Mike Shula Could Re-Establish Himself as an Offensive Coordinator with Carolina
When Mike Shula took his first job as an offensive coordinator in the NFL, the Carolina Panthers were still in their infancy. As the guy charged with developing the game plan for Tampa Bay's offense, he was at the position from 1996-1999.
During his tenure with the team, the Buccaneers only had one losing season. While the team was successful, a lot of that was attributed to the defense. Shula's scoring offense ranked no better than 18th when he was its offensive coordinator.
Shula was limited by the lack of talent on the offense. He had Mike Alstott, Trent Dilfer and Warrick Dunn at his disposal, but the passing game never saw a 1,000-yard receiver, and the Bucs offense established Tampa Bay as a running team.
While Alstott and Dunn were good at their craft, the lack of an efficient passing game could have played a role in not winning a few more games in 1998 when they missed the playoffs or cost them playoff games because the offense could not put points on the board in otherwise low-scoring games (1997 and 1999).
Shula would leave following the 1999 season to become the head coach of the Alabama Crimson Tide, and while he would return to the NFL in 2007, he would not be promoted to offensive coordinator until the Panthers named him to the position this offseason, following the departure of Rob Chudzinski.
Does Shula stand a better chance the second time around?
Compared to the personnel on the Tampa Bay offense during the mid-to-late '90s, the current roster seems to be more talented in Carolina. The Panthers have the ability to run the ball, and they have a legitimate passing threat in Cam Newton. And while Steve Smith is the only one on the team to record a 1,000-yard season catching the ball, they have guys who are very capable of catching passes and making plays.
Carolina has a more versatile offense than what those old Tampa Bay teams fielded too. The Panthers have shown a knack for running trick plays on occasion and are better suited to do so than the Buccaneer teams Shula coached.
Another reason that will allow Shula to have success in his first season as the offensive coordinator is his familiarity with the team. He knows the strengths and weaknesses all around the offense. He worked with Newton since the day he put on a Panthers jersey and will even show a willingness to implement a few plays like the read-option. However, the game plan is for the Panthers to return to their roots and assert themselves with a powerful running attack.
Cam on option keeper. Zone read not dead under Shula, just de-emphasized.
— Joe Person (@josephperson) June 13, 2013
While there are to be subtle changes to the offensive play-calling, one that could really help Newton and return the Panthers to a top-tier offensive unit is the simplified terminology when it comes to calling plays. Shula seems to understand that a comfortable quarterback is an effective quarterback.
— Joe Person (@josephperson) June 13, 2013
Newton recently spoke to the Charlotte Observer's Joe Person and offered an example of how simple the play-calling would be in 2013.
Twins Right, Key Left, 631 Smash M sounds completely different than Twins Right Tampa
This could really help establish Shula as a good coordinator, as the new concept will result in faster huddles and help players get on the ball more quickly. This bodes especially well for a team that is built around speed. The fast pace might even disrupt opposing defenses, who could struggle to get set before Carolina snaps the ball.
How will the Carolina offense fare under Mike Shula?
Nothing is guaranteed in the NFL, but one has to like what Shula brings to the table and how he will positively affect the Panthers.
Shula has the personnel and knowledge to make Carolina a top offensive unit in 2013. Ultimately, it will come down to how Newton and company take to the new design. Shula was the logical choice to replace Chudzinski, and his experience in the league and with the team could prove beneficial to both him and the Panthers over the next few seasons.
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