Offensive coordinator Pat Shurmur said he is staying "in the moment" with the Vikings, but NFL teams searching for a new coach already started knocking on doors at Winter Park on Monday.
The Bears, Lions and Cardinals requested to interview Shurmur, the architect of the NFL's 11th-ranked offense, during Vikings first-round bye this week, a league source told the Star Tribune's Ben Goessling. Detroit fired Jim Caldwell, Chicago dismissed John Fox and Arizona coach Bruce Arians retired on Monday.
The Giants, Colts and Raiders also are looking for new coaches. And others might soon be, too.
The Vikings have their own request to teams looking to interview their play caller: Come to Minnesota. "This time of year you can request that they come here, during the bye week," coach Mike Zimmer said. "So that's what we'll do."
Shurmur is the only one who can decline the interviews, by way of NFL rule allowing assistants to interview for promotions. However, the speed dating needs to happen this week during the Vikings' first-round bye. Teams can request second interviews when the playoff team loses or during the week after the conference championships.
Shurmur is back in head coaching conversations despite a 9-23 record as the Browns coach in 2011-12. That's what a playoff-caliber Vikings offense can do after losing its starting quarterback and running back in the first month. The Vikings improved total yards from 28th to 11th in Shurmur's first full season as coordinator.
"I think he's been adaptable," Zimmer said last month. "I think people that have seen the improvement in the offense, you know, most places that are looking for head coaches probably want somebody to work with the quarterback, be able to develop the quarterback.
"He's had the opportunity to work with a few here. So I think that part is what's making him probably an attractive candidate."
A strong finish
Latavius Murray's 111-yard day against the Bears pushed him past his final rushing total with the Raiders last season, an improvement that didn't seem likely at the start of the season. Murray missed much of training camp because of March ankle surgery and had only 97 rushing yards in the first six games.
Murray led the Vikings with 842 rushing yards this regular season.
"You can sit here and talk about the injury I had and whatnot," Murray said. "But I made the decision to be out there, to tell them I wanted to be out there and I was healthy. For me, as long as I'm out on that field I want to be productive. As the season went on, I was able to get stronger and get better as a player."
NFC playoff teams combined to go 2-4 in the regular season's final week with only the Vikings (13-3) and Falcons (10-6) winning. Two teams rested key starters as the top-seeded Eagles (13-3) were shut out in a loss to Dallas and the Rams (11-5) were trounced by San Francisco.
Still, the finish — and knee injury to Philadelphia quarterback and MVP candidate Carson Wentz — makes some like Vikings receiver Jarius Wright feel like the playoff field is "wide open."
"It is wide open," Wright said. "But there are a lot of great teams in the NFC. Not to take anything away from the AFC, but there's a lot of great teams, a lot of teams that have played really, really well and I feel it's wide open."
Loving the grind
The Vikings defense allowed the fewest point and fewest yards in the NFL for the first time since 1970, but "there's still more to be done," said linebacker Eric Kendricks.
"Absolutely, we work hard," Kendricks said about taking pride in the defense's No. 1 ranking. "Get little rewards like that, I guess, little achievements you could say for your hard work. But there's still more to be done. We love the grind."