When the Minnesota Vikings were forced to find an interim offensive coordinator following Norv Turner’s resignation on Nov. 1, promoting Pat Shurmur into that role was a logical choice.
Shurmur has been with Sam Bradford for much of his career, since the quarterback’s rookie season, and once Bradford became the Vikings’ trade of choice following a season-ending injury to Teddy Bridgewater, the quarterback and offensive coordinator were reunited.
After 14 games with Bradford as the starter – six of them with Turner as the offensive coordinator and eight of them with Shurmur as the interim coordinator – the Vikings will have to decide if Shurmur is retained as the full-time coordinator in 2017.
“The statistics since he’s taken over are a lot better, number one. I keep a list of statistics from when he started and prior to that,” head coach Mike Zimmer said. “Most every area has improved.”
The Vikings only have the 30th-ranked offense and are last in rushing, but there are contributing factors to all the statistics, including an offensive line that has been decimated by injury.
Through it all, Bradford has performed relatively well. He has been forced into a mostly short passing game as protections often have broken down, but he is on pace to barely break the all-time NFL record for completion percentage, as he is one-tenth of a percentage point ahead of Drew Brees’ record of 71.2 from 2011.
Bradford is “all for” keeping Shurmur as his offensive coordinator moving forward.
“Obviously, me and Pat have been together. We were together my rookie year. We were together in Philadelphia,” Bradford said. “I just really enjoy working with him. I think he has a great mind. I’ve learned a lot from him. I owe a lot to Pat, and it has been really fun getting back and having him call the plays.”
To date, however, there have been no talks about keeping Shurmur in that role beyond Sunday’s season finale, he said.
“There hasn’t been any conversation about anything. Again, most of what we are talking about is the Chicago Bears. We go through this process on a weekly basis,” Shurmur said. “We play the game, you quickly assess what happens and you move on. After the final game, you then assess what happened during the season and you move on. That will all happen down the road, but right now our focus is the Bears.”
Shurmur said he isn’t viewing Sunday’s finale as another audition for the full-time job.
“I don’t. I view this as another opportunity to try and do what I can to help put the players – the coaches and I are trying to put the players in the best possible position they can be in so that we can go out and score points and win a football game and that’s really what our focus is,” he said.
But with Bridgewater’s future uncertain because of a devastating knee injury suffered in a practice before the fourth preseason game, the long-time relationship between Bradford and Shurmur likely will be viewed as a positive in Shurmur’s favor.
“I was growing as a coordinator, he was a first-round pick, rookie, Heisman trophy winner and a guy that had a lot of success. So, we just kind of communicated and I think that’s the key to our relationship,” Shurmur said. “We are constantly communicating about things that are good, about things we like, things he sees that might make us better, so there’s a constant communication and I think that’s the foundation of all relationships.”
Shurmur believes Bradford has had a good season. In fact, by several measures it’s been the best season of Bradford’s seven years in the NFL.
“Being with Pat I think has been great just because we have worked together before,” Bradford said. “Like I’ve said, I think we have a really good relationship and feel for each other. So, just the fact that we’ve been able to get back together and play in that offense, I think that has been enjoyable. I have really enjoyed my time with him.”
It seems likely Bradford and Shurmur would have at least another year together, but Zimmer isn’t going to make that final evaluation this week or even right after the Chicago game on Sunday. He prefers to let the emotions of the season simmer, then assess and make his decision.
“My plan is, what I’m going to do is sit down, take a few days. I’m going to work, but I’m going to sit down, take a few days and kind of refresh everything in my mind. Then I’ll make all kinds of decisions and evaluate a lot of different things. But I’m not going to worry about it right now,” Zimmer said. “I don’t want to make any rash decisions on anything. I don’t want to linger from whatever happens Sunday or the past Sunday or the season. I want to take a fresh, new look at everything.”