Vikings’ new offensive coordinator to work the field

Chris Tomasson
St. Paul Pioneer Press

Pat Shurmur already plans at least one change with the Vikings’ offense. Shurmur, named interim offensive coordinator after Norv Turner abruptly resigned Wednesday, said he expects to call plays from the sideline. Turner called plays from the coaches’ booth high above the field.

“I feel better down, and I think from my opinion it’s a better communication to the quarterback,” Shurmur said.

Shurmur, and Vikings quarterback Sam Bradford are close. They worked together as coordinator and quarterback in St. Louis in 2010 and Philadelphia last year. Vikings coach Mike Zimmer said Shurmur’s familiarity with Bradford played a key role in naming the tight ends coach as Turner’s replacement.

“It helps,” said Shurmur, a Dearborn native and former Michigan State assistant coach. “Anytime you have a relationship with someone, you can communicate smoother and quicker.”

Shurmur, 51, takes over an offense that ranks next-to-last in the NFL in total yards (293.3 per game) and rushing yards (71.9), and has had Bradford sacked 11 times in the past two games. He says he is not planning any big play-calling changes heading into Sunday’s game against Detroit at U.S. Bank Stadium.

“I don’t think you totally change what we’re doing offensively,” Shurmur said. “There’s certain things that may look different. … I think what we need to do is coach better, we need to play better.”

Turner surprised everyone Wednesday morning when he resigned after the Vikings suffered back-to-back losses following a 5-0 start. He told ESPN there were “different views on where the offense was going,” but Zimmer has denied any rift.

Shurmur, hired in January, said he was surprised by the news. He was in the office at 6:30 a.m. when it went down.

“Norv told us he was going to step aside,” Shurmur said. “Then Coach Zim came down and just asked if I would move forward and help get a plan together and call the plays as we move forward.”

Turner and Shurmur’s late uncle, defensive guru Fritz Shurmur, were close, especially when they were both assistants with the Los Angeles Rams from 1985-90. Having that family bond made Turner’s resignation bittersweet for Shurmur.

“The last few months (working) with Norv have been really meaningful for me,” Shurmur said. “I’ve known him and admire him. He and my uncle worked together very closely, so I’ve learned a lot of football (from them. Wednesday) was a different day.”

In addition to serving as coordinator for the Rams from 2009-10 and Eagles from 2013-15, Shurmur was Cleveland’s head coach from 2011-12. He has the task of jump-starting the Vikings’ attack, and he shared his vision in a meeting with offensive players.

“He said our main focus is let’s figure out what we do really well and go from there and get back on track,” fullback Zach Line said.

When the Vikings began 5-0, they didn’t have a single turnover on offense. That changed when they had four in a 21-10 loss at Philadelphia on Oct. 23.

Minnesota followed that with a 20-10 loss at Chicago on Monday. The Vikings did not turn the ball over against the Bears, but they rushed for just 57 yards on 18 attempts.