At a time when teams like the Minnesota Vikings are beginning the initial process of dialing up for the coming season, there are a lot of things that are new around the team.
With the draft and free agency, there are plenty of new faces at Winter Park that are part of the offseason workout program, but one of the most important changes from a year ago are the two guys who are heading up the offense – offensive coordinator Pat Shurmur and quarterback Sam Bradford.
A year ago at this time, Shurmur was the new tight ends coach for the Vikings and Bradford was facing an uncertain future with the Eagles after Philadelphia traded up to draft Carson Wentz. A year later, Shurmur is in his first full season as offensive coordinator and Bradford is in his first full offseason with the Vikings.
Shurmur had a chance to sit down with Mike Wobschall of the Vikings Entertainment Network to discuss the changes that he is installing in his first offseason program as the top dog of offensive coaching staff.
“It’s been a busy offseason,” Shurmur said. “When the seasons ends, most people don’t know, but we go through a process to re-evaluate our current roster and decide what we want to do with personnel – obviously with free agency and the draft process. This has been an exciting time of year for us as coaches because the last five weeks we’ve had a chance to work with the players. They’re all back in town. We just got the rookies in after their rookie minicamp. Now, we try to put into place the concepts and systems we’re going to use in the fall.”
Shurmur believes that this offseason will be critical for Bradford. When he came to Vikings, he had to get a crash course in the offense because their simply wasn’t time to takes things slow. This time around, he has more time to get accustomed to his teams – old and new – and the opportunity to take his time with the offensive nuances Shurmur is installing.
Shurmur said you can’t underestimated the value of a strong offseason program, pointing out one of his first charges when he came to the team as tight ends coach and how a strong offseason bled into the regular season.
“You look at any player – I think Kyle Rudolph had a great year last year because he had a very productive and healthy offseason,” Shurmur said. “It kind of was a segue into the fall. The same can be said for Sam. He got here in the fall and there were bunch of things running parallel – getting used to the system, getting used to the players, getting used to our culture. Now, he gets a chance with the team we have compiled, to get to know everybody at the right pace and at the right setting. Hopefully, it will make a difference in the fall.”
Shurmur is no stranger to Bradford. The two worked hand in hand, both in St. Louis and Philadelphia. There isn’t anything the two don’t know about one another – from their personality to their strengths and weaknesses.
It is that familiarity that Shurmur believes will be the key to sustained success for Bradford and the offense.
“I think as quarterback, he has all the key components,” Shurmur said. “He’s an outstanding leader. He’s a tremendous decision-maker. He doesn’t throw a bunch of interceptions. He’s actually more aggressive down the field than he gets credit for. He’s an extremely accurate passer, which we’ve seen short, intermediate and long. Accuracy goes into two boxes. There’s the ball placement and then the touch. I think he’s got both of those. Then he has a sense of timing. He knows what routes are going to come open. He’s a pro who has had to learn multiple offenses. Fortunately for Sam, this will be the third time we’ve been together. As offenses develop and change, he’s kind of at Ground Zero of this year’s process, which will help.”
Just as critical to Bradford’s success will be a running game that can augment the passing game and give the Vikings more versatility and options on offense.
“A good running game is certainly the best friend of a quarterback,” Shurmur said. “Now the play action means something. It’s important that you have more than one running back that you trust. I feel like that’s the case with us now. I’ve said it before, it kind of takes a village at running back.”
A lot of the focus on the Vikings offseason buildup to training camp will be focused on the new players that have arrived since March in the draft and through free agency. But perhaps the two people who will be most critical to the performance of the offense in 2017 are guys that have been around for a while but in their first full offseason in their new permanent jobs – the offensive coordinator and the franchise quarterback.