EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. — Roughly 20 seconds into his introductory news conference as coach of the New York Giants, Pat Shurmur ran into his problem.
The lights went out in the auditorium where he was speaking.
Like everyone else in the packed room, the former offensive coordinator of the Minnesota Vikings laughed, and then handled the situation without missing a beat.
“And we’re off,” Shurmur quipped. “We have to keep adjusting. Anyway, I was going to tell a joke, so I’ll stop.”
Speaking and answering questions for more than 25 minutes after being introduced by co-owner John Mara, Shurmur was poised, funny and open, thanking his mother in Michigan for teaching him to be competitive, compassionate and not allowing anyone to tell him you can’t do something.
Shurmur faces a major task in taking over a team that went 3-13 after making the playoffs in 2016. The injury-ravaged Giants slipped so quickly that Ben McAdoo was fired in early December after less than two years on the job.
“There’s a lot of work to be done,” Shurmur said. “There are changes that need to be made.”
One thing that seemingly won’t change is the Giants’ starting quarterback. Shurmur is looking forward to working with Eli Manning and he believes the 37-year-old two-time Super Bowl winner still has years ahead of him.
The 52-year-old agrees with new general manager Dave Gettleman that winning starts up front, and he is determined to build a good offensive line to go along with a talented defensive line.
“There are basic truths and basic facts that don’t change and you have to do,” Gettleman said. “You have to run the ball, you have to stop the run, and you have to rush the passer. Pat and I completely agree on that. The other thing is that big men allow you to compete.”
As the Giants struggled last season, there were rifts in the locker room. Three players were suspended for a week for conduct detrimental to the organization.
Shurmur wants to get to know his players, particularly superstar receiver Odell Beckham Jr., joking it makes sense to throw him the ball. He added everyone will start with a clean sheet.
This will be Shurmur’s second head coaching job, and he says he is a lot more knowledgeable now than when he ran the Cleveland Browns in 2011-12.
“Those who do know me know I have zero tolerance for people who don’t compete,” Shurmur said. “I have zero tolerance for those who do not give effort and I have zero tolerance for people who don’t show or lack respect.”
Shurmur has already started assembling his staff. Former Cardinals defensive coordinator James Bettcher will be his defensive coordinator.
The status of the offensive coordinator is uncertain. Shurmur intends to call his own plays on an offense that will have a West Coast influence, but also one that seeks to run the ball.
“We’re going to do what we can to get better each day,” Shurmur said. “How fast that happens? I’m as impatient as the next fan, but we’re going to try to get better each day.
“As I mentioned we have a lot of really good players on this team. We’re going to get some new ones and we’re going to try to put together a team that can go out next year and win games.”
The Giants, who have made the playoffs only once since 2011, interviewed five other coaching candidates, including interim coach and defensive coordinator Steve Spagnuolo.
Shurmur was the clear choice, the co-owners said.
“After the season like we had, we needed someone who was “an adult,” who is professional and who has a certain demeanor to walk in there and start to straighten things out,” Mara said. “I think he had all the qualities. Time will tell.”
Co-owner Steve Tisch believes the Giants will be patient in the rebuilding process, but he thinks Shurmur will hit the ground running. He was impressed with the way the new coach walked through the building Thursday and introduced himself to everyone.
“The evidence is there this is a mature, responsible, passionate leader,” Tisch said. “I can’t wait for the players to meet him and him to put a new staff together. It’s a new day and it’s very exciting.”
Mara, who has taken part in his share of coaching searches, said Shurmur had as good an interview as he has experienced. Tisch added he felt an almost instant chemistry talking with him.