Pat Shurmur received recognition on Thursday for his contributions to the success the Minnesota Vikings are currently enjoying.
The Pro Football Writers Association named the Vikings offensive coordinator its NFL assistant coach of the year. The accolade comes with the team just a win a away from making the Super Bowl for the fifth time in franchise history. Shurmur becomes the second Vikings assistant to take home the award, joining Brian Billick who did so in 1998.
Pat Shurmur has been named Assistant Coach of the Year by @PFWAwriters!
— Minnesota Vikings (@Vikings) January 18, 2018
Pat Shurmur Named NFL Assistant Coach of the Year
Shurmur helped spearhead massive improvements on the offensive side of the ball for the Vikings. In his first full season as offensive coordinator, the team improved to 11th in total offense among NFL teams from 28th the year before.
Those improvements came in the wake of injuries to key players.
Quarterback Sam Bradford suffered a knee injury in the Vikings Week Two loss to the Pittsburgh Steelers. It forced Minnesota turn to Case Keenum, who proceeded to go 11-3 as a starter for the remainder of the regular season. Pro Football Focus gave Keenum the eighth highest grade among quarterbacks in 2017.
Then came a season-ending ACL tear in Week Four to Dalvin Cook. The promising rookie running back registered 354 yards on the ground and two rushing touchdowns before the injury. Others stepped up in his absence, though, specifically the tandem of Latavius Murray and Jerick McKinnon. Those two combined for 1,412 rushing yards and 11 touchdowns.
The resurgence of the Vikings offense under Shurmur is striking. That’s especially true of the running game. Last year, the Vikings ranked dead last in rushing offense, in part due to the injury suffered by Adrian Peterson. But Minnesota’s first season without the future Hall of Famer in the backfield since 2006 saw them rocket from the bottom of the league to seventh overall in rushing yards.
Balancing the NFC Title Game With Shurmur’s Coaching Future
One of the more interesting dynamics at this time of the year is how assistants in the crosshairs of teams in need of a new head coach deal with the distraction. That’s certainly the case with Shurmur who appears all but certain to take the New York Giants job once the Vikings’ season is over.
But there remains the business of Sunday’s NFC Championship against the Philadelphia Eagles and Super Bowl LII two weeks later. That latter game is significant in that Minnesota can become the first team in NFL history to play the big game in their home stadium with a win this weekend. Vikings fans can only hope that the Giants rumors don’t take away from preparation for the franchise’s first conference title game in eight seasons.