Shula, Shurmur’s preferences will be key to Giants’ QB choice

Credit: Danielle Parhizkaran

Credit: Danielle Parhizkaran

Mike Shula changed into shorts and a team-issued T-shirt for a workout recently at the Giants’ facility in East Rutherford, N.J., and as he walked into the gym he passed a mirror and did a double-take at the logo on his chest.

It’s really happening, he thought. I’m really coaching for the New York Giants.

Shula is football royalty, the son of the great Hall of Famer Don Shula, the winningest coach in NFL history with 347 career victories, two Miami Dolphins Super Bowls (1972, 73) and the only undefeated team in league history, at 17-0 in 1972, to his name.

But Mike Shula, 52, the Giants’ new offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach, comes off more as a grounded everyman than any privileged son of one of the best of all-time. He walks with a quiet confidence and speaks assuredly and relatably, a lot like the head coach who hired him, Pat Shurmur.

And that’s pertinent because Shula essentially has been running point on the Giants’ search for a potential franchise quarterback in this month’s NFL draft (he often has to take those workouts in East Rutherford out on the road). And he and Shurmur seem to share not only certain qualities as coaches but opinions on what’s important in a QB.

“What’s their personality? What’s their demeanor like?” Shula said of what he’ll try to learn from quarterbacks Josh Allen (Wyoming), Josh Rosen (UCLA), Sam Darnold (USC) and Baker Mayfield (Oklahoma) in private visits to the Giants’ facility next week. “You can talk a little football. We’ve seen them workout now. Just re-establish that relationship. When you’re looking and getting ready to invest a lot in somebody, you want to find out as much as you can in every aspect of their life.”

Now granted, Shula for the past 7 years has coached a pretty good quarterback with a strong personality — maybe you’ve heard of him: Cam Newton of the Carolina Panthers. Talent trumps all. So if the Giants feel one of these QBs is clearly above the rest and he’s available when they pick second overall, they are expected to take him.

But to me, the quarterbacks’ personalities, their demeanors, their fit as people with both Shurmur and Shula are extremely significant, partly because I believe that’s important to these two men, and partly because there seems to be a type of player — not just quarterback — that the Giants have brought in this offseason.

Nate Solder, Alec Ogletree, Kareem Martin, Michael Thomas, Jonathan Stewart: these are all guys who lead, love football, and carry themselves with varying levels of quiet confidence as players.

No position sets the tone of a team more than its quarterback. And so, if GM Dave Gettleman and Shurmur and Shula are consistent with this philosophy when they evaluate QBs, this is probably a differentiating factor that sheds some light on what direction they might lean.

Start with this: Davis Webb, the rising second-year QB already in the building, feels like exactly the kind of committed worker, born leader and quiet killer that Shurmur and Shula would love.

The lack of NFL game tape on Webb may force the Giants to draft a quarterback at No. 2 anyway, for fear of the unknown. Shula even admitted he hasn’t quite gotten a handle on Webb yet since the coach has been on the road so frequently. He reiterated the Giants’ pre-draft minicamp from April 24-26 is an important three days for Webb.

“It’s been a little bit harder for me to evaluate Davis,” Shula admitted. “Just getting here so late and then as soon as I got here, we’ve been at the combine, we’ve been on the road. I’ve looked at him, I got a chance to meet him in the cafeteria and I’m looking forward to finding out what he’s about. And I think coming up next here in the next few weeks with our veteran minicamp will help us gather more information on him.”

If the Giants do draft a QB, though, the humble-but-impressive Allen and the easygoing-yet-driven Darnold feel like they could fit the profile of what Shurmur and Shula value most. Interestingly, Allen and Darnold also are the two names most often connected to the Cleveland Browns’ plans with the No. 1 overall pick.

Allen, in particular, feels like an intriguing personality fit to go with his impressive physical skills. Shurmur said at the league meetings that Allen is “tough” and “competitive,” which are “traits that I admire in a quarterback.” Shurmur admitted he’s had more exposure to Allen than any of these QBs going back to their Senior Bowl introduction.

And Allen at the NFL combine in early March clearly felt Shurmur was a great fit for him: “I’d want to play for him because he just had this kind of silent vibe to him,” Allen told the Daily News. “He was kind of reserved, and at the same time I can feel his presence and understand how much he loves football, how much he knows football.”

That said, this doesn’t mean the more vibrant personalities of Rosen and Mayfield will be turnoffs, either.

Rosen looks like the best pure passer in the draft and could be a voice and leader born for the New York market, while Mayfield won the Heisman Trophy for a reason.

Plus, it’s gone somewhat under the radar, but Shula has done a ton of work on Mayfield, including a private workout together at Oklahoma’s mid-March pro day. And if Shurmur and Shula value the qualities of tough and competitive, Mayfield passes that test easily.

“I think it’s an exciting time in the draft because of the guys that are coming out,” Shula said. “It’s exciting to have an early pick.”

So ultimately, there isn’t yet clarity on which QB the Giants covet or if there are any they view as worthy of the No. 2 pick. They do, however, have the luxury of studying them all and likely having their pick of the entire group, save one.

And so remember: this isn’t just about which quarterback they’ll pick; it’s also about who’s picking the quarterback.

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