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Why Pat Shurmur is the best head coach option for Bengals

His success story could be easily replicated as a Bengal.

NFL: Detroit Lions at Minnesota Vikings Bruce Kluckhohn-USA TODAY Sports

Depending on who you ask, the Minnesota Vikings may be the most complete team in the National Football League.

The defense can of course be attributed to the skill of Mike Zimmer, the beloved former Cincinnati coordinator who was a large reason for the Bengals’ success during his tenure.

The offense, however, lies with offensive coordinator Pat Shurmur. Now, I know what some Cincinnati fans might be thinking, “He coached the Browns! He was terrible! We don’t want him here.”

And yes, you’d be right. Shurmur did coach the Browns and was eventually let go, but not everything is as bad as you might remember. Let’s dig into why he’s a good fit, why his Browns tenure is overblown, and why his path to success is eerily similar to what Cincinnati needs.

Life with the Browns

I’m not going to cut corners around Shurmur’s time in Cleveland. He wasn’t blessed with success. During his two year tenure he compiled a record of 9-23, with his first season resulting in a 4-12 campaign and a 5-11 record in his second.

My main goal is to convince you that while he wasn’t super successful with the Browns, he did a good job and was forced out for reasons beyond his control.

In 2011, Pat Shurmur was brought in to replace Eric Mangini and was not given much talent to start with. He pulled out four wins in the toughest AFC division with Colt McCoy as his quarterback, Peyton Hillis as the leading rusher, and Greg Little as the leading receiver.

I think that’s nothing short of solid given the subpar circumstances.

Entering 2012 the Browns were blessed with a couple of nice picks and drafted Brandon Weeden and Trent Richardson. In hindsight those were awful picks, but he made them work as rookies. Weeden led the team to five wins with mixed stats, but he got over 1,200 total yards from Richardson, which is pretty fantastic considering his body of work for other coaches and teams.

So, at 5-11 and showing signs of improvement he gets canned.


Jimmy Haslam bought the team in the middle of the 2012 season and wanted to install his own head coach. Pat Shurmur was still in the midst of building his team and was stopped dead in his tracks, perhaps only being saved by pulling out a nine-win season with a team who had no right to win that many games.

In my opinion, Shurmur was never given a fair chance by Haslam when he proved he at least deserved one more year to show his merit. Haslam obviously isn’t known for making sound decisions, just look at the team’s history since he took over.

Success outside of Cleveland

After being let go by Cleveland it would come to be that Shurmur joined the Eagles as their offensive coordinator. There he had great success under Chip Kelly, contributing to an offense that set a record for big plays (20+ yards) in a season with 99, and they were the first team since the 1991 Bills to lead the league in rushing while ranking last in time of possession.

Simply put, Shurmur gets the job done.

It was also beginning in Philadelphia that he showed his prowess as a quarterback guru. In 2013, he coached Nick Foles in his second season to one of the most efficient seasons a quarterback could have. Foles had 27 touchdowns to only two interceptions, and achieved the third-highest quarterback rating for a season in NFL history.

Foles also famously threw for a record seven touchdowns against the Oakland Raiders that year under the mentorship of Shurmur. Some may say that Chip Kelly was the cause of this. But then again, look at the lack of success Kelly had in San Francisco without Shurmur.

Quite a disappointing difference in production I would say.

Translating success to Cincinnati

Now in Minnesota, Shurmur continues to enjoy sustained success but with another lackluster quarterback talent in Case Keenum. Keenum, a long time journeyman was thought to be a career backup who only disappointed as a starter during his time with the Rams.

As a Viking in Shurmur’s offense, Keenum has now thrown for over 3000 yards, 20 touchdowns, and seven interceptions, and has led the team to an 11-3 record and a divisional title.

Statistically, the offense is fantastic, ranking in the top 10 in total yards gained, passing yards, rushing yards, and points scored.

NFL: Cincinnati Bengals at Minnesota Vikings Brad Rempel-USA TODAY Sports

Give Shurmur Andy Dalton, and it’s not farfetched to believe he could get similar production out of the Bengals quarterback. Beyond that, if he were to come in and have a chance to select his own quarterback he could potentially find another passer even better suited for his scheme. With the wheels falling off the Bengals’ 2017 season, a high pick makes that latter scenario all the more possible.

More than the quarterback, the Vikings spent their offseason retooling their offensive line in free agency. With the Bengals carrying many heavy contracts they could dump in the offseason (Adam Jones, Michael Johnson, and potentially Andy Dalton), Cincinnati could use a lot of that money to build an offensive line more capable of moving an offense.

The Vikings also had a stout defense in place when Shurmur got there, and the Bengals have plenty of pieces for a great defense. The Bengals have great pieces along the defensive line in Geno Atkins, Carlos Dunlap, Carl Lawson, and Jordan Willis that can provide a much needed spark.

William Jackson is coming into his own as a premiere corner in the league as well. With some added help at linebacker, the Bengals could quickly be built back up into the Zimmer era top five unit we remember.

There’s so much the Bengals have to gain by adding Shurmur to their organization. The team has plenty of tools on the offensive and defensive side to aid him in getting a quick start.

The Brown family, having shown immense loyalty to Marvin Lewis over the years, may now have the Bengals job portrayed as one with patience. Having been dumped so hastily in Cleveland, this might also be a boon for Pat, knowing he has the time to build the team the way he wants without worry of a quick fire. I have no doubts that Shurmur is the right man for the job, but what do you think?


Would you like to see the Bengals hire Pat Shurmur?

This poll is closed

  • 33%
    Absolutely! He’s exactly what we need.
    (1208 votes)
  • 49%
    Sure. He’s not my top pick but I’d like it.
    (1813 votes)
  • 10%
    I’d be indifferent about it.
    (382 votes)
  • 6%
    No way! There are much better choices out there!
    (245 votes)
3648 votes total Vote Now