EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. – Shurmur Sez, Giants.com's exclusive weekly interview with head coach Pat Shurmur:
Q: After finishing the first quarter of the season with a 1-3 record, how much do you have to gauge the emotional temperature of the players on a daily or weekly basis?
Shurmur: "I think what you do with the players is, first of all, you develop a good locker room. And you have to understand that there's only been one perfect season, (Miami in) 1972, and I think you just got to keep fighting. We have to do everything we can to win this week (at Carolina) and we need to prepare to win this week. Whether you won or lost the week before, that really shouldn't change that preparation."
Q: Saquon (Barkley) said your message to the players (Wednesday) was, "the only thing we're not capable of doing is having an undefeated season, which obviously only one team has done." As a coach, you're always looking at the next game, but do you also talk to the players about the big picture – in this case, the fact that 75 percent of the season remains to be played?
Shurmur: "I think the general statement is that, okay, to this point, it hasn't been perfect, but then you bring it right back to the moment of this week, and we're getting ready to play Carolina."
Q: The big debate of the week is whether Eli Manning should throw it downfield even when his intended target isn't necessarily open. In your opinion, is it worth it to take shots even when you face a defense like you did last week against New Orleans, which focused on taking away the deep pass?
Shurmur: "That's a false narrative that we weren't trying to throw the ball down the field. That's a false narrative, and if for some reason, they legislate against it, we have to check the ball down, keep the chains moving. And as I acknowledged, maybe it's better to just run the ball a little bit more. I think it's important to throw the ball down the field, and we try to and we do it more than that narrative suggests."
Q: Is there a difference between being aggressive and being reckless?
Shurmur: "There is a difference. I think it's a fine line. Just to chuck the ball down the field with no regard for how they're covering you at times is reckless. It has to be strategic, and if the downfield throws are there, you take them."
Q: Eli said sometimes when you just throw it down the field it leads to bad plays. Is that how you see it?
Shurmur: "There's a couple of things that can happen: you make the catch, they can interfere with you or it could be intercepted or it could be incomplete. So anytime you execute a play, there's numerous things that can happen."
Q: Eli's thrown only one interception in 151 passes, which I assume you're pretty pleased with, but he's averaging about seven yards per attempt. Do you want that second number to go up? Is that one of the things you look at?
Shurmur: "You certainly want more yards per pass. I think getting completions is important and short completions sometimes acts like a run, so yes. The key is, and this is the point everybody is missing, is getting the ball in the end zone more, no matter how you do it, and that's the deal."
Q: You've said that you have to score more points.
Shurmur: "Everybody's focus is, to me, it's a little bit off. We need to score more points, period, however it happens."
Q: You said yesterday you have to be more explosive and more efficient. Can you do both?
Shurmur: "Sure. Where our lack of efficiency comes is when we had within a drive a penalty or a minus-yardage play. That's a lack of efficiency, in my view, and those can come from numerous sources. We just have to eliminate them."
Q: You said the other day you wish you had called more runs and Barkley had more touches.
Shurmur: "Although he did have 18."
Q: "He did have 18. During a game, you're thinking, you're focused on getting the ball in the end zone and getting first downs. Are you also thinking, "I want to get the ball in Barkley's hands or Odell's (Beckham, Jr.) hands?
Shurmur: "Absolutely. That's how you call a game, because you have concepts that you utilize in practice that involve getting the ball to your playmakers. That being said, then you also have schemes and concepts that you employ so that if they take away your playmakers, you give the ball to other people. I think it's a good thing when the week previous (in the Giants' victory in Houston), nine guys touched the ball. It's important that you're able to spread the ball around, too. (Sterling) Shepard needs to touch the ball, as does (Cody) Latimer, as does (Evan) Engram and Scott Simonson and those guys. I think it's important that they get their touches as well."
Q: New Orleans seemed to surround Odell every time he got the ball.
Shurmur: "You see how one question is totally opposite from the other? Just throw it to Odell, no matter what, but then hey, by the way, they were surrounding him."
Q: You've watched Odell for four games now. Do teams defend him differently than other very good receivers you've had?
Shurmur: "No, I think teams are aware of how good he is and how he can affect the game in a positive way for us, so they, at times, pay special attention to him - which I think is smart on their part. That's where we need to be smart about how we try to move the ball, too, and that's where being able to spread the ball around helps."
