There’s no doubt that Vikings tight ends coach Pat Shurmur had a lot of influence in the trade for Sam Bradford.
Shurmur was able to provide great detail on Bradford’s capabilities, having coached the No. 1 overall pick in his rookie year of 2010, when Shurmur was St. Louis Rams offensive coordinator, and again last year, when Shurmur was offensive coordinator (and, for one game, interim head coach after Chip Kelly was fired) with the Philadelphia Eagles.
Speaking before the Vikings’ bye week, Shurmur was asked if he was surprised by the early success Bradford has shown in Norv Turner’s system.
“I wasn’t surprised,” Shurmur said. “I certainly saw that his first year in St. Louis, and I saw it last year in Philadelphia. I wasn’t surprised by it. I knew if he had a feel for what we were doing that he would be able to execute.”
And now Shurmur and Bradford are back in Philadelphia for a key matchup with the 3-2 Eagles.
A lot of the Philadelphia media wrote this past week about Shurmur, who spent a total of 13 years with the Eagles in various coaching roles, and how big of a role he has played with Bradford.
While there was a strong feeling among Vikings coaches and front office officials that Bradford could get used to their offense because of his familiarity with some of the concepts, Shurmur was still impressed with his ability to perform the way he has in such a short amount of time.
“When he came here, we certainly taught him a portion of the offense, but there’s some carry-over to Philadelphia because prior to getting here, some of the things he had done in our past were part of our offense [in Minnesota],” Shurmur said. “He was able to get himself up to speed because there were some familiar concepts, but he also did a great job of learning some of the details that were here with the offense last year.”
Saw talent after injury
With Shurmur preparing to go back to Philadelphia, he talked about what he saw from Bradford when he coached him last season, after the Eagles and Rams did a rare 1-for-1 trade of quarterbacks. St. Louis landed Nick Foles in the deal.
“Last year, he came to us after a season-ending injury in St. Louis,” Shurmur said. “In my opinion he wasn’t healthy to start the year, although he played. If you watch his progress by the end of the year, his last six to eight games he was probably playing at a top-10 level.
“I think last year was good for him, but then he had the offseason this year where he could work on things other than rehab, and so he’s as healthy as I’ve seen him in a few years.”
So is there anything that limits Bradford offensively?
“He’s not a guy who is going to run around and make a lot of plays with his legs,” Shurmur said. “But certainly in the pocket, throwing and getting rid of the ball on time, those are the things he does great.”
Yes, Bradford’s start has been a great story for the Vikings, but it just goes to show that a lot of small moves had to happen for him to end up here, No. 1 probably being the hiring of Shurmur to Mike Zimmer’s staff in the offseason. That, of course, was long before anyone thought Shurmur would be teaming back up with his QB last year in Philadelphia.
Nearly a disaster
If the Gophers hadn’t come back to beat Rutgers on an Emmit Carpenter’s field goal in the final seconds — to beat a team that lost 58-0 to Ohio State and 78-0 to Michigan — it would have set the program back a long, long way.
The only positive thing to consider from Saturday’s result is that Rutgers did press Iowa earlier this season, losing just 14-7 at home Sept. 24, so the Scarlet Knights have been competitive in conference play before. They also lost to Illinois 24-7.
But for the Gophers to give up 32 points to a team that had scored only 14 points all season in the Big Ten, that’s a bad sign going into Illinois next weekend.
Coach Tracy Claeys was asked if the team simply started to look past Rutgers after jumping to a 21-3 first-quarter lead.
“That’s probably a good conclusion after the way it ended up,” Claeys said. “I say kids have to learn that you play in the Big Ten and it doesn’t matter [the opponent]. They’re going through the rebuilding process like we did at one time. Their kids play hard, [Rutgers] coach [Chris] Ash does a nice job. I guess we thought if we got up that big that [Rutgers] would get on the bus and go home. That was disappointing, obviously, to give up that big of a lead. But at the same time, we did find a way to get back and win, and we’ll go to work on our problems. We do this and the kids, there’s no such thing as a bad win. They’re all good. We made the plays we needed to make at the end and we’re back to 2-2 in the Big Ten and looking forward to next week.”
Quarterback Mitch Leidner, who returned from a concussion to start, said he felt the team was still fighting after getting the lead, but the Gophers were not able to keep up their dominance.
“I could feel the energy and passion on the sideline,” Leidner said. “Everyone wanted to keep scoring, keep the foot on the gas, but it just ended up not working out that way.”
• How times have changed in the NFL. According to Vikings VP Rob Brzezinski, who deals with the salary cap, the cap was $34.6 million in 1994 and today is $155.3 million. The Vikings currently sit $591,000 under the cap.
• Tom Johnson said he agrees with fellow Vikings defensive lineman Brian Robison, who said he has never had more fun playing on a defensive line. “This is one of the best D-lines I’ve actually played with,” Johnson said. “I think it is that everybody is selfless.”
• Timberwolves center Karl-Anthony Towns was asked how it is to execute new coach Tom Thibodeau’s game plan. “I think we are doing a great job of understanding what he wants to do,” last season’s NBA Rookie of the Year said. “We did a great job executing it Wednesday [in a preseason victory over Memphis]. Now we just got to execute it for 48 minutes. We can’t have three quarters of execution and have a fourth-quarter meltdown.”
• Speaking of Towns, one question NBA general managers were asked in a recent survey was, if they were starting a franchise today and could sign one player, who would they choose? The GMs overwhelmingly said they would sign Towns, who got 48.3 percent of the vote to 20.7 percent for Kevin Durant and 17.2 percent for LeBron James. The GMs also believed that the Wolves would be the league’s most improved team and that Kris Dunn would win Rookie of the Year.
• The Gophers football team will have room for only 17 new scholarships for 2017 because so few seniors are graduating. And they already have 13 commitments that they think are pretty solid.
• The TCF Bank Stadium crowd Saturday was announced as 49,096, but it appeared to be one of the smallest homecoming crowds in some time.
• Dick Mattson, who for 48 years worked in the Gophers football equipment room and has been retired for some time, was honored at Saturday’s game.
Sid Hartman can be heard weekdays on WCCO AM-830 at 7:40 and 8:40 a.m. and Sundays at 9:30 a.m. E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org