New Carolina Panthers offensive coordinator Mike Shula is excited in his new, larger role on the team as the man controlling the offense. Rob Chudzinski has plenty of power over the offense and is now back with the Cleveland Browns, albeit as a head coach. Meanwhile, Shula, who used to coach the Alabama Crimson Tide (and played quarterback for the storied program) is back as an offensive coordinator in the NFC South after previously leading a triumvirate in the backfield of Shaun King, Mike Alstott, and Warrick Dunn with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
With the Panthers, he has more familiarity with a quarterback in Cam Newton whom he has worked with since both of them came into the organization in 2011. Newton and Shula seemingly work well together, and Joseph Person wrote that Shula will be trying to involve Newton more in the offense.
Not only that, but Shula is also excited to be the offensive coordinator of the Carolina Panthers. Per the piece above by Person he said, “I’m excited because number one, our quarterback. And I’m excited because of the guys that we’re coaching.”
Ah yes, Cam Newton. He’s almost always front and center of the talk about the Panthers, and the hopes of the franchise lie on his shoulders and his ability to take his game- and thus this team- to the next level. Shula has the chance to continue to work with a potential top ten quarterback if all goes well, and thus he is in a more favorable position in this offensive coordinator gig in the NFC South. Why wouldn’t he be excited?
Sure the Panthers 7-9 finish was somewhat disappointing, but being 7-9 isn’t exactly the worst thing in the world. Of more concern for Shula is probably something that is out of his hands, which is the future of who plays at the running back position. DeAngelo Williams will likely be gone due to his large contract, even though he played at an elite level again down the stretch (Williams absolutely demolished the New Orleans Saints in the finale). If Williams is gone, that puts more pressure on Jonathan Stewart to be healthy, which is something the “football gods” have not granted him.
But even if Williams leaves, the running game behind Newton should still be strong. Mike Tolbert was a little bit overrated while with the San Diego Chargers, but that’s because they didn’t use him correctly; the Panthers are. Tolbert isn’t a traditional blocking fullback by any means, but he is a jack-of-all-trades player as an offensive weapon with good rushing ability and some solid hands out of the backfield.
The Panthers will need some stronger blocking in front of the backs, especially at the guard positions flanking elite center Ryan Kalil, but the future looks bright in Carolina on offense. Last season’s one-game-below .500 finish was due to the incompetence on defense, as the offense was once again solid despite dealing with key injuries as well. Cam Newton’s development could have been hurt by the loss of Chud, but the Panthers showed that they, wisely, value continuity more by promoting Shula and new quarterbacks coach Ken Dorsey to larger roles in the organization. I’m a fan of the promotions given to both former quarterbacks, because they know what Newton is going through and have shown over the past couple of years that they can work well with Newton.
Shula is excited, but he will have to translate that excitement into progress for both Newton and the offense for it to matter. That’s the