New Giants' coach Pat Shurmur likes young back and an old QB

First-year head coach Pat Shurmur has faith that rookie Saquan Barkley was the best player in the draft and aging Eli Manning is the best quarterback to run his offense in 2018.

In the first of our annual “six weeks with the head coaches’’ series, Talk of Fame Network sits down with new York Giants’ coach Pat Shurmur Last season Shurmur coordinated a Minnesota Vikings’ offense that lost its starting quarterback and running back in the opening month of the season and still ended up in the top 10 in scoring and in the NFC Championship Game.

That performance landed Shurmur his second NFL head coaching chance, although because the first one was in Cleveland some might argue it’s his first real shot. His first decision in New York surprised many when he opted for passing up drafting a quarterback in the first round and instead taking Penn State running back Saquon Barkley. Shurmur said there was a good reason for that decision.

“We felt he was the best player in the draft,’’ Shurmur said of Barkley. “He had everything we’re looking for.’’

Among those things were soft hands and a key element for a running back in Shurmur’s mind. “He has good collision balance,’’ Shurmur said.

What made that call easier was Shurmur’s belief that his present quarterback, 37-year-old Eli Manning, “has a lot left. He gets it. He’s a true pro. He adds to the discussion. And he can still throw the ball.’’

One of the guys Shurmur hopes Manning gets to throw to is mercurial Odell Beckham, Jr. No one questions Beckham’s talents but as Talk of Fame’s Rick Gosselin put it to Shurmur, “How important is it that Odell Beckham, Jr. becomes an attraction in your offense, not a distraction?’’

“You said it,’’ Shurmur said. “He does need to be a key player in our offense. I’m looking at the guy with fresh eyes.’’

What he sees, he hopes, is the Beckham who became an instant sensation. If he returns to that form this year and Barkley is what the Giants hope, Eli Manning’s job, as well as Pat Shurmur’s will get a lot easier.

One guy who once made life easy on his coaches was former NFL MVP and Comeback Player of the Year, Roman Gabriel. Talk of Fame Network’s Clark Judge stated the Hall of Fame case for the long forgotten former Rams and Eagles star who was a three-time All-Pro and four-time Pro Bowler who twice led the league in touchdown passes and still holds the Rams’ career record for victories with 74.

Clark visited with Gabriel, who was also a two-time All-America quarterback at North Carolina State and a member of the College Football Hall of Fame. Among his recollections was a four-year record of quarterbacking dominance with the Rams when he went 41-11-4 on a team that was about a lot more than their Fearsome Foursome defensive front.

Hall of Fame voter Sam Kouvaris also checks in to give the Hall of Fame perspective from Jacksonville as our ongoing series visiting Hall voters in each league city to talk about the best former player in that city’s franchise not yet in the Hall of Fame.

For Kouvaris it was an easy choice because he believes there’s only one such player, former All-Pro tackle Tony Boselli. Boselli was a Hall of Fame finalist last year and despite a career cut short by knee injuries Kouvaris argues he belongs in Canton.’s Rich Cimini also comes by to discuss Jets’ CEO Christopher Johnson’s announcement that his team will pay any penalties imposed by the league on their franchise or individual players if they choose to continue kneeling or sitting when the National Anthem is played despite a new league rule allegedly “unanimously’’ approved by the owners banning such demonstrations.

Cimini said Johnson admitted voting for it but now will back his players if they buck the league’s decision. That figures. It’s the Jets.

Clark and co-host Ron Borges also debate whether some star players will sit out a portion of the season if Colin Kaepernick and Eric Reid, the two ex-49ers who started the anthem protest, do not land jobs in the league this season.

On a more positive note, Ron’s “Borges or Bogus’’ segment focuses on the upbeat story of Kansas City Chiefs’ right guard Laurent-Durveney Tardif graduating from McGill University Medical School last week, a process that took him four years of off-season study and an amazing focus because at the same time he was starting in 38 of a possible 48 games over the past three seasons. As Ron points out, there’s nothing bogus about that.

You can hear all that and the rest of the weekly “Talk of Fame Network’’ show on your local SB Nation Radio Network or by downloading our free podcast at iTunes or on the TuneIn app. You can also hear the show any time on our website,