The bad part of being good in the NFL starts this week for the second Minnesota Vikings team in franchise history to reach 13 wins in one season.
Per NFL rules, offensive coordinator Pat Shurmur has been allowed to interview for vacant head coaching openings during the Vikings’ playoff bye week.
Four teams, including two NFC North opponents, jumped at the chance and will be traveling to Minnesota to interview Shurmur once the Vikings finish their second and final practice of the bye week on Wednesday.
Shurmur downplayed any distraction this may cause last week.
“I’m staying in the moment,” he said. “Maybe if I hadn’t been a head coach before, I’d be worried about putting something together” for the interviews.
Shurmur was Browns head coach in 2011 and 2012. He went 9-23. He also won a regular-season finale game in Philadelphia as interim head coach in 2015.
“I don’t think anything will ever faze Pat,” said quarterbacks coach Kevin Stefanski, who has been a Vikings assistant since 2006 and would be one of the candidates to replace Shurmur if he leaves.
“If the situation plays out and someone hires him, he deserves it. And I think he’d do great. But our focus is we got blinders on. We kind of have the prize sitting in front of us, and I think that’s all we’re focused on. Everything else will take care of itself.”
In addition, defensive coordinator George Edwards is scheduled to interview with the Bears Thursday.
The Vikings head into the playoffs as the No. 2 seed, but also the team to beat since the top-seeded Eagles have struggled in their three games since losing quarterback Carson Wentz to a season-ending knee injury.
The Vikings, of course, sit two wins from becoming the first team to play the Super Bowl in its home stadium. If the seeding plays out and the No. 4 Saints travel to Philadelphia in the divisional round, it’s quite possible the Vikings wouldn’t have to leave home the rest of the season.
The Vikings beat the Rams and Saints at home this season. And their loss to the Panthers came on the road and is their only loss in the last 11 games.
Head coach Mike Zimmer‘s defense, ranked No. 1 in several categories including yards and points allowed, led the way. But Shurmur’s offense shared the stage.
With career journeyman quarterback Case Keenum playing all but six quarters and dynamic rookie running back Dalvin Cook missing the final 12 games, Shurmur’s offense still made dramatic jumps to 10th in points scored and 11th in yards.
And now the Vikings face the probability of Shurmur leaving. But that’s a bad that this team is willing to accept as the price of being this good.
–Look who’s back. Quarterback Sam Bradford, who hasn’t played since Oct. 9 and had left knee surgery on Nov. 7, returned to practice on Tuesday. He practiced again Wednesday before the players were given four days off.
The Vikings will host a divisional playoff game on Jan. 14. It’s unlikely that he’ll be activated by then. The Vikings have three weeks in which to activate him.
“We’ll just see how it goes and where it’s at,” head coach Mike Zimmer said. “I’m not committed to say he’s going to play, so we’ll just see how things go. Things could happen. We win a game, someone gets hurt — you never know what could happen.”
Said Bradford: “When I first had the surgery and we looked at the timeframe, we had some goals in mind. We kind of laid out a plan, and this was kind of part of the plan. The past couple weeks, building up to be able to go out there and practice, it was our goal from Day 1. It was encouraging to be able to hit that goal.”
–As the third linebacker in a base 4-3 defense the Vikings use sparingly, rookie Ben Gedeon doesn’t get noticed much.
But he did play 368 snaps, including special teams. That’s the most by a Vikings rookie since tight end Rhett Ellison had 352 in 2012.
Defensively, Gedeon filled the limited role handled by popular longtime Viking Chad Greenway, who retired after last season. Gedeon admits it was difficult to adjust to a much longer season that he’s ever experienced.
“It’s probably more mental,” Gedeon said. “College season is 12 weeks, no preseason. But you just got to get used to it.”
NOTES: C Pat Elflein, who has missed two of the last four games because of a shoulder injury, returned to practice this week. The Vikings believe he will start on Jan. 14. The Vikings won last week with two backup linemen and two starters playing out of position. Right guard Joe Berger, a former starting center, moved back to center after starting the first 15 games at right guard. Right tackle Mike Remmers moved to right guard, a position he hadn’t played since a preseason game five years ago. … CB Xavier Rhodes was held out of practice this week because of a leg injury. It’s more precaution than anything. …
TE Kyle Rudolph, who has been on a limited snap count the last three weeks, is being rested this week in hopes that his bothersome sprained ankle can heal fully. … FB C.J. Ham was held out of practice because of a neck injury suffered in the win over the Bears on Sunday. He’s expected to be ready to play on Jan. 14. … S Anthony Harris, a key backup and special teams leader, was held out of practice because of an ankle injury. He is expected to be ready to play Jan. 14. … WR Brandon Zylstra was signed to a reserve/future free agent contract on Wednesday. The former Concordia-Moorhead player spent 2017 with the Edmonton Eskimos, where he led the CFL with 1,687 yards and five touchdowns on 100 catches.