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Pat Shurmur Big Loss for Vikings

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January 28, 2018

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Pat Shurmur’s departure as offensive coordinator for the Vikings creates a concern for next season. Perhaps jumbo size.

Shurmur’s job performance with Minnesota prompted his hiring last week as the New York Giants head coach. After succeeding Norv Turner as offensive coordinator during the 2016 season, Shurmur showed why head coach Mike Zimmer promoted him.

Turner was Minnesota’s offensive coordinator for two-plus seasons. His offenses seldom dazzled, and reportedly he and Zimmer had different views. Shurmur, though, helped turn the offense from a worry to an asset in 2017 despite the early season loss of quarterback Sam Bradford to knee issues.

Shurmur’s offense struggled to produce points in last Sunday’s playoff loss to the Eagles, scoring a lone touchdown. But during the regular season the offense finished 11th in the NFL in yards per game with 358.9 and the unit tied for seventh with 68 plays for 20 or more yards, demonstrating big play ability.

Shurmur was adept at utilizing personnel within schemes players were capable of accomplishing. His game plans were impressive including what looked to be scripted early first quarter plays designed to not only gain yards but make the personnel comfortable and establish confidence.

The 52-year-old Shurmur has 19 seasons of coaching experience in the NFL, including as head coach of the Browns. With the Vikings he has shown a calm and even pleasant demeanor during games. He appears to be the kind of coach who makes players comfortable.

Mike Zimmer

Zimmer hired Shurmur in 2016 as his tights ends coach before promoting him to offensive coordinator. While it’s questionable whether Zimmer and Turner worked well together, it’s obvious Shurmur and Zimmer did.

Since day one of Zimmer’s arrival as head coach of the Vikings in January of 2014, his signature has been all over the defense which has become one of the top units in the NFL. Shurmur provided major direction to the offense and offered a counter balance to the 24-7 intensity and temper of the head coach.

Style of play, strategizing, handling players and getting along with Zimmer look like ways Shurmur’s successor will be compared. A year from now we’ll know whether the Vikings have “Shurmur 2” or something less.

Worth Noting

“Welcome to the Bold North and Super Bowl 52.” Those are the recorded words of former Viking Chad Greenway on the sound system at Minneapolis-St. Paul Airport as the area begins welcoming visitors to the big game February 4. Greenway, the ex-linebacker who retired after the 2016 season, agreed about a year ago to help local organizers with the Super Bowl effort.

Reports are legal authorities and the NCAA will be investigating alleged sexual assaults involving Michigan State athletes including football players and how the school handled incidents. Such news won’t surprise writers Jeff Benedict and Armen Keteyian. In their 2013 book, The System, The Glory and Scandal of Big-Time College Football, they wrote about the prevalence of criminal, or alleged criminal conduct, involving college football players. They referenced a nine-year study of criminal complaints of felony assault attributed to pro and college athletes. The study concluded athletes are less likely to be convicted of crimes.

The authors devote a chapter to the 2004 Brigham Young incident where four football players were put on trial for rape charges but were not convicted. The prosecutor, Donna Kelly, was later told by jurors that the players had suffered enough with the loss of their football scholarships. Kelly found the logic bizarre and was quoted in the book as saying, “That’s the power of college football.”

The NHL first-year Vegas expansion team has 68 points at the All-Star break, the most in the Western Conference. The Golden Knights are in first place in the Pacific Division, nine points better than the second place Sharks. In their 1967-1968 NHL debut the expansion Minnesota North Stars scored 69 points for the season. The Minnesota Wild, in its expansion season of 2000-2001, produced 68 points.

So far this season the Wild has 57 points, nine fewer than the Central Division leading Jets. Qualifying for the playoffs is in doubt.

The vast number of first period empty seats at Mariucci Arena, including the best locations, was startling to see when No. 1 ranked Notre Dame played the Gophers Friday night in Minneapolis. Lack of fan interest fuels speculation about the future of 19-year head coach Don Lucia whose team split two games over the weekend against the Fighting Irish.

A program long billed as Minnesota’s “pride on ice” has struggled this season with an overall record of 16-13-1, and 7-10-1-1 in the Big Ten. There’s public frustration too about no national titles since 2003, and fans continue to complain about the move in 2013 from the popular WCHA to the hockey start-up Big Ten.

The presence of the Wild is a problem too. Interest in Gopher hockey benefitted from 1993 to 2000 when there was no pro hockey competition in Minneapolis-St. Paul.

From the lighter side: A teenage grocery store employee said yesterday she didn’t know the Gophers have been playing football longer than the Vikings.

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David Shama

David Shama is a former sports editor and columnist with local publications. His writing and reporting experiences include covering the Minnesota Vikings, Minnesota Twins, Minnesota Timberwolves and Minnesota Gophers. Shama’s career experiences also include sports marketing. He is the former Marketing Director of the Minnesota North Stars of the NHL. He is also the former Marketing Director of the United States Tennis Association’s Northern Section. A native of Minneapolis, Shama has been part of the community his entire life. He is a graduate of the University of Minnesota where he majored in journalism. He also has a Master’s degree in education from the University of St. Thomas. He was a member of the Governor’s NBA’s Task Force to help create interest in bringing pro basketball to town in the 1980s.

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