Bears Coaching Confidential: Pat Shurmur

Bears Coaching Confidential: Pat Shurmur

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 McDanielsJohn 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. 

Why coming to the Bears was the right opportunity for Harry Hiestand to leave Notre Dame


Why coming to the Bears was the right opportunity for Harry Hiestand to leave Notre Dame

There wasn’t a single game Harry Hiestand coached while at Notre Dame — 77 in total — in which he didn’t have a future top-20 pick starting at left tackle. 

Zack Martin (16th overall, 2014) was followed by Ronnie Stanley (6th overall, 2016), who gave way to Mike McGlinchey (9th overall, 2018). Hiestand also developed Quenton Nelson, who went on to be the highest interior offensive lineman drafted (6th overall, 2018) since 1986. Nelson and McGlinchey became the first pair of college offensive line teammates to be drafted in the first 10 picks since 1991, when Tennessee had tackles Charles McRae and Antone Davis go seventh and eighth. 

“It wasn’t surprising because the kind of guys they are, they absolutely did everything the right way, the way they took care of themselves, the way they trained, the teammates that they are and were,” Hiestand said. “They just did it all the way you wanted them to do it. So it was. It was a good moment.”

Hiestand said he had a sense of pride after seeing his two former players be drafted so high, even if he wasn't able to re-unite with either of them. The Bears, of course, didn’t have a chance to draft Nelson, and had conviction on using the eighth overall pick on linebacker Roquan Smith (as well as having tackles Charles Leno and Bobby Massie in place for the 2018 season). 

Anecdotally, one former Notre Dame player said (maybe half-jokingly) that Nelson and McGlinchey were fighting each other to see who could get drafted by the Bears to play with Hiestand again.

“There’s nobody that I’ve been around in this game that’s more passionate about what he does,” McGlinchey, now with the San Francisco 49ers, said of Hiestand at Notre Dame’s pro day in March. “There’s really only two things that are important to him, and that’s his family and then his offensive linemen. There’s a lot to be said for that. 

“In this game, everybody’s always trying to work an angle to up their own career — he doesn’t want to do anything but coach O-line, and that’s what really sticks out to us as players. He cares for us like we’re his own. Obviously he coaches extremely hard and is very demanding of his players, which I loved — he pushed me to be the player that I am.

“I’m standing in front of all you guys because of Harry Hiestand. But the amount of passion and care that he has not only for his job but his teaching abilities and his players is what sets him apart.”

Hiestand could’ve stayed as long as he wanted at Notre Dame, presumably, given how much success he had recruiting and developing players there. But six years at one spot is a long time for a position coach, especially at the college level, where the grind of recruiting is so vital to the success of a program. It’s also not like every one of the blue-chip prospects Hiestand recruited to South Bend panned out, either. 

So Hiestand knew he wanted to get back to the NFL after coaching with the Bears under Lovie Smith from 2005-2009. It’s a new challenge for him now, not only to develop second-round pick James Daniels but to continue the growth of Cody Whitehair and Leno while getting the most out of Kyle Long, Massie and the rest of the group (back during his first stint with the Bears, Hiestand had the luxury of coaching experienced, more ready-made offensive lines). 

As one of the more highly-regarded offensive line coaches in the country, though, Hiestand could’ve jumped back into the NFL whenever, and nearly wherever, he wanted. And for him, coming back to the Bears was the perfect fit. 

“That’s an awesome, awesome place, a great franchise,” Hiestand said. “It was something, I always wanted to go back, I didn’t know where I would get the opportunity. So I’m just very fortunate it just happened to be back at the same place that I was before. There are a lot of things that are different but there’s also a lot that’s the same. 

“But it’s one of the — it is the greatest organization. Historically, this is where it all began, and being part of it — and the other thing, and I told those guys when I got here, when we get it done here, you guys are going to see this city like you’ve never seen it. And I remember that. That’s what we’re after.” 

On a scale of 1-10, Tarik Cohen says his dangerous level is 12

On a scale of 1-10, Tarik Cohen says his dangerous level is 12

Don't be fooled by Tarik Cohen's height. He has towering confidence and he's setting up to have a big role in coach Matt Nagy's offense in 2018.

“On a scale of 1-10, the dangerous level is probably 12,” Cohen said Wednesday at Halas Hall about the impact he can have in the Bears' new system. “Because in backyard football, it’s really anything goes, and it’s really whoever gets tired first, that’s who’s going to lose. I’m running around pretty good out here, so I feel like I’m doing a good job.”

Cohen proved last season he can thrive in space. He made an impact as a runner, receiver and return man and will have a chance at an even bigger workload this fall, assuming he can handle it.

With Jordan Howard established as the starting running back, Cohen knows his touches will come in a variety of ways.

“It might not necessarily be rushes,” he said. “But it’s going to be all over the field, and that’s what I like to do. Any way I can get the ball or make a play for my team, that’s what I’m looking forward to doing.”

Cohen averaged 4.3 yards-per-carry as a rookie and led all NFL running backs in the percentage of carries that went for at least 15 yards. He's a big play waiting to happen.