It's hard to defend the job Pat Shurmur has done with the Giants, whether he's on an actual hot seat or not. Seven straight losses are ugly. So is his overall record of 7-20. In this case, the numbers really do speak for themselves.
But only John Mara knows for sure whether Shurmur's job is in jeopardy, and the only noise we've heard from him this season was the silent stare two weeks ago on his way out of the Giants' humiliating loss to the Jets. The owner's inclination is always to lean towards patience and stability. He surely loathes the idea of a firing a third coach in a span of five years.
But the more the losses mount, the more Mara's anger surely builds, and the less safe Shurmur appears to be.
So how safe is he after the Giants' 19-14 loss in Chicago? For now he's probably still pretty safe - despite the speculative report on Sunday morning that the Giants would consider replacing him with Jason Garrett if the Cowboys fired their coach.
Here are a few of the reasons why his seat is only warm, and not quite burning hot ... yet:
- The Giants do not like change. Start with that. They want a stable operation in the front office and the coaches office. The last two times a coach lasted two seasons or fewer it took disasters to get the Giants to make a move. Ben McAdoo had to lose control of his locker room, botch a quarterback transition and pretty much humiliate a franchise icon. And Ray Handley had the locker room and media revolting against him back in 1992. None of that is happening with Shurmur.
- This is all about Daniel Jones. This is the key point because the Giants think they have a championship quarterback and want to make sure they have the right coach to lead him there. So they'll ask a simple question: Are they happy with Jones' development? The answer is a resounding yes so far. Could that change over the last five weeks? Sure. But this is a big piece in Shurmur's favor. It there's no doubt that the transition from Eli Manning to Jones will likely buy Shurmur another year.
- He has not lost the locker room. It's a young team, and that helps, but it's not like the Giants veterans have stopped playing for him. He is, in every way, the "adult in the room" as Dave Gettleman said when he was hired. He's avoided the chaos and stayed even-keeled and in control The players seem to appreciate that. And they haven't quit. In fact, a lot of the veterans have embraced the role of mentoring the young players under Shurmur's direction.
- Gettleman knows he has work to do. This is not a case of a GM thinking he's given his coach everything he needs. Gettleman knows better. He knows the defense is missing a big-time pass rushers. He understands the defense is loaded with young players that still need to grow. And he absolutely knows the offensive line remains a work-in-progress. They have a lot of cap room and a high pick coming in next year's draft. He knows Shurmur will have a better team next year.
- Bill Belichick isn't available. The point here is there isn't a slam-dunk candidate waiting in the wings if the Giants fire Shurmur. The candidate pool is roughly what it was two years ago when they hired him. Yes, they have always liked Garrett since he was a valued backup QB on the Giants. Yes, if they had a vacancy and Garrett was available, they'd be interested. But right now, he'd be a hard sell considering he has arguably underachieved with a Cowboys team much more talented than what the Giants currently have.
- They have an easy scapegoat. If this season continues to go south it will be hard for the Giants to go into 2020 without making any seemingly significant changes. So it seems pretty obvious that defensive coordinator James Bettcher could be used as a sacrificial lamb. His defense has been pretty abysmal at times and cost the Giants quite a few games. It would not be unprecedented for Mara to force a coaching staff change and use that as an excuse to save his coach. It happened with Tom Coughlin multiple times.
Of course, none of that makes Shurmur a lock to return in 2020. A big barometer Mara has always used with his coaches is how hard the team plays down the stretch when there's nothing to play for, so if these Giants do quit on Shurmur, Mara could quit on him. Jones' development will be closely watched, too. So far, so good, but that arrow has to stay pointed up.
Regardless of all that, it's always possible the losing will just become too much for ownership to handle - especially with an angry media mob and disgruntled fan base having plenty of platforms to express their dismay. Back in 2009, Mara was so livid and embarrassed after an 8-8 season that he said it "felt a lot more like 2-14 to me."
Well, imagine how livid and embarrassed he'll be if this Giants team actually does go 2-14. So stay tuned on Shurmur's future. Right now, a lot of things are pushing this eventual decision in his direction. But those losses keep piling up, and if that doesn't stop it could easily tilt the scales the other way.