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Sultan Azteca's Weekly Post 5 – The Ultimate Shurmur Analysis Edition (Part 1)

In Context: Dispelling the Shurmur myth

So, Broncos Country is deeply divided. Defended by some, cursed by many (me loudly included), Pat Shurmur is a cause of constant debate in MHR’s comments sections daily. I will not go into details about the wisdom of his tactics, as for that JoRo is already doing an excellent job. Also, I have frequently criticized his tactics since last year right here. But what about Shurmur’s actual output throughout his coaching career in the NFL? Much has been said about his achievements with Vikings, and his early years developing a generational talent in Donovan McNabb. Certainly his Wikipedia page is not shy touting all that.

Because my statistical analysis went a bit too deep, I decided to incorporate the stat tables in a separate post (look for "Sultan Azteca’s Weekly Post 5 Appendix A – For Stat-heads Only"), which would offer round support for my following statements.

I compiled Shurmur’s 20-year history in the NFL, since his first stint in the NFL as QB coach for the Eagles in 2002, all the way to the present. In total he has been QB coach for 7 years (all with Philly), 9 years as OC (with then-STL Rams, Philly, Minnie, and now Denvie… err Denver), and 4 more as HC (two years each with Browns and Giants). One thing that pops out in his resume is that, outside of his two stints with Eagles (from 2002 to 2008, and 2013 to 2015), he has never stayed with the same franchise for more than two years. You may spin that fact anyway you want, but right now I would risk predicting that, barring some miraculous turnaround, 2021 is once again his last year with his current employer.

Shurmur’s total offense outputs in his 13 years as either OC or HC are:

- In nearly half of them (6 seasons), his O units have placed among the bottom 10 in points scored, once finishing dead-last (in his debut year in 2009 as OC for the Rams).

- In more than half of them (7 seasons), they have placed among the bottom 10 in total yards.

- They have placed only three times in the top 10 in points, twice in Philly as OC (please keep track of this nugget as there is a clear pattern here).

- His offenses have been caught only twice among the top 10 in total yards at the end of a season.

- In average, his O units rank 19th both in total yards as well as in points scored throughout his career as OC or HC

- His median ranking (that is, the ranking in which there are as many better positions as there are worse in his career) for points scored is 21st. For total yards, it is 23rd.

"Ok" some of his defenders may say "but we all know he is a QB developer! He has made something out of nothing so many times elsewhere!". But, has he? His advocates have frequently used the poor history in the Broncos’ recent past selecting and recruiting mediocre-to-bad QBs to justify the poor offensive performance of Shurmur’s QBs and offenses.

So, let’s focus now on QB’ing performance since his very first year as Eagles’ QB coach. Before digging into it, one valuable note here: Shurmur has been QB coach only with Eagles early in his career, mostly bringing water bottles to McNabb, who was already coming from a 25TD-12TD, 84.3-rating season only a year earlier, and who took more than 83% of the snaps in 4 of Shurmur’s 7 seasons there, and more than 61% of the snaps in every one of them. Outside of that (and his OC and HC stints above analyzed), Shurmur has been recruited as TE coach for the Vikes in 2016, but never again as QB coach by anybody else.

So, what are the comparative stats of all his QBs in his 20-year career? Here the results:

- QB Rating: Ranked 7 times among the bottom 10 in the league, 6 times ranked among the top 10, but 4 of them with the Eagles (3 with McNabb). Avg ranking: 16th. Median ranking: 20th.

- INTs: Again ranked 7 times among the bottom 10 in the league, but ranked 9 times in the top 10, with 5 of those 9 times while coaching for the Eagles (4 of those years as QB coach). Average ranking: 14th . Median ranking: 11th. NOTE: his apparent relative success in taking care of the ball was an interesting finding, as Shurmur is perceived as an overly aggressive coach who favors high-risk/high reward long passing patterns in his game plan. The perception may be vindicated by the fact that as OC/HC, he indeed has nearly twice as many failed seasons (9 at the bottom 10) as he has successful ones (5 at the top 10). As QB coach in Philly, he had no command in the play-calling. That was in the hands of Brad Childress and Marty Mornhinweg (as OCs), and the Walrus as HC.

