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Giants owner John Mara doesn’t normally talk to reporters during the season, but when reporters are looking for him after games, often times simply for the ability to describe his general huffiness in the next day’s paper, it’s safe to say that things aren’t going according to plan.
Mara craves stability. He held on to Tom Coughlin when the entire fan base wanted him gone and squeezed out a pair of Super Bowl wins. Firing Ben McAdoo in the middle of the season legitimately pained him, as did the general optics of moving on from a coach without a traditionally thorough evaluation period.
That’s why the coming days, weeks and months in East Rutherford will be fascinating. Clearly, the collective antennae are up on a potential dismissal of head coach Pat Shurmur. After a 34-27 loss to the equally-bad cross-town Jets on Sunday, his record sank to 7-19, which is on pace to be far worse than the 13-15 record McAdoo had through 28 games on the job. Saquon Barkley had 13 carries for one yard and continued a statistical regression that goes beyond the high ankle sprain he suffered earlier in the season. Rookie quarterback Daniel Jones is up and down but seems to be one of the few notable bright spots on the roster … in that there is at least some tangible progress week in and week out.
So, if you’re Mara the decision becomes: Do the thing you hate to do more than anything else twice in a row, or seriously gamble the near future with the hope that you will be rewarded similarly to the way you were with Coughlin (though Coughlin had a far better record through as many games and a track record of success prior to his time in New York).
The presence of a rookie franchise quarterback factors in significantly, as does the presence of Barkley, who has a high ceiling but a far shorter shelf life of usefulness. Let’s imagine the Giants keep Shurmur for the 2020 season in hopes that continuity leads to success but a version of this middling continues and they miss the playoffs. The team will then have gone eight combined seasons with Odell Beckham and Saquon Barkley with one playoff berth, essentially squandering the athletic prime of two of the most explosive skill position players of the decade.
There is an argument gaining steam that, thanks to the availability of so much information and the (relative) ease with which new concepts can be relayed quickly to players, that evaluation periods on coaches can be shorter now. It’s more obvious much faster whether or not the person is cut out for the job. And then there is what Mara believes in; that attraction to Steelers-level stability that many legacy owners crave.
Freeing yourself from that burden prevents you from tying yourself to someone purely based on optics, though it technically robs you the chance of seeing the coach finally figure it out after three years.
As half of the division begins to pull away, which direction will he choose?
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