In Mike Shula, the New York Giants might have the answer to their offensive woes.
Having been the head coach of a major college program and boasting over a quarter of a century of experience in the NFL, Mike Shula isn’t just any other member of the coaching staff. In many ways he, along with head coach Pat Shurmur, is the perfect fit to fix an ailing and at times repugnant New York Giants offense.
Shula’s work in the NFL most recently has seen him as the offensive coordinator of a very good Carolina Panthers offense. But he also has a resume that includes extensive time as a quarterbacks coach, a tight ends coach and four years as head coach of Alabama. He brings those varied experiences and flexibility, in terms of his understanding of the game, to the Giants organization.
Keep in mind that he was very nearly hired as head coach of the Miami Dolphins. This is a coach with a unique football acumen, the son of a Hall of Fame head coach who grew to become a quarterback at Alabama and was eventually drafted. He comes to a team that truly can use some spark on offense after two difficult years of stalled drives, a running game mired in the mud and frustrating red zone efficiency.
The Giants had the No. 21 offense in the league last season, this despite having a head coach in Ben McAdoo with extensive experience as a quarterbacks coach and offensive coordinator. Shula will be called upon to improve an offense that was seventh-worst in the NFL in rushing the ball and was second from the bottom in scoring.
With Shula as offensive coordinator, the Carolina Panthers made the Super Bowl and he was considered one of the best coordinators in the league over the past couple of seasons.
Now, while Shula won’t be utilizing the legs of quarterback Eli Manning in the same way he did at Carolina with Cam Newton, the Giants will be expected to run the ball. If Carolina last year was any indication, they will run the ball a lot.
The Panthers had the fourth most rushing yards in the league a season ago, doing so with an equally appropriate fourth-most rushing attempts per game. Carolina averaged a shade over 30 rushes a game, almost six carries more a game than the Giants did all of last season.
This mentality of pounding the ball works well with general manager Dave Gettleman’s stated desire to beef up the offensive line, a major sore spot on this team the past three seasons. An upgraded offensive line also aligns itself well with maximizing the career of Manning, who will be 37-years old come Week 1.
The Giants currently sit with the second pick in the draft and could potentially select Saquon Barkley, which would be a perfect blend of talent and need for this team. Barkley is a work horse and a talent who loves running between the tackles.
During his three years at Penn State, the Heisman candidate running back showcased a skillset that could thrive in Shula’s offense.
Shula, however, has shown a willingness throughout his career to adjust his mentality given the talent at his disposal, as he did with David Garrard while quarterbacks coach of the Jacksonville Jaguars. But perhaps more than anything, this son of Hall of Famer Don Shula is simply a sponge who has soaked up plenty during his nearly three decades in the league.
And given that he has never worked with a two-time Super Bowl MVP as he now gets to in Manning, or a lights-out wide receiver such as Odell Beckham Jr., the sky is truly the limit for the potential of this offense.