- Passing Yards: This is the stat in which Pat’s QBs shine the brightest (so to speak). In 8 of his 20 seasons, his teams have ranked in the 10-best, and only 3 times (one of them last season with Denver) have ranked in the 10-worst. Nonetheless, once again his apparent success glosses over the fact that 7 of those 8 seasons were while coaching for the Eagles, and 5 of those as QB Coach with McNabb. Average ranking: 15th. Median ranking: 15th.

- % Completions: In 6 seasons, his QBs have ranked among the bottom-10 in % of passes completed, with 5 seasons in the top 10. The inconsistency in this stat is best exemplified with his current stint in Denver: ranked 31st last season with Lock as QB, followed by 7th this season with The Bridge. Regardless, his ranking as a whole is well below the middle of the pack: Average ranking: 18th. Median ranking: 21st.

In Conclusion:

Output of Shurmur’s QBs (allegedly his strong suit) is historically below par, with average rankings at best, but well below average if we remove his golden years in Philly, with McNabb making the passes, and Andy Reid making the calls.

Besides the subject of QB performance under his command, Shurmur still needs to answer for the far more relevant subject of overall offensive performance (remember that OCs are in charge of, you know, the entire offensive unit). With offensive teams that have ranked in the bottom 10 of the league half of the time for well over a decade, there is no way that anybody could justifiably say that Pat is capable of coaching an offense (any offense!) to success. Under his tenure pretty much anywhere, points are scarce, yardage is limited, and turnovers are at best average, if you want to offer a forgiving version of the facts.

Finally, clearly his best years have been on the sidelines in Philadelphia. If I were him, I would knock on the Eagles' doors with my stats under the arm, asking them to take me back as their QB coach, TE coach, water boy coach, ANYTHING. Just please stop polluting the sidelines of any other NFL franchise ever again!

Coming up next: In case anybody was left with doubts, my analysis continues next week with analysis of each QB under Shurmur, TD/INT ratio vs league in his career, and that much mentioned stint in Minnesota. I only hope he does not get fired in the next week (I already put the effort here!).

Prediction

I made no detailed prediction for this week, other than expecting a win, so I would have gotten it wrong anyways…

Rookie watch

Javontae Williams was once again the top rusher in the game (61 yds/8 carries), with fewer totes than MGIII, and doubling his ypc. His 49-yd dash leaves a bittersweet taste in the mouth: by running out of steam at the end, he didn’t score a TD that proved crucial for the rest of the first half and maybe the game. By dumbly spiking the ball, he lost all chances of scoring a TD, thanks to the Broncos’ utter ineptitude in the red zone. Pookie also added 25 yds in 3 passes, with now two consecutive weeks recording catches in every single one of his targets, and accumulating 11 catches in 12 targets in the season for 75 yds (6.8 yds avg). Maybe it is time to start turning more frequently to him for safe, short gains in the air.

PSII recorded 3 tackles (all solo) and 1 PD, while playing 100% of the defensive snaps.

Jonathon Cooper recorded 2 tackles (1 solo), while Caden Sterns and Baron Browning (playing in GT) recorded 1 solo tackle each.

Penalties:

On the very first offensive play (and after seeing our D dragged the length of the field for an early Steelers’ TD), we get… a delay of game (no kidding!). Later on, we got another delay of game, now on Pookie for spiking the ball after his 49-yd run (a dumb penalty by Pookie or by the refs, that you decide).

Kyle Fuller, having another bad day at the office (allowing 73 yds in only two passes and a TD in the first drive alone), was called for a (questionable) 17-yd PI that served the table for Pitt’s 2nd TD.

Bolles’ season is unravelling in ugly manner, being flagged for a false start, then flagged again for a holding (declined) in the same drive that eventually resulted in a punt.

Out of the Generic Teams, Ford was called for holding for 10 yards in a punt return. Then for good measure, while covering a PIT FG attempt, Dre’Mont Jones committed a costly leverage penalty that gave life to the drive, resulting in a TD, instead of the FG.

Cush versatility may have no equal: in the same play, he not only allowed a sack, but also committed a holding, which moved the Broncos from Pitt’s 3-yd line back to the 13. Still, against his teammates’ best efforts, The Bridge managed to score a TD in the drive, thanks to an 11-yd dash in the next play.

