With Pat Shurmur in the running for multiple head coaching positions, would the Minnesota Vikings be smart to let Case Keenum walk after the season?
While many are excited to bring in the new year, it wasn’t as exciting for multiple head coaches throughout the NFL or should I say, ex-head coaches. In total, four coaches were fired from the following five teams: Indianapolis Colts, Detroit Lions, Chicago Bears, and Oakland Raiders. Additionally, the New York Giants already had a vacancy, while Arizona Cardinals coach Bruce Arians retired. As a result, Minnesota Vikings offensive coordinator Pat Shurmur has been one of the potential head coaching options floating around on the league.
Of course, this was expected after Shurmur put together an eleventh-ranked offense headed by quarterback Case Keenum. This is more impressive when you factor in the fact Minnesota finished 28th in total offense last season. Not to mention, they lost arguably their two top offensive weapons at the beginning of the year in Sam Bradford and Dalvin Cook and also boasted a revamped offensive line.
Nevertheless, Shurmur led this offense to a big season that ended in a 13-3 season and a first-round bye in the playoffs. On the other hand, that means he’ll have time to interview during the bye week. As multiple sources have put out, two of those teams could be the Detroit Lions and Arizona Cardinals, while the Chicago Bears are also in the mix.
Although this was expected, it’s still not a great feeling for Vikings fans that have watched this offense flourish under Shurmur. While he spent time as the offensive coordinator in place of Norv Turner last season, it’s clear that his presence has been felt more on the offense this season following a full offseason as the coordinator. Additionally, he’s helped turn Case Keenum into an MVP candidate after four so-so seasons with the Houston Texans and Los Angeles (one year in St. Louis) Rams.
While Keenum deserves credit for his rise to stardom, one has to wonder whether he’s just a great fit in Shurmur’s system or if he’s just this great of a player. The safe answer would be it’s a combination of the two, but if Shurmur were to leave, the answer may become clearer. Basically, the Vikings would be able to see if Keenum is a great system-depending quarterback or if he’s become more than that. That’s if, Keenum sticks around in Minnesota.
In reality, that’ll be the biggest question mark in the offseason. Will the Vikings keep Keenum or not? Personally, I think it’s going to be dependent on how this season finishes. At this point, it’s Super Bowl or bust for this team and whether they get there or not, it’s likely going to be dependent on Keenum.
Sure, the defense is going to carry this team, but Keenum is going to have to continue making plays on the offensive end in order for the Vikings to accomplish their ultimate goal. If he can’t lead the best all-around team in the NFC to the Super Bowl, then he’s likely not worth paying $18 million per year on a long-term deal. If he gets there, whether they win or not, I’d say it’s a lock he’s re-signed. I mean, how couldn’t they re-sign him in that case?
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Yet, the other huge factor would be whether Shurmur is back or not. Clearly, Keenum has meshed well in his offense and it could be risky giving a long-term, big-money contract to a quarterback that’s losing his offensive coordinator. Yes, if he leads the team to the Super Bowl, then you take the risk, but if not, Shurmur leaving Minnesota may be greater incentive to let Keenum walk. Furthermore, it’s not unrealistic to see Shurmur bringing Keenum to wherever he takes a head coaching position either.
If Shurmur indeed leaves for a head coaching job, that wouldn’t be enough to justify Keenum not returning to Minnesota. In the end, it should factor into what the Vikings do, but there’s plenty of other factors that’ll go into that decision. The biggest being where Minnesota finishes this year.
In the meantime, the head coaching rumors around Shurmur may be disappointing, but fortunately, the Vikings still have the offensive mastermind when the Vikings take the field at U.S Bank Stadium in the NFC Divisional Round on Jan. 14. Hopefully, Shurmur will be heading the offensive attack for two more games as well, resulting in a Keenum re-signing after the season.