Shurmur and Giants Hope to Play Spoiler
PHILADELPHIA (973espn.com) - A coach never wants to be in a position where he is playing meaningless football in Week 17 of the NFL season but that's where the New York Giants find themselves heading into Sunday's regular-season finale with the Eagles.
Philadelphia, of course, has everything to play for and Sunday's game serves as essentially a play-in game for the Eagles and their third consecutive playoff bid. A loss would have Doug Pederson's team counting on Washington upsetting Dallas as the only other path to the postseason.
From a simple perspective, the better team with everything to play for vs. the lesser one making vacation arrangements should be easy money if you are into those types of things, but simple psychology never finds a consistent home in the parity-driven NFL.
Understand Pat Shurmur is coaching for his job up the Jersey Turnpike and his greatest selling point is rookie quarterback Daniel Jones, who just happens to be coming off his best game as a professional with a 352-yard, five-touchdown performance against the Redskins.
The easiest debate point Shurmur can bring to the table on Black Monday is Jones and the thesis that you don't want to complicate a young QB's development with a brand new offensive scheme coming from a different voice. That argument would only be bolstered if Jones closes the season with two strong performances instead of an uneven one.
“It’s been pretty well documented: we have a very, very, very young team,” Shurmur said during a conference call with Philadelphia-area reporters. "The more games you play, the more you get better.”
Shurmur also has some experience in these types of situations with some of it coming in Philadelphia when he was Chip Kelly's offensive coordinator. Back in 2015, Jeffery Lurie pulled the trigger on Kelly one-game early and Shurmur was elevated to interim coach and the answer to the trick question of what head coach has the highest winning percentage in franchise history.
Shurmur is 1-0 as the Eagles mentor, piloting a 6-9 team to a 35-30 win over the Giants at MetLife Stadium.
“Coaches and players, in all situations, are very prideful,” Shurmur explained. "We all have a finite career, whether it’s playing or coaching, so you want to make the most of every opportunity. That’s sort of how I look at it.”
Shurmur has had a tough job with the Giants trying to bridge the Eli Manning-era with Jones, the team's first-round pick out of Duke. The sentimentality from prior regimes toward a clearly declining Manning has arguably been the biggest issue with that organization and finally turning the corner was a needed gulp of distasteful medicine.
The results haven't been there at times for Shurmur but late-season spikes from Jones and Saquon Barkley have proven that the 4-11 Giants are still dangerous.
“Our team has fought hard all season," Shurmur assessed. “We, unfortunately, haven’t found a way to win games or make enough plays."
There is always value in competing, however.
“There’s a lot to be learned from battling through a season like we’ve had," he said.
The Giants final goal in 2019 is to play spoiler to perhaps their biggest rival, at least in the modern era of the NFL.
“You’re always trying to win your last game," Shurmur said. "... What’s important is we go out and battle and put in a winning performance on the field."
-John McMullen covers the Eagles and the NFL for 973espn.com. You can reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @JFMcMullen