Pat Shurmur .. Meet the Coaches ..
By Nick Wagoner
Football in the Shurmur family is a staple of everyday life. Pat Shurmur, the Rams’ new offensive coordinator, couldn’t help but be drawn in to the intricacies and competitiveness of the game considering the environment in which he grew up.
By now, most people know that Shurmur is the nephew of famed defensive mind Fritz Shurmur, who coached for the Rams from 1982-1990, and was the defensive coordinator for Green Bay for a pair of Super Bowl appearances and a Super Bowl championship. This season will mark the 35th straight year a Shurmur has coached in the NFL.
What many don’t know is that Shurmur’s first real football influence was much closer to home in the form of his father.
“My first real influence in football was my father and then of course my uncle who had a great deal of influence on my thoughts to be a coach,” Shurmur said. “It’s been in my family and in my blood but it’s a little less known that my dad was also an excellent player and mentor.”
Considering that pedigree, it’s not a major surprise that Shurmur has risen through the coaching ranks to his first coordinator position. Growing up in the Shurmur household, Pat was drawn to football and all of the details that go into it.
His father Joe was an All American football player at Albion College and had Pat in pads from an early age. In college, Joe Shurmur, who was nine years younger, was actually coached by Fritz.
Fritz Shurmur, of course, had a long and prestigious coaching career that aside from his stops in Green Bay and Los Angeles, included various collegiate stops along the way.
Pat Shurmur played linebacker and center for most of his youth but became a full time center when he tore up his knee playing defense as a freshman in college.
It was in the middle of the offensive line where Shurmur’s knowledge of the game and especially the offensive side of the ball truly expanded. Shurmur sought every bit of wisdom he could about how to play offense, in part because that goes with the job of being the man in the middle but also because of his natural curiosity about the game.
Make no mistake, though, it wasn’t just the mental side of the game that drew Shurmur to football.
“I like the physical nature of the sport,” Shurmur said. “At some point, as men, we all enjoy the chance to knock each other around. I always enjoyed that. That made it fun to begin with and I was fortunate that I was always around great people and great coaches to help encourage and motivate me and then I just took it from there.”
Shurmur was an accomplished enough player that he earned a scholarship to Michigan State, where he would learn under coach George Perles as a three-year starter at center. Along the way, he earned All Big 10 Conference honors in 1987 and was a co-captain on a team that defeated USC in the Rose Bowl.
Despite his football background and a successful playing career that opened many doors within the game, Shurmur initially decided that he would use his more formal education, including a Master’s Degree in financial administration, in the real world.
Shurmur took a job with IBM, where he stayed for a year before ultimately deciding that there was no way he could leave football alone.
“I think once you get coaching in the blood, you realize you want to make that your profession,” Shurmur said. “I always felt like I wanted to do something in life where I was always looking forward to going to work and that’s the way I felt when I was coaching.”
As quickly as Shurmur embraced the coaching world, it embraced him right back. He took his first job as a graduate assistant in 1988. He moved up to work with tight ends, special teams and the offensive line in 1990, a position he held until 1997.
Along the way, Shurmur got the opportunity to network some in the NFL. It was on a visit to see Fritz in Green Bay that Shurmur met a bright young offensive assistant named Andy Reid. That meeting didn’t result in a new job immediately but it would pay dividends in the long term.
In 1998, Shurmur worked as offensive line coach at Stanford, where he stayed for that lone season before he got a call from Reid, who had just been named the head coach of the Philadelphia Eagles.
Reid gave Shurmur his start as offensive line and tight ends coach, working there from 1999-2001. He would actually follow a career path similar to that of Reid, moving over to coach quarterbacks in 2002 when Rod Dowhower retired and Brad Childress moved from quarterbacks coach to offensive coordinator.
“I took a little of the same track Andy Reid took,” Shurmur said. “He was offensive line, played offensive line; coached it and then tight ends in a West Coast system then coached quarterbacks so I kind of followed in his footsteps and tried to mimic what he did. He was a great mentor for me that way.”
For the next seven seasons, Shurmur became a major influence on one of the most productive and prolific quarterbacks in recent league memory, the Eagles’ Donovan McNabb.
In that time, McNabb posted three Pro Bowl berths and set nearly every season record in franchise history.
Shurmur watched as Childress moved on from offensive coordinator to head coach of the Minnesota Vikings and like any coach with ambition, took meticulous notes and details in anticipation of when his time would come to move up to a coordinator opportunity.
“I think we all want to progress,” Shurmur said. “As a young coach, you have to balance ambition with making sure you are ready for the next step. None of us ever know if we are totally ready. I tried to keep notes and put together ideas if I was ever sitting in this chair just like if I was fortunate enough to be a head coach, I have things I believe in that are similar to the guys I have worked for and played for.
“You prepare yourself the best you can but it’s important that the first thing you do every day is your job. I think that’s the approach with my mindset. I always made sure the quarterbacks played the best they could and prepare the best they could. Then beyond that learn a broad view of what was going on, not just on offense and keeping notes of what you might do different.”
Shurmur’s opportunity finally came back in January when he was hired as offensive coordinator of the Rams. In his time in Philadelphia, Shurmur developed a relationship with then Eagles defensive backs coach Steve Spagnuolo.
Spagnuolo, of course, was named the Rams new head coach in January and one of the first calls he made upon his hiring was to land Shurmur to run his offense.
Finally, after years of building up to it, Shurmur is in position to run his own offense. Someday, he’d like to be a head coach but his current focus is solely on helping to build the Rams offense into one of the most productive in the league.
Given the chance to do what he’s always wanted, Shurmur is just beginning his coaching odyssey and if he has his way, it will be a long journey that won’t come to an end any time soon.
“I’m a career coach,” Shurmur said. “I don’t see me doing anything else so long as the good Lord is willing I am fortunate to have a job. I’m fortunate enough I am doing a job that is not only my profession but is a hobby. If I go home at night and there’s a game on, I’ll turn it on as I enjoy the company of my family. Hopefully I’ll do this until the end.”