More and more, Pat Shurmur sounds like he knows what's coming, and understands it's not likely to be good. He desperately needed to show something to his bosses down the stretch of this miserable season. Instead, he's riding a franchise record-tying, nine-game losing streak that may still get worse.
That's one reason why the consensus around the league seems to be that Shurmur will become the third head coach fired by the Giants in the last four years, shortly after the Giants' season ends on Dec. 29 (fourth if you count interim coach Steve Spagnuolo). But there's also another reason so many seem to believe that Shurmur's days are numbered:
The list of potential replacements is impressive. In fact, this pool of available coaches is one of the best and most experienced groups the NFL has seen in years. And especially for the Giants, Ron Rivera, the 57-year-old former Carolina Panthers head coach, might be too good to pass up.
"I'm sure John Mara wanted to avoid this, and maybe he still will, but if he looks around he's going to see some really enticing options," said one NFL executive. "He probably can't take a chance after the last four years on some unknown assistant or another former coach with a losing record. And there are some real winners out there this year."
Rivera's not even the biggest winner available. That honor belongs to former Packers coach Mike McCarthy, who has 10 playoff wins and a Super Bowl championship on his resume. But Rivera has ties to Giants GM Dave Gettleman, who is much more likely than Shurmur to survive any offseason housecleaning. Rivera was the Panthers head coach when Gettleman was hired as the GM in Carolina in 2013, and he could've easily fired the coach who was 13-19 in his two seasons at the time, and hired one of his choosing.
Instead, he stuck by Rivera and the Panthers went 12-4 in that first season. Two years later, the Panthers were 15-1 enroute to their loss in Super Bowl 50.
"(Rivera) is an ultimate professional," said an NFL source. "He's one of the most respected coaches in the league and his players loved him. He could have his pick of jobs if enough of them open up."
By all accounts, Gettleman and Rivera had a strong relationship and parted on good terms when Gettleman was fired in 2017. That could be a big draw for the Giants, especially since what one source described as Rivera's two preferred jobs -- San Diego (he's a Southern California native) and Chicago (he played and coached for the Bears) -- are not likely to open up.
But the Giants would have other intriguing choices to consider, too. McCarthy, the 56-year-old who coached the Packers from 2006-18 and was a finalist for the Jets job last offseason, was long regarded as an offensive whiz and helped mold Aaron Rodgers into the Hall of Fame-bound quarterback he is today. He left Green Bay with a winning percentage of .618 (125-77-2), having made the playoffs nine times in 13 seasons. He'd be by far the most accomplished coach the Giants had hired since 1993 when they hired Dan Reeves.
"McCarthy gets a bad rap from people who say he didn't win enough with a quarterback like (Rodgers)," said one NFC scout. "But he won a ton. That's not all the quarterback. That's his offense, and his management skills, keeping Rodgers happy. They had a lot of flawed teams around Rodgers up there. But they kept winning anyway."
There could be others with experience available too, most notably Jason Garrett who is on the hot seat after 10 seasons with the Dallas Cowboys. A former Giants backup quarterback, Garrett has already been linked to a potential opening with the Giants, though that appears to have come from outside the organization. He would be a tough sell to angry fans after failing to win consistently with a more talented team in Dallas.
And while the Giants haven't dipped into the college ranks for a coach since they hired Jim Lee Howell out of Wagner in 1954, they will surely be intrigued by Baylor's Matt Rhule, a former Giants assistant who has now quickly turned around two left-for-dead college programs. Another recent finalist for the Jets job, Rhule is one of the most respected candidates on the market.
"He's got an NFL mind and well-run program and seems to have every small detail covered," said the scout. "He's got a little (Tom) Coughlin in him. The Giants will like that."
None of that, of course, guarantees that the 54-year-old Shurmur will be fired. But one thing Mara has said he always considered in the past when pondering a coaching change is the pool of available candidates. A group with Rivera, McCarthy, Garrett and Rhule is very strong, and there obviously could be more.
If nothing else, that group is way better than what Mara found when he searched for a new coach in 2016 and 2018. In 2016, the Giants interviewed Adam Gase, Doug Marrone, former Falcons coach Mike Smith and Lions defensive coordinator Teryl Austin, and they requested an interview with Hue Jackson before he accepted an offer from the Browns.
In 2018, they interviewed interim coach Spagnuolo, former Panthers defensive coordinator Steve Wilks, then-Broncos running backs coach Eric Studesville, and the Patriots two hot coordinators, Josh McDaniels and Matt Patricia. They also had an interest in Eagles defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz before backing away.
Sure, they could've interviewed Doug Pederson, Mike Mularkey, and Chip Kelly in 2016, or Jon Gruden, Mike Vrabel, Frank Reich or Matt Nagy in 2018, so it can be argued the Giants' method for choosing candidates is flawed. But what can't be argued is the potential class of new coaches for 2020 is more accomplished, if not flat-out better, than both those groups.
"It's the right year to make a coaching change," the executive said. "That's not to say that they should or that they will, but if they want to upgrade, the opportunity will definitely be there."