The Good:

The Bridge proves he can put points in a hurry. After taking nearly half a quarter (one eighth?) to score a TD at the beginning of the 4th quarter, The Bridge sped through the next scoring drive, driving 72 yds in less than 2 minutes. Alas, the Broncos’ red zone incompetence reared its ugly head once again and after driving another 72 yds again in 2:18, and banging the door in PIT’s 3-yd line, his final pass was an INT while attempting to connect with a well-covered Courtland Sutton, his first turnover in the season.

The Bad:

3rd Down Conversions, Red Zone Conversions (this is becoming a standard section):

Here is a tip to those defensive coordinators facing these Broncos O: if you want to limit the scores, allow the Broncos to advance all the way to the red zone. Then you may yell: "they ‘ve got us just where we want them!". Rest assured that no TD will come out of that drive! You may thank me later.

2 of 12 in 3rd down conversions, enough said. Not enough? Ok, then: even adding the 3 of 4 4th down conversions, Broncos still had a combined 5 of 16th. For comparison, the Steelers got 7 of 12 in 3rd downs.

This D is a very expensive paper tiger! Is your washed-out QB in need of a major booster? Is your former MVP in search of a quick fix? Are you trying to get your run game out of the rock-bottom of the league? Look no more! Schedule a weekend appointment with the Denver Broncos Defense! We will make even your wildest dreams come true! (Happy ending included).

The Ugly:

Stuck in Reverse. It feels like nothing can change things in this franchise. We are trapped in a vicious cycle, in which the once proud Denver Broncos franchise is unable to identify and select a factor of change in the drafts, cannot attract a franchise-flipping free-agent, or hire a coaching staff that seems to know what they are doing. Heck! We are not even capable of firing the coaching staff that shows every week that they don’t know what the hell they are doing!

Around the league:

Football smarts all over (other than in Broncos): By the end of the 4th quarter, the Browns’ D knows perfectly well that the only hope of a win is not in their hands, having already allowed six TDs in the matchup vs the Chargers. So, what do they do when the Chargers are knocking at their own 3-yd line within the final 2-minute warning, defending a 1-point lead? Why! They literally push Austin Ekeler into their own TD zone, giving the Chargers a 5-point advantage, but giving the ball back to Baker Mayfield and his O with 1:30 left in the clock and hopefully giving them a chance to score a sixth TD that would give them back the lead to seal the game. Alas, time and a suddenly effective Chargers’ D foil their plan and fall short. You may want to rewind the video a few seconds to see how the ball was spotted at the 3-yd line to begin with. Another brilliant play, in this case by Ekeler.

While defending a one-score lead vs their much-hated divisional foes, DeAndre Hopkins caught a pass on the edge of the field. In order to fight back the inertia that was taking him out of bounds (and stopping the clock), Hopkins let himself sit flat on his butt inbounds, thus securing draining the clock. The 49’s would not have the ball for the rest of the game, and the Cardinals can still dream the dream of the undefeated for another week.

Now, one disclaimer: I hate the Cowboys with passion!!! Nonetheless, watching their O perform such imaginative plays in the red zone is such a pleasure! What wouldn’t I give to have someone like Kellen Moore as our OC. Heck, with such mind, he could make for an interesting HC!

Looking forward: LV Raiders

Next opponent: The first intra-divisional game in the season for the Broncos is scheduled at home vs the suddenly rudderless Raiders (3 – 2), who lost their HC in a major scandal of discrimination against all kinds of groups. The Raiders got themselves into trouble since last week, losing at home vs the unassuming Bears, by two scores. Very similar to the Broncos game vs Steelers, the Raiders’ O went AWOL when needed the most against a very suspect CHI defense. This game would break a tie for 2nd place in the now highly unstable AFC West. Before that Chucky ugly development, I had already crossed this game out as a tolerable loss in my column last week. But maybe in a strike of good luck, we find another pretty competent team in a state of utter disarray. Vic Fangio is finding an ever-narrower margin of error with every passing week, so he better get his team ready to pounce on another great opportunity to beat a diminished contender in the race to the playoffs.

Offense: By the hand of much-underappreciated QB Derek Carr (1,605 yds, 8TD-4INT, 63.9% CMP, 15 sacks, 92.8 rating), the Raiders are ranked 13th in total yards (377 ypg), and 4th in passing (298.4). Although The Bridge’s yardage production pales in comparison (1,180), his efficiency is better elsewhere (7TD-1INT, 69.8% CMP, 11 sacks, 106.1 rating).

