Meet Pat. Pat’s first offensive coordinator gig came back in 2009. That year Pat aka Pat Shurmur gave a little-known back named Steven Jackson back-to-back seasons of 300 plus carries (324 and 330 carries to be exact).
Shurmur turned this RBBC commitment into a head coaching job. His first season as a Head Coach Pat gave former madden cover great Peyton Hillis 16.1 carriers per game. Realizing Hillis has allowed his madden cover experience to go to his head, the Browns decided to draft dynamo Trent Richardson 3rd overall. In Trent’s first season Shurmur gave him a very modest 17.8 carriers per game.
Unfortunately, drafting Richardson didn’t lead to a 3rd season (go figure), but Shurmur landed on his feet alongside a college football offensive innovator named Chip Kelly. In the first two seasons as Kelly’s offensive coordinator, Shurmur gave a slippery running back named LeSean McCoy 314 and 313 carries per year. However, due to some unforeseen differences McCoy left and they replaced him with former workhorse DeMarco Murray. Surprisingly Murray who rose to fame in a traditional under center offense was a terrible fit for Mr. Kelly’s shotgun heavy run scheme. Murray did start the year averaging 15.5 carriers per game through week 11. However, Murray was benched for another former star named Ryan Mathews. Murray didn’t start another game that year, and we could exclude those games in the article. BUT for the purpose of the story and the integrity of the journey we are on, Murray did lead the team in carries that year so he finished with just 12.9 carries per game.
Even after a rough finish to his hip college style tender with the Eagles, Shurmur didn’t let that get him down finding a job with the Vikings. In 2016 Shurmur would inherit an offense mid-season that lost all-pro running back Adrian Peterson after week 2 (Peterson did return for a ½ a game but finished the year on injured reserve). That season a young back by the name of Jerick Mckinnon ended up leading the team in carries, and in the 12 games without Peterson averaged a not to shabby 12.8 carries per game.
The next season Shurmur was ready to prove that his mid-season promotion was no fluke and was going to do it on the back of his new Rookie RB Dalvin Cook. That season started off hot with Cook receiving 18.5 carries per game until an injury cut his year short. The good news is Shurmur had a backup plan, and it came from the black hole. That’s right you guessed it Latavius Murray from Oakland. The final 12 games after Cook’s injury Murray was saddled with 16.8 carries per game.
This heroic effort from Shurmur allowed him another shot at a head coaching gig. That year the Giants drafted a once in a generation tailback named Saquon Barkley. Shurmur knew this could be his last chance at keeping a head coaching job so he sent the rookie off to a massive workload giving him 16.3 carries per game in year 1 and followed it with another 16.7 carries per game in year 2. However, it wasn’t enough as the Judge (Joe Judge pun) found him guilty and sentenced him to coordinator duties after only two seasons.
This bring us to today as Shurmur is now the offensive coordinator for the up-and-coming Broncos. In his first season as offensive coordinator he gave lead back Melvin Gordon 14.3 carries per game. Yes, that number drops to 12.3 in the games with Phillip Lindsay, but Lindsay earned his touches as the incumbent starter coming off back-to-back 1,000-yard seasons. I mean what were they supposed to do tell Lindsay to take a hike…oh wait they did that this offseason. Plus Gordon outplayed Lindsay in the 9 games they played together (we excluded week 12 when every QB in Denver was out with COVID) out rushing him 580 to 381 and out scoring him 6 to 1. In those 9 contests Gordon averaged 12.7 PPG which was still a top 24 back on a PPG basis in 2020. Now yes, they did use a 2nd round pick on Javonte Williams, but Gordon’s contract is up after this season so why not draft his future replacement…. right?
By now you should know this wasn’t a short story about a guy named Pat and his love of RBBCs. On the contrary the only time prior to 2020 that Shurmur’s lead ball carrier fell below 15 carries per game was when Peterson got hurt in 2016 and the disaster that was the Eagles backfield in 2015. Oh and Broncos Head Coach Vic Fangio was on coaching staffs that gave Jordan Howard 252, 276 and 250 carriers in the prior three years before he got his gig in Denver.
In short this is a “why you should draft Melvin Gordon in 2021 at the 5/6 turn as the RB27 pick” article and a “Javonte Williams should be a dynasty stud” article all wrapped up in one. The next time someone says “Denver wants to have a RBBC” you can say definitely maybe, but just in case Denver doesn’t here are 12 years and 14 backs worth of usage data.
Attempts per Game
|2016||Adrian Peterson (2 Games)||15.5|
|2016||Jerick Mckinnon (12 games w/o Adrian Peterson)||12.8|
|2017||Dalvin Cook (4 games)||18.5|
|2017||Latavius Murray (12 game w/o Dalvin Cook||16.8|