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Shurmur Looks To Make Mark on Offense This Offseason

PRIOR LAKE, Minn. —It's been roughly 13 months since Pat Shurmur was hired to be the Vikings tight ends coach.

Shurmur, of course, no longer has that title. He was elevated to offensive coordinator last month after taking over that role on an interim basis midway through the 2016 season.

As the Vikings prepare to dive headfirst into the offseason, Shurmur acknowledged that he has a chance to fully make sure his fingerprints are on the offense, something that was hard to do on the fly during the season.

"I was excited about being able to be here," Shurmur told reporters Friday morning from Polaris Vikings Winterfest. "I enjoyed my (first) year, and it's just a matter now of getting to work and trying to put together an offense and a staff that we feel good about for next season.

"It's more than just plays, it's a mindset and how you operate," he later added. "I think as we move forward, we've added some new coaches that have some new ideas, so what you try to do is incorporate the best of everyone that's in the room and then move forward so it becomes the 2017 Vikings offense."

The Vikings had an uptick in first downs per game, points per game, yards per play, yards per game, passing yards per game and rushing yards per game after Shurmur took over as the offensive coordinator for the final nine games in 2016.

Even so, Shurmur said the coaching staff is looking at all avenues to improve a Vikings offense that finished 23rd in the NFL with 20.4 points per game.

"We understand the process that you go through this time of year," Shurmur said. "We really sit down and look at what we did a year ago from an offensive standpoint.

"We look at every play, every situation and look at ways to get better. We have studies we do," he added. "We're looking for any small to any large way that we can improve what we do on offense."

Shurmur said it was too early to tell whether Minnesota's offense will look drastically different in 2017 than it did the previous season. The former Cleveland head coach said he has to see what happens with personnel moves and the draft.

Minnesota will begin its voluntary offseason workout program in mid-April at Winter Park.

"There will be things we do where we'll be able to operate differently. Some of the plays will look different maybe in special situations," Shurmur said. "But the key thing is that we have to do a better job of running the football in all situations, and I think that will be a focal point.

"From an offensive standpoint, you have to be able to score points so we need to be more efficient running the ball, hopefully more explosive, and then when we get in there close we have to score points," he added.

Once players return and the Vikings roster starts to take shape, Shurmur noted he'll be able to go in and teach the fine points of his offense.

"A year ago when I came in, we had started to make some additions that were familiar to my background. As the season went on, you can't strip it down to the studs at that point," Shurmur said. "So what you have to do is move forward and tweak it. Now what we can do is go back and teach the fundamentals of it in a way that we want to communicate it.

"Really where you have to look at is who are the players you have, and what's the best way to build the foundation of an offense that's going to be able to convert throughout the season of the opponent you're going to play," he added.

Vikings wide receiver Adam Thielen said he enjoyed working with Shurmur last season and appreciated the coach's ability to play toward a player's strengths.

Thielen thrived over the final nine games of the season under Shurmur, eventually finishing with careers highs in catches (69), yards (967) and touchdowns (five) on the season.

"With him being with the team since the last offseason, I've gotten to know him well and know his philosophy and the way he likes to do things," Thielen said. "Even when he wasn't the offensive coordinator, he still had a lot of input and still communicated with us a lot.

"It wasn't just a half a year for us. We felt like we knew him pretty well and knew what he liked to do. It was different, but it was all the same language," Thielen added. "The good thing about Pat is he emphasizes what you do well, so if you don't do something well, he's not going to put you in that situation. He's going to put you in the situation for you to succeed and do what you do best."

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