This is something that we’ve touched on in the past, but because this week’s theme among our SB Nation NFL sites is which coach on our team’s staff is most likely to get a head coaching job, we’re going to touch on it again.
When the Minnesota Vikings brought Pat Shurmur in to coach their tight ends prior to the start of the 2016 season, many people thought that job was just a bridge to eventually becoming an offensive coordinator again. When Norv Turner resigned during the season, that opportunity came quicker than what many expected. The Vikings’ offense didn’t exactly light the world on fire in the half of 2016 that Shurmur was leading things, but it’s hard to discount what the offense has done in 2017 under Shurmur’s direction.
Start the 2017 season with four new starters on the offensive line (and one guy that started last year but was starting at a new position this year? Sure, we’ll make that work.
Lose your starting quarterback to a weird injury after he lights it up the first week of the season and roll with a guy that many considered an afterthought? Sure, we’ll make that work.
Watch the star rookie running back that you had largely centered your offense around to start the season go down with a knee injury halfway through the fourth game of the season? Sure, we’ll make that work.
What Shurmur and his offensive coaching staff have done with the Vikings’ offense this season has been pretty incredible to watch. The injury issues and personnel changes that crushed this team a year ago are all being taken in stride, and while this year’s Vikings’ offense isn’t going to be mistaken for the 1998 team or anything like that, they’re doing an outstanding job of doing what they need to do, given that they’re more often than not bolstered by a great defense.
Shurmur’s playcalling has been a lot better than it was in 2016, and that obviously owes to the infusion of talent on the offensive line. But the variety that Shurmur shows while mixing personnel groups and formations has been a huge part of what the Vikings have done this season, and will no doubt catch the eye of front office people across the league when this year’s coaching carousel starts.
Now, in a time where guys like Sean McVay might have front offices wanting to skew their coaching searches in a younger direction, there aren’t a lot of wunderkind types that are going to come in and have that sort of impact. Shurmur has gained some respect around the league as an offensive coordinator, and there are some teams that might be more comfortable with such a coach taking over their team.
Yes, Shurmur has gotten an opportunity as a head coach before. He was the head coach of the Cleveland Browns in 2011 and 2012, during which time he compiled a 9-23 record. That’s not a great record by any stretch, but at the risk of offending any Browns fans that might have stumbled across this article. . .come on. In the past ten seasons, the Browns have won more than five games exactly once, and in that time have had six different head coaches. Cleveland not winning games wasn’t a Pat Shurmur problem, in my opinion.
I don’t know if Pat Shurmur is going to leave Minnesota after this season. Frankly, I don’t know if Shurmur has any desire to leave, as he might think that this is a situation where he could be a wildly successful coordinator for the long term (and, frankly, he’s probably right). But, if any Vikings’ coach is in line for a head coaching opportunity, it’s probably him.