Las Vegas’ air attack is more dangerous than anything the Broncos have faced this season, with four receivers exceeding the 200-yd mark already, top among them their 2020 1st selection, speedy WR Henry Ruggs (348 ys, 17 recs/28 targets, 1 TD), followed by TE Darren Waller (319 yds, 2 TD), and quick slot WR Hunter Renfrow (305 yds, 2 TD). For comparison, only two of our receivers have over 200-yds: The Court (377 yds, 25 rec/39 tgts, 1 TD), and Tim Patrick (302 yds, 22/28, 2 TD), while Fant adds 2 more TDs, but with only 176 yds caught in 21 recs/31 tgts.

The Silver & Black rushing game (ranked 31st in ypc, with 3.2) is nearly as inept as the Steelers’ was … before the Broncos D made Najee Harris look like Derrick Henry Jr. last Sunday. The anemic ground attack is formed by the trio of RBs Peyton Barber (143 yds, 37 carries), Josh Jacobs (122 yds, 38 carries), and Kenyan Drake (57 yds, 24 carries). Barber and Jacobs combine for 4 TDs. For comparison, our own tandem of Gordon (282 yds/60 carries), and Pookie (247/54) combine for 3 TDs. As you will notice, the Raiders’ RB corps exists in the sense that there are players getting paid to hold such title in their roster.

Defense: Las Vegas has a pretty effective defense, ranked 11th in total yards (339 ypg), and 4th vs the pass (205), which is slightly better than Denver’s (6th, 207). Their rushing D, on the other hand, is near the bottom, ranked 25th in ypg (134.4) and 27th in ypc, (4.6), nearly a full yard/carry more than the Broncos’ (3.7).

The overworked leaders in tackles of the Raiders’ D are LBs Denzel Perryman (60 tackles, 39 solo) and Cory Littleton (44/26), whereas for the Broncos we have both Dino and KJack tied at 28/19 solo. Las Vegas’ sack leader is DT Solomon Thomas with 2.5 out of a total of 11. Of course, Von is our leader with 4.5 sacks out of 12 total. CB Trayvon Mullen Jr (1 INT), Perryman, and DT Darius Philon (1 FR each) authored the only three takeaways by the Raiders (3rd worst in the league). The Broncos double that with 4 INTs and 2 recovered fumbles, the most recent in Dino’s hands last Sunday.

Special teams: Hey, I just got an idea… does anybody here have access to Tom McMahon’s emails?

Turnovers: For the fifth consecutive week, Denver has a better TO ratio than their opponent. The Broncos keep sliding down, now holding a tie with the Chargers in 9th place in the league (+2). The Raiders are tied for 18th worst (-1).

Offense

Defense

Raiders

Broncos

Raiders

Broncos

Rank

Rank

Rank

Rank

Total YPG

377.0

13th

357.8

17th

339.8

11th

292.4

3rd

Pass YPG

298.4

4th

239.2

21st

205.4

4th

207.0

6th

Rush YPG

78.9

29th

118.6

12th

134.4

25th

85.4

6th

Rush YPC

3.2

31st

4.6

8th

4.6

27th

3.7

4th

Points/gm

22.6

19th

20.4

24th

24.0

17th

15.2

2nd

TO Diff

-1

t-18th

2

t-9th

Spread:

The big turmoil created by the forced departure of Jon Gruden has vaulted the Broncos to a 3.5-point favorite status for this matchup, with ESPN’s Matchup Predictor giving Denver a 63% chance of a win. Honestly, after the performances in the past two weeks, nothing could make me feel confident of a Broncos win for the rest of this season.

POLL

A crucial penalty, a long punt return allowed..., so when will McMahon receive his last paycheck from the Broncos?

Tomorrow! No more of this, please!

Before the end of the season. Good riddance!

End of the season. A nice (albeit belated) transition awaits us

You kiddin’? He is golf buddy of the Bowlens! Vic will be gone before Tom!

** Hold on, still trying to crack into his email… **

This is a Fan-Created Comment on MileHighReport.com. The opinion here is not necessarily shared by the editorial staff of MHR.