EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. — Athletes, at every level, have always been overly sensitive to perceived slights.
And coaches are invariably quick to mine that emotion by pointing out the alleged disrespect, making sure their teams are profoundly aware of it.
It has long been called, “bulletin-board material,” though in this era of social media it’s hardly necessary to post the supposed offending comments in the locker room … they’re usually a matter of record almost immediately after they’re delivered.
But it’s usually players who make those ill-considered comments about the opposition … coaches tend to be more guarded.
THAT’S WHY the Giants’ Pat Shurmur taking a verbal shot at Bills quarterback Josh Allen earlier in the week was both surprising and unnecessary … especially with those two teams meeting this afternoon at MetLife Stadium.
That’s particularly true since last Sunday, at that same facility, Buffalo rallied from a 16-0 deficit to shock the Jets, 17-16, while the Giants were flogged the same day, 35-17, by the Cowboys in Dallas.
Shurmur, in a press conference, was asked how New York assessed Allen before last year’s draft.
The former Browns coach said the Giants felt Allen was “a guy that had a chance to be a starter in the NFL.”
Of course, picking second, New York was already locked in to taking star Penn State running back Saquon Barkley.
Meanwhile, the Bills traded up to take Allen with the seventh overall selection.
When asked to clarify the Giants’ view of the former Wyoming quarterback, Shurmur added, “I was asked what I thought of him and, ya know, that’s what we thought of him: he had a chance to be a starter.”
IN FAIRNESS, Shurmur’s comments were little more than a back-handed slap.
And he did add the Giants thought Allen “was a big, strong thrower, a guy that had a chance to be a starter in the NFL, and he has been for them.
“I think he’s made steady improvements. Very strong-armed guy, and it appears like he’s helped them win big games already. Just like any young player, you see where he’ll make mistakes and then correct them.”
But why would he take that shot before the two teams are about to play … especially coming off an embarrassing road loss?
Clearly, New York made an inspired choice with Barkley, who set four NFL and three franchise rookie records en route to 1,307 rushing yards, 2,028 scrimmage yards with 91 receptions and 15 touchdowns. And, last week against the Cowboys, he accounted for 120 yards on the ground and 139 from scrimmage.
Allen’s progress, by comparison, has been considerably slower.
In 12 starts for Buffalo, including last Sunday, Allen is 6-6 with 11 touchdown passes, 14 interceptions and a passer rating in the high 60s.
So far, he hasn’t been the second coming of Aaron Rodgers, but what’s the sense of poking the bear … especially by a head coach whose career record with Cleveland and the Giants in three seasons, plus one game, is 15-35, never winning more than five times in any of those years?
NEW YORK’S public relations department denied Shurmur had taken a verbal shot at Allen.
And the Bills’ second-year QB took the high road when asked about Shurmur’s comments.
On a conference call with the Giants media, he said, “(The comment) doesn’t bother me. I wasn’t trying to make everybody like me or fall in love with me. Luckily the Bills had different thoughts and different plans with me. And luckily I ended up here.”
When asked about his pre-draft interaction with Shurmur, according to the New York Daily News, Allen called it a “professional” one, adding, “I thought he was a pretty bright mind for a coach.”
Of course, Shurmur might take that as Allen’s own cynical rebuttal.
Meanwhile, Giants’ safety Jabrill Peppers followed his coach’s lead.
“He throws the ball in a tight window because he has such fantastic arm strength,” Peppers of Allen said according to the Daily News. “I think that will definitely give us a couple opportunities to get our hands on the ball.”
Surely, that message will stick in Allen’s mind.
(Chuck Pollock, a Times Herald senior sports columnist, can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org)