File this under: Good problem to have, but something to nonetheless keep an eye on.
The Vikings, owners of a 10-2 record and plenty of offensive contributions despite playing much of the season with backups at quarterback and running back and a defense that has once again been rock-solid, could find their coaching staff raided in the offseason.
ESPN is not the only outlet to note this, but an item Wednesday took a look at “21 NFL head coaching candidates you need to know.” On that list, you can find a prominent mention of Vikings offensive coordinator Pat Shurmur. He is one of 13 coaches to receive a contextual write-up of why he is a strong candidate. There are eight more coaches in the “other names to watch” category, and you can find defensive coordinator George Edwards on that part.
Given that head coach Mike Zimmer still has a lot of fingerprints on the Vikings defense, Edwards’ candidacy would not appear to be as strong as that of Shurmur. What Shurmur has done with this offense in his first full season at the helm, though, is legitimate.
Citing league sources, ESPN says there could be eight or more coaching vacancies. There’s already been one coach fired (Ben McAdoo with the Giants) and plenty more are on the hot seat. The Bengals, Bears, Browns, Colts and Bucs are good bets to make changes, and there are always a few surprises as well.
Shurmur isn’t the biggest name potentially available. Guys like former Bucs coach turned broadcaster Jon Gruden or Patriots OC Josh McDaniels could be splashier hires.
Shurmur had the head job in Cleveland for two seasons in 2011-12, with the struggling franchise going 9-23 in the process. His main starting QBs those years were Colt McCoy and Brandon Weeden, so it’s hard to blame him for that failure. That’s not to say Shurmur would be the next Bill Belichick (who has fared, um, somewhat better with the Patriots than he did with the Browns), but failing to win in Cleveland shouldn’t disqualify someone from another chance.
Shurmur’s eventual candidacy will likely come down to fit. Given his offensive background, he might be most attractive to a team grooming a young QB.
As noted earlier, too, this is what happens when a team succeeds. Former OC Darrell Bevell was rumored as a head coaching candidate after the 2009 Vikings thrived. So was defensive coordinator Leslie Frazier. Neither of them were hired, but Frazier ended up taking over for Brad Childress midstream in 2010, while Bevell landed as the OC in Seattle.
Brian Billick was hired by the Ravens after the 1998 season, when he led the Vikings offense to the most points (at the time) in NFL history. Tony Dungy and Mike Tomlin were former Vikings defensive coordinators.
For now, there is a lot of season left to play out. Where Shurmur might be in 2018 is not a front-burner issue. But it’s something to consider within the big picture of years to come.