With the Bears' beginning their head coaching search this week, NBC Sports Chicago Bears Insider JJ Stankevitz and producer Paul Aspan will examine 10 coaching candidates who could be considered by Ryan Pace and team ownership. We've covered Josh McDaniels, John DeFilippo and Steve Wilks already, and look at another sought-after coordinator today: Minnesota Vikings OC Pat Shurmur.
JJ: Shurmur was Donovan McNabb’s quarterbacks coach from 2002-2008, and more recently, managed to turn Case Keenum (!!) into a division-winning quarterback in 2017 with the Vikings. He’s been a head coach before, spending two years with the Cleveland Browns, and the 52-year-old looks to be in line for another shot. Should the Bears consider him?
Paul: I’ll be honest, this one just doesn’t do much for me, even if Vegas has him as the favorite to get the Bears gig. I tip my hat for the work he’s done with Keenum, and clearly the McNabb-era Eagles had a good thing going over the same stretch that he was there. I can poke holes in my own argument by pointing out how he’s had success with two different style running backs (even after losing Dalvin Cook), something that could serve him well in Chicago, but it just doesn’t excite me.
Part of it is probably that he clearly has a thing for Sam Bradford, whom he coached in St. Louis, Philly, and Minnesota. THE VIKINGS TRADED A FIRST AND A FOURTH ROUND PICK FOR SAM BRADFORD. Shurmur had to be instrumental in pushing for that even if he was *only* the tight ends coach and Norv Turner was the OC at the time.
I’m sure the Browns stink doesn’t help. He’s also performed a Keenum-esque one season miracle before with Nick Foles when he was OC in Philly under Chip Kelly, but that didn’t pan out in the long run either. Shurmur is another failed first time coach looking for redemption the second time around, and I’d just rather see Bears & Pace make a fresher, more exciting hire.
The final nail in the coffin for me is that the best defensive mind in the division, Mike Zimmer, on what looks to be the most complete team in the NFC North for the near future, the Vikings, now has the book on him. Sure that can work both ways, but I’d lean advantage Zimmer if they’re lining up on opposite sidelines twice a season. Does Shurmur do anything for you, JJ?
JJ: Sometimes chasing the most “exciting” hire gets you in trouble.
In terms of the best resumes out there, I think Shurmur’s is right up there with that of Josh McDaniels. I’m not going to try to blow smoke about his time in Cleveland, but remember: It’s Cleveland. Nobody wins there. The five-win season Shurmur had in 2012 -- after which he was fired -- is the second-best season the Browns have had in the last 10 years. I don’t think his time in Cleveland is *that* big of a drawback, and he might've learned a few things about being a head coach from it.
Nor do I hold Sam Bradford against him. Let’s not forget that Bradford was A) a slam-dunk No. 1 overall pick in 2010 and B) did some good things as a rookie under Shurmur’s watch in St. Louis (he was the AP offensive rookie of the year, for what it’s worth). Shurmur left to be the Browns coach after that year, and Bradford was injured and mediocre until linking back up with Shurmur in Philadelphia in 2015 (he has a 94.2 passer rating from 2015-2017).
Granted, I’m not trying to get you excited about the work Shurmur has done with Bradford, but there are some valid devil’s advocate points there. On the flip side, Shurmur’s offenses -- either as a head coach or offensive coordinator -- have ranked third, fourth, 10th, 13th, 23rd, 24th, 26th, 30th and 32nd in points per game, an average finish of about 18th. Meh. Keenum’s 2017 numbers (22 TDs, 7 INTs, 98.3 passer rating), though, are outlandish compared to the rest of his career (24 TDs, 20 INTs, 78.4 passer rating).
But maybe we’re getting close to paralysis by analysis here with Shurmur. How are his organizational skills? What’s his plan for Mitchell Trubisky? Who does he have on his shortlist to be his coordinators and assistants? Those are more relevant questions here than what Bradford or Keenum’s passer ratings were under his watch. Winning gets a coach his foot in the door, but the plan that he presents to Ryan Pace is what will get him hired.
One final thought: On all of these candidates we’ve looked at, remember that the hiring process is a two-way street. There are currently five other job openings around the NFL with pros and cons to each. The Arizona Cardinals, Detroit Lions and New York Giants reportedly also requested to interview Shurmur, and he may have the option of going somewhere he could draft and develop a quarterback (Arizona and New York) or work with an established one (Detroit). Maybe he likes Trubisky enough to hitch himself to last year’s No. 2 pick, but maybe not. We’ll see.