EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. - It did not take long into his post-game press conference for Pat Shurmur to get a question about his job security, and for the Giants coach to again insist that he's not concerned. The man who insisted this week that "I'm built for this" wasn't going to flinch, even after a hideous loss to the Jets.
"My concern is putting a team on the field that's going to win a football game," Shurmur said. "That's my concern."
Of course, what's really concerning is that he hasn't done that very much in his tenure with the Giants. And he couldn't have picked a worse time to have added on another loss.
That was clear by the red- and stone-faced John Mara, as he walked past reporters and out of the stadium without uttering a word in the wake of the Giants' 34-27 loss.This may have been a meaningless game between two miserable teams, but it clearly didn't feel that way to the Giants' owner. He takes all losses personally, but some more than most. Given the bitter rivalry that has built up over the years between these two franchises, there's no doubt that this loss was humiliating.
And with the bye week coming up, he's now got two weeks to sit and stew.
Still, it is highly unlikely he'd fire Shurmur for this mess -- even though the coach is 7-19 with the Giants and his ugly career record is just 17-42. The Giants' in-season shakeup two years ago, when they fired head coach Ben McAdoo and GM Jerry Reese in early December, was one of the most out-of-character moments Mara has ever had. It seems improbable that he'd duplicate that two years later, knowing his franchise that is in trouble would suddenly look like an unsalvageable mess.
But other scapegoats can't be ruled out in the coming days, even after Shurmur promised no staff changes on Sunday afternoon. Defensive coordinator James Bettcher can't feel too comfortable after his underachieving defense gave up 27 points to the woeful Jets (seven points came courtesy of a Daniel Jones fumble). Maybe Mara would even tell Shurmur to give up the play calling so he can manage the game better, which wouldn't be an unprecedented move for the owner to make.
It's always possible that Mara will show the patience he always preaches, but even the players in the Giants' locker room seemed to know something had to give. There were no full-throated defenses of the coaching staff, or emotional pleas for patience. There were raised hands and shrugged shoulders about the immediate future.
There was a sense they were bracing for an inevitable change.
"I just worry about what I can control," said safety Jabrill Peppers, echoing so many of his teammates on Sunday. "We all know this league is a business and winning is everything in this league. When you don't win, everything starts to look different."
That's true, though it hardly matters right now. At 2-8, the Giants' season is lost and any changes would be cosmetic -- to see Mara's anger, to appease a fan-base calling for a head to roll. There are six games left for the Giants and they are all about developing their promising franchise quarterback for the future. And for Shurmur it's about proving he was telling the truth last week when he said "I know that we're on the right path."
He still believed that on Sunday, even as the Giants crashed into what they can only hope is rock bottom. Through the darkness, he again insisted the Giants' future is bright.
"Because I think I'm seeing the things that will help us in the long run," Shurmur said. "Certainly we haven't done enough in the short run. And we're all going to get to see now. All these young players -- and we added a few more out there today -- we're going to get to see them develop."
This is now what the Giants are clinging to: They believe they have a core of young, talented players, and enough ammunition in draft picks and free-agent money to add to them this spring. They are hoping to be able to stay the course and get everyone to look past what they're seeing, to imagine how much better everything can be next year.
And to Shurmur's credit, despite what happened on Sunday, his players still seem to believe it.
"We are going to get this thing turned around," Peppers said. "I've been through some rough times. This isn't half as bad as some things I've been through. It's just New York and the franchise that is accustomed to winning. We're going to get back to that."
Do Mara and the rest of Shurmur's bosses believe that? That felt like a huge leap of faith after the loss to the Jets. Shurmur will know for sure in the coming days when he sees what, if anything, happens next.