The Carolina Panthers made the easy choice and the right choice for the franchise’s new offensive coordinator Friday when the Panthers announced quarterbacks coach Mike Shula was promoted to the head job with the offense.
In the end the Panthers didn’t have to leave the building in hiring Shula, who has been the quarterbacks coach since 2011, an extremely vital year for the team’s offense.
Shula has been the only position coach quarterback Cam Newton has known professionally. The ultimate decision was made to promote Shula so Newton’s growth wasn’t hampered by having to learn from a new mentor. Continuity is king with this hire.
Newton’s thrown for 7,920 yards in the two season’s he’s been with Shula and the Panthers. He piled on 1,447 yards rushing, as well. After setting the bar for rookie quarterbacks in the NFL in 2011, he regressed in the first half of 2012 but showed growth by leaps and bounds in his final eight games.
With Shula as the new offensive coordinator, that growth won’t be interrupted with a regime change. It also means Carolina will likely continue Rob Chudzinski’s zone-read offense with shades of over-the-top passing.
The zone-read offense let’s Newton use his incredible athletic gifts to churn yardage with his legs. Since he only threw two interceptions in his final seven games, the fact that Newton’s figured out how to limit mistakes gives Shula the opportunity to enhance the vertical aspect of Carolina’s offense.
The continued growth of Newton is priority No. 1 for Shula. Handling the Panthers’ offense properly is definitely the next issue.
Chudzinski and head coach Ron Rivera were criticized last year for mismanaging Carolina’s stable of top-notch running backs. Even with a trio of very expensive, very capable ball carriers, the Panthers shifted focus away from their utilization and put too much emphasis on Newton and the aerial attack.
Another issue Chudzinski was blasted for was running too complicated a system. Once he pared the offense a bit, Newton blossomed and even started making adjustments at the line of scrimmage.
Shula must move forward with the late-season success of Carolina’s offense in mind. Newton threw twice as many touchdown passes and had an almost 20-point higher quarterback rating in the second half of the season.
The Panthers also had twice as many wins.
Unless otherwise noted, all quotes and statements were obtained firsthand.