Keep an eye on these five players as the Giants take on the Panthers.
Q: You put Jonathan Stewart on injured reserve. He had just six rushing attempts. But has he been a he good person in that running backs room, particularly how he's helped Saquon?
Shurmur: "He's certainly a terrific player, but he's an even better person, and I think he's had a real positive influence on Saquon. I think that's part of what his role was going to be when we brought him here, and it's continuing to happen because he's in the building every day working on his rehab. He's continuing to have that positive impact on Saquon."
Q: You didn't get many questions about how your defense played after Drew Brees threw for 217 yards and no touchdowns. (Alvin) Kamara ran for 134 yards and had the big run (49 yards) at the end. What did you think of your pass defense and the overall defense, last week?
Shurmur: "I thought the pass defense was good. I thought, for the most part in the bulk of the game, we did a good job somewhat of controlling the run. The long run at the end there broke out on us in a four-minute scenario, which you can't have. I think that we're making progress as a defense and stopping the run is a team thing, but there's certainly areas where we can still improve."
Q: Ray-Ray Armstrong has been playing a lot more lately. What have you seen in him?
Shurmur: "Ray-Ray is long, he's athletic, he does a good job chasing the ball down. He's pretty good in coverage because he's got good athletic ability and speed. But he's like any young player. He's got to continue to work on his run fits and all the things he'll need to do to become a really top-notch player."
Q: I'm sure you knew about Landon Collins when you got here. He had 14 tackles last week. Was that the Landon you heard so much about?
Shurmur: "I think you want that type of production from your strong safety, and to make 14 tackles is a really positive, good day. But he's like every player. There were certain plays in the game that I think he can – he had his handful of plays that I'm sure he'd like to do better, and that's the challenge for all the players."
Q: I've been meaning to ask you this for a couple of weeks now. What are your thoughts about the controversy regarding hits on the quarterbacks and the penalties some defenders have incurred on those hits? What have you seen as you watch tape each week?
Shurmur: "I think everybody is trying to learn the proper way to tackle or sack a quarterback in the pocket. I think we're fast learners in terms of how we coach it and how the players approach it and make the plays, so we're getting there. We're getting there in terms of understanding the proper way to take a quarterback down and not really expose him to unnecessary injury."
Q: You have an unusual situation this week - your offensive coordinator (Mike Shula) knows more about the opposing quarterback (Cam Newton, whom Shula coached the previous seven seasons) than the defensive coordinator (James Bettcher). Can Mike help out the defense because he knows Cam so well?
Shurmur: "I think there's some familiarity with Carolina with regard to their team, their players. Obviously, there's a lot of crossover. (General manager) Dave Gettleman coming here, obviously. Mike coming here. We have a lot of players from the old Carolina regime. I worked with (new offensive coordinator) Norv Turner and his son Scott, I worked with (head coach) Ron Rivera. I think we know each other quite well, but I think you really have to be careful. We have to watch them on film and really put a game plan together based on what we see on film. And then if there's a thing or two that'll help us based on what we know about them, it's probably minimal with regard to the effect on the game."
Q: Cam is so big and runs so well – is he a unique weapon in the NFL?
Shurmur: "Super unique, and he's part of the reason they're the number one rushing team in the league. They utilize the quarterback run, and the threat of the quarterback run sometimes opens up running lanes for just the normal run game because you have to account for them. I think that's kind of the starting point for their run game, and they do a really good job with it."
Q: Is Christian McCaffrey at all similar to Alvin Kamara in that they line him up in different spots to hand it off to him and they'll throw it to him, which is similar to what you faced last week?
Shurmur: "Very similar. They use McCaffrey in a lot of the same ways that the Saints used Alvin."
Q: Do you think Luke Kuechly is as important to this team as any defensive player in the league, and what stand outs as you watch him on tape?
Shurmur: "I think he's obviously a very good player, has been for a very long time. He diagnoses things well, he runs to the ball, he's a good tackler, and he's certainly the leader of that defense."
Q: Julius Peppers has been in the league almost as long as you. He's getting a limited number of snaps, but is he still an effective as a pass rusher?
Shurmur: "He's still an outstanding player. They don't use him nearly as much as they have been in previous years, but when he gets in there, he could be very disruptive."
View the starters for Sunday's game against the Carolina Panthers