The Bears will interview Vikings offensive coordinator Pat Shurmur later this week for their head coaching vacancy.
Here’s why the 52-year-old makes sense as John Fox’s replacement:
• He made his Case. The Vikings seemed doomed when Sam Bradford, after looking like the second coming of John Elway in the season opener, was unable to start Week 2 because of a knee injury. When running back Dalvin Cook tore his anterior cruciate ligament in Week 4, the Vikings’ fate appeared sealed.
Shurmur, though, developed Case Keenum into perhaps the NFL’s most pleasant surprise. His 98.3 passer rating in 14 starts ranked seventh among regular starters, ahead of Russell Wilson and Aaron Rodgers, among others.
The Bears are looking someone to mentor rookie Mitch Trubisky. It’s hard to argue when someone who made Keenum, signed to be a backup, look like one of the NFL’s best quarterbacks.
• He can run, too. Even with Trubisky’s development, the Bears are equipped to be a run-first team. After finishing last in the NFL in rushing yards last year, the Vikings let Adrian Peterson walk and drafted Cook, his replacement — only to watch him get hurt. They finished seventh in the league in rushing. Only five teams had more rushing touchdowns.
• He has head coaching experience — even if his record stunk. Shurmur failed in his first head coaching job — but with an asterisk: He was coaching the Browns. The franchise seems to fail its coaches, not the other way around, dating back to Bill Belichick, who had a losing record on the shores of Lake Erie before becoming, arguably, the greatest coach of all time.
Browns president Mike Holmgren hired him as head coach in 2011, perhaps seeing similarities between the then-Rams coordinator and his own career. Shurmur had been lauded for developing No. 1 pick Sam Bradford as a rookie.
Shurmur coached Colt McCoy in 2011 and rookie Brandon Weeden the next year, to mixed results. Shurmur went 9-23 in his two seasons. After losing his last six games of 2011, Shurmur lost the first five of 2012, sealing his fate.
He landed as Chip Kelly’s coordinator in Philadelphia the next year, where he stayed for three seasons, until Kelly was fired. Shurmur even coached — and won — the season finale as the interim boss. He was promoted to Vikings offensive coordinator from tight ends coach when Norv Turner quit last year.
• It’s in his blood. Fritz Shurmur, Pat’s since-deceased uncle, served as the defensive coordinator for the Lions, Patrots, Rams, Cardinals and Packers. He won the Super Bowl in 1997 with Green Bay.
• Side benefit: they can pick his brain. The Bears are scheduled to meet with both Shurmur and Vikings defensive coordinator George Edwards. General manager Ryan Pace wants to evaluate them as candidates, but must know the value of gaining insight into a divisional rival along the way. The coordinators won’t share state secrets, but the Bears will get a glimpse into a program that has won a whopping two-thirds of their games the last three seasons.