Vikings’ Shurmur returns to familiar role as offensive coordinator
EDEN PRAIRIE, Minn. — Pat Shurmur has returned to a familiar role, taking over as Minnesota’s offensive coordinator following the surprise midseason resignation by Norv Turner.
The unofficial part of the job title is becoming a primary target of frustrated fault-finding fans.
"Yeah, they get a lot of advice, don’t they?" Shurmur said.
That’s the gentle way to frame it, particularly when a team is struggling to score such as the Vikings. Head coaches are often criticized for using and misusing challenges and timeouts or perhaps not firing up the players.
Quarterbacks get roasted for interceptions. The offensive coordinator can rank right up there at the top of the blame-game list.
Shurmur, who has been either an offensive coordinator or a head coach in the NFL since 2009 , has learned to tune out the external scrutiny.
That experience ought to come in handy here, with the Vikings ranking at or near the bottom of the league in most statistical measures of the offense. The fan exasperation over Turner’s strategy, fair or not, peaked after the 20-10 loss in Chicago on Monday night .
"Putting together a game plan that allows you to call the plays based on what’s best for your players is important, and then being able to rep them so the players can execute them efficiently," Shurmur said.
"Then you’ve just got to go into it with a clear mind, and as the game plays out we have certain things we want to do in certain situations and we want to try to give the players the best one. So that’s the challenge. The pressure? That comes outside in, and I don’t worry about it."
When Vikings coach Mike Zimmer hired Shurmur over the winter to work with the tight ends, the future for Turner turned murky. Both Shurmur and new offensive line coach Tony Sparano have been head coaches and offensive coordinators in the NFL before.
After the Vikings acquired quarterback Sam Bradford to replace the injured Teddy Bridgewater, a trade made with valuable insight from Shurmur regarding his former pupil, the long-term fit for the 64-year-old Turner looked even more tenuous.
Zimmer recently praised Bradford’s confidence in expressing displeasure with a particular play during game planning, making clear the coaches will shelve one the quarterback isn’t comfortable with, a potential source of frustration for Turner.
Feeling squeezed by the closeness of the relationship between Shurmur and Bradford would’ve been a natural reaction for Turner, who told reporters on Wednesday he believed his removal from the equation could help the team.
"There’s certain things that may look different. You’ll have to tell me after the game," Shurmur said, looking ahead to the matchup on Sunday against Detroit. "I think what we need to do is coach better. We need to play better. If everybody on the field and everybody involved with the offense makes one less mistake, then we give ourselves the best chance to win."
Turner worked from the booth above the field. Shurmur said he’s planning to call the plays from the sideline, for more effective communication with Bradford between plays and possessions.
Bradford, who played for Shurmur in 2010 with St. Louis and in 2015 with Philadelphia, cited an up-tempo, no-huddle style that Shurmur guided last season with the Eagles under coach Chip Kelly as one way the Vikings could alter their approach yet this season. Well behind the Bears in the second half, the Vikings displayed no urgency when they had the ball.
When the Vikings won their first five games, the passing attack worked relatively well behind quick throws by Bradford. He took more deep drops the past two weeks and paid the price with a total of 11 sacks.
The protection was problematic at Philadelphia and again last week at Chicago . The Vikings have never figured out how to get their running attack going, either, averaging a league-low 2.7 yards per attempt.
Regardless of how Shurmur’s strategy will differ from Turner’s, the lineup and all of its limitations will remain the same. Still, a fresh perspective can be effective.
"If a play doesn’t work we used to say, `Hey, put it on the shelf,’ and then you move onto something that does," Shurmur said.
The Vikings are at that point where such a shift could prove beneficial.
"He kind of has a feel for how we like to play," tight end Kyle Rudolph said. "I’d imagine he’ll just get this thing rolling."