Shula’s name wasn’t even the first that popped into Pat Shurmur’s head. That would be Minnesota Vikings quarterbacks coach Kevin Stefanski, who is familiar to Shurmur from his days as the Vikings’ offensive coordinator. Stefanski’s current employer wouldn’t allow him to interview with the Giants, probably because Stefanski would’ve accepted the gig.
Shula is familiar to general manager Dave Gettleman.
Gettleman was Carolina Panthers general manager while Shula was quarterbacks coach and later offensive coordinator. Shula’s quarterback work includes making David Garrard into a serviceable NFL quarterback while with the Jacksonville Jaguars and Cam Newton into the 2015 NFL Most Valuable Player. The Panthers’ most successful season in franchise history (a 15-1 2015 campaign that ended with a loss in Super Bowl 50) came with Shula stewarding the offense.
Shula certainly has pedigree on his side. His father, Don, played seven seasons in the NFL as a defensive back for the Cleveland Browns and Baltimore Colts. Don Shula later became the NFL’s winningest head coach with an overall record of 328-156-6 with the Colts and Miami Dolphins, including victories in Super Bowls VII and VIII.
Shula himself played quarterback at Alabama for Ray Perkins, who left the Giants for Tuscaloosa to succeed Paul “Bear” Bryant. The Crimson Tide were 24-11-1 with Shula as a starter, where he became known as a clutch performer in big games despite not having a strong arm. Shula’s NFL career as a player lasted only one season (the strike shortened 1987 season) because of his lack of arm strength. He didn’t play in a single game.
Shula first learned the ins and outs of coaching in the NFL from three Hall of Famers: his father, Mike Ditka, and Tony Dungy. When he became offensive coordinator of Dungy’s Buccaneers in 1996, the flaws began to surface.
The Bucs offense never ranked higher than 22nd overall during Shula’s four seasons as offensive coordinator. He lacks an innovative offensive mind, especially in the passing game. This became apparently when the Bucs were unable to score a touchdown late in the 1999 NFC Championship Game, losing to the eventual Super Bowl champion St. Louis Rams 11-6.
Shula struggled as a head coach when he returned to Alabama. His lack of offensive innovation was also noticeable when he took over as Panthers offensive coordinator. Shula’s play calling was elementary: two rushing attempts and a pass to the tight end on many offensive series.
Shula’s flaws as an offensive coordinator contribute to his lack of sexiness as a pick. However, Giants players and fans don’t have a reason to worry. Shurmur came to the Giants to be the innovative footballl guru. In 2018, the Giants offense will look much like the Vikings in ‘17 when they went all the way to the NFC Championship Game with a backup quarterback behind center. There is little to no chance the Giants offense will resemble anything the Panthers fielded in the last five seasons.
Shula was brought in for his experience grooming quarterbacks. The Giants have a two-time Super Bowl winner in Eli Manning, an unknown variable in Davis Webb, and the second overall pick in April’s draft (which they will presumably use on a quarterback). Shula is also known for having great relationships with his quarterbacks which is always a plus. He will also assist in preparing the weekly game plans (with the input of the offensive assistant coaches) and anything else related to the offense that Shurmur won’t have time for.
Mike Shula’s installation as offensive coordinator wasn’t sexy but neither was the hire of Shurmur. The Giants are going about their business in the correct manner, efficiently and without much fanfare. They don’t want to win the headlines battle in the New York tabloids. The Giants have their eyes on the prize, which is winning Super Bowl LIII in 353 days.