What a couple of weeks it’s been for Pat Shurmur.
The Minnesota Vikings offensive coordinator likely earned himself a head coaching job with the New York Giants after a series of interviews during the Vikings’ playoff bye week.
Then he went out and made the play call of a lifetime with the now-legendary “Buffalo Right Seven Heaven” that won Minnesota its divisional playoff game on a miraculous final play.
— NFL (@NFL) January 18, 2018
To top it off, Shurmur earned the Pro Football Writers of America’s Assistant Coach of the Year honor for his impeccable work retooling the Vikings offense around a backup quarterback and backup running backs.
“Those types of awards really are team awards,” said Shurmur. “I think Rick [Spielman] and coach Zimmer have put together a group of players and coaches that are outstanding.
“We have a staff of guys who are constantly communicating, so all the good ideas can float to the top, and then my role as a coordinator is to kind of steer the ship and provide some vision and help the quarterback function on game day.”
Although Shurmur is tight-lipped when it comes to reports of his impending promotion to Giants head coach, he likely enters his final act in Minnesota.
His two-year tenure will be defined by his steadiness.
Shurmur came to the Vikings last season as a tight ends coach, essentially looking to rebuild his professional stock after losing his job as offensive coordinator/interim head coach in Philadelphia after Eagles management fired Chip Kelly.
By Week 9 of the 2016 season, he became Minnesota’s interim offensive coordinator following Norv Turner’s resignation. Now he engineers a top-10 offense that is one win from the Super Bowl.
In three of Shurmur’s past four full seasons as an offensive coordinator, his teams have won double-digit games. If not for a seven-win season in 2015 with Kelly, he may have been named a head coach two years ago.
Unlike in Philadelphia, though, where Kelly’s unique offensive ideas dictated most of the gameplans, defensive-minded head coach Mike Zimmer entrusted Shurmur with the lion’s share of the offensive responsibilities, and the 52 year old demonstrated an adaptive offense that became Minnesota’s best since 2013.
“He’s done outstanding with getting players, mixing them in, using them in the right place,” said Zimmer. “He’s done a good job of molding everything together.”
Shurmur only got one full game with Week 1 starting quarterback Sam Bradford and three full games with Week 1 starting running back Dalvin Cook. After both suffered knee injuries, Shurmur geared gameplans around the skillset of Case Keenum and ball-carriers Latavius Murray and Jerick McKinnon. Along the way, four out of Minnesota’s top five offensive linemen missed time due to injury.
But the production never slowed.
Since going into Week 5 without Bradford or Cook, the Vikings averaged nearly 25 points per game and were only held below 20 points twice, despite using eight different offensive line combinations along the way.
Zimmer calls Shurmur “level-headed,” which has gotten him through a pair of seasons that many would deem tumultuous. Quarterback and offensive line injuries also complicated Shurmur’s partial season as interim O.C., not to mention a medical scare to Zimmer’s eye during the season’s final month.
But Shurmur was handed the permanent job as coordinator early in 2017, as well as a reshuffled offense with which to work.
And he’s made it work.
Shurmur was a steadying presence as he captained a Vikings offensive ship that took on plenty of water but refused to sink under his watch.
“I think every day becomes a new normal,” said Shurmur, “I’ve always sort of felt that we, as coaches, find a way to compartmentalize things. … We just move on from one thing to the other, and we don’t let things that are happening around us distract us, and this week is no different.”