’m also involved with the execution of it on game day.”
Q: You’re playing in Indianapolis this week, which was the site of your first victory as an NFL head coach (with Cleveland in Week 2 of the 2011 season). What do you remember about that game?
Shurmur: “Well, we went in and it was a hard-fought game, but we found a way to make enough plays to win it. I’m fond of that experience. Your first, you certainly don’t forget it.”
Q: Adam Vinatieri kicked four field goals then and he’ll be kicking against you on Sunday.
Shurmur: “He’s obviously one of the great kickers of all time and he’s certainly still doing it.”
Q: Last week, Derrick Henry rushed for 170 yards and picked up many of them due to poor tackling. This week, you face Marlon Mack, who is not as big but is similarly strong.
Shurmur: “I think, last week, we probably didn’t fit the runs and we didn’t tackle as well as we have in previous weeks, and it showed up. I think they had 100 yards in rushing after our first responder. He either missed the tackle or didn’t get him on the ground, so I think that’s important that we clean that up. We’ve done that extremely well in the weeks previous. and we have to get back to doing that again.”
Q: Early in the year, Andrew Luck’s arm wasn’t at full strength, the result of the surgery that sidelined him all of last season. What did you see this week when you watched his recent performances?
Shurmur: “He looks good to me. I think he looks like a guy that’s playing himself back in it. Quarterbacks that have season-ending injuries, when they start the next season, it takes them a while to get going again, and some of it’s mental. They’ve trained in kind of controlled settings, drill work, teamwork where they’re not going to get hit. Now they get into the uncontrolled setting of a game, where they’re getting rushed, they’ve got to move, they’ve got to adjust to what happens. They can’t control it and it takes them a while to get back, get a feel for that again, and it’s obvious that he’s back to full strength.”
Q: Much of their recent success is due to them solidifying the offensive line. As a former lineman, do you appreciate it when you see a line come together like that, even if it’s on an opposing team?
Shurmur: “It all starts up front, and you see examples of that every year. I think we’re doing what we can to solidify our offensive line. When you can say the strength of your team is your offensive line, then that’s going to translate into wins.”
Q: Darius Leonard, another rookie, is upset about not going to the Pro Bowl, and says he wants to get 40 tackles this week. That might be difficult. What do you see when you watch their defensive tape? Do you see a sideline to sideline player who’s involved in a lot of plays?
Shurmur: “I do, and he’s a very active player. He fits with their defensive scheme, which requires that they run, and he’s a great fit for their team.”
Q: (Colts coach) Frank Reich publicly spoke about your admiration for each other this week. You never worked with Frank – have you just seen him on the football trail through the years?
Shurmur: “We have a professional friendship and I think we’ve got – if he said something nice about me, then I would imagine it’s a shared appreciation and respect for one another.”
Q: He said you helped him out with things like scheduling, things a first-time head coach would not know about.
Shurmur: “Those are the guys you have a professional friendship with. You compare notes in the offseason, you don’t share anything that’s tactical that could affect you. But I’m impressed with what he’s done. They started out the same way we did and they found a way to win some games like we have,and to his credit, he’s got his team in a position to go to the playoffs.”