Vikings Change but For the Better or Worse?

Chip Scoggins at the Minneapolis Star-Tribune discusses the curious hire of a seemingly overly qualified Pat Shurmer for the Vikings tight ends coach position. Shurmer reportedly had better opportunities. For instance, he refused an interview for the Rams passing game coordinator position that Bears wide receivers coach Mike Groh eventually took. Scoggin speculates that Shurmer might be a Vikings offensive coordinator in waiting, insurance in case current coach Norv Turner fails to improve the unit.  But in doing so he offers what I consider to be a viable alternative explanation:

“In simplest terms, head coaches should strive to hire as many quality coaches as possible, regardless of roles or titles. Zimmer checked that box with the additions of Shurmur and former NFL head coach Tony Sparano as his new offensive line coach.

“A popular theory in Zimmer’s first two seasons was that he handled the defense, Turner the offense. And while that shared responsibility still exists, Zimmer’s actions in response to a sluggish offense indicate willingness on his part to put a larger imprint on offense.”

People have a habit of thinking that putting together a game plan is the responsibility of the offensive coordinator alone. And that’s true to an extent. But everyone is actually involved as different assistants take an aspect of the upcoming opponent, study it and come up with a plan to handle it. It’s a team effort.  The offensive coordinator just  integrates the parts into a one comprehensive plan. All of the coaches have a part to play and the more smart people you have in the room, the more likely it is that you’ll have a good plan which covers all of the bases well.

There is the risk that Shurmer disrupts the chemistry of this team if he and Turner don’t work well together. It’s a delicate situation when there are too many chefs in the kitchen. But its a risk the team has decided to take.

That’s the advantage of having Shurmer and Sparano on board for the team. The advantage for Shurmer is less certain but I would question whether all of those opportunities elsewhere were more speculation than reality. I have no doubt that the Rams were interested in interviewing him. But given the current make up of the team and mentality of the organization, I’m not sure I’d be interested in that job either. This may have been as good of an offer as Shurmer got, the opportunity to work as part of a staff that is apparently going places as a stepping stone to something better.

The last part of the quote above is also interesting. I’m thinking of Packers coach Mike McCarthy who gave up offensive play calling duties and stepped out of the offensive room to spend more time with his defense and special teams. Those two units got better. But the offense also executed much less sharply in 2015. Yes, I know that they were missing Jordy Nelson. But don’t fool yourself. The offense was off its game even at the beginning of the season and never recovered. By spending more time with his offense, Zimmer risks a similar thing happening with the Vikings defense. He needs to tread carefully or his team might be in for a fall as it’s beating heart declines in exchange for minor gains in other areas.

One thing is certain. The Vikings aren’t sitting on his laurels as the 2015 NFC North champion. But as with all changes, those instituted here are a double edged sword that can hurt as much as they help. It will be interesting to see in which direction they take the Vikings in 2016.

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