We all know that Mike Zimmer has a reputation as an outstanding defensive coach, and that now offensive coordinator Pat Shurmur has the OC job for a full season for the Minnesota Vikings after taking over midway through last year. Provided that Zimmer’s health issues are behind him, the team should have some more stability at both of those spots.
Will this have any marked effect on the Minnesota offense? Is Zimmer in danger of becoming a sort of bizarro Dennis Green (a man who knows defense inside and out but struggles to find and develop offensive talent)? I asked Vincent Verhei of Football Outsiders about the coaching staff for the Vikings and how it could potentially help their offense.
In the almanac, you talk about Mike Zimmer potentially being on his way to being “the next Rex Ryan,” as in someone that can coach the heck out of a defense but seems to be lost when it comes to the offensive side of the ball and developing offensive talent. Do you think that the switch at offensive coordinator that the Vikings had last season could help Zimmer in that regard, particularly if the offensive line is shored up?
When Norv Turner resigned last season, the Vikings were 26th in Football Outsiders' offensive efficiency metrics, 18th passing, 31st rushing. From the point when Pat Shurmur took over to the end of the year, they were 24th overall, 15th passing, and 26th rushing. So a very slight improvement across the board. Shurmur has been an offensive coordinator or head coach in the NFL for almost a decade now, including working with Sam Bradford in the quarterback's rookie year with the Rams in 2010, and the only time his offenses had notable success was when he was working with Chip Kelly's scheme in Philadelphia. It's hard to say just how much impact he'll have on the Vikings, but it's safe to say that a healthy offensive line is a lot more important.
I think that Verhei is right when he says that the biggest thing that could happen for the Vikings is to have some stability. . .and marked improvement. . .on the offensive line. I do think that the Vikings’ offense is starting to improve in terms of talent, particularly at the wide receiver spot.
In addition, I think that the scheme that the Vikings are looking to run will be markedly more varied this season now that the team has had Shurmur in charge of the offense for a full offseason rather than having to adjust to things on the fly. They have running backs that can actually run out of the shotgun now, and if the offensive line can get just a little more push generated in the running game, this offense could really be going places. Given that the Vikings had one of the worst rush offenses the franchise has fielded since the advent of the 16-game schedule, improvement should be a given. . .how much improvement will remain a matter of contention.
We know that this team is going to be outstanding on defense, thanks to the combination of talent they’ve developed and Zimmer and George Edwards running things from the sideline. I’m probably a bit more optimistic about the Vikings potential on offense this season than Mr. Verhei appears to be, but we’ll see how things shake out when the regular season kicks off in a few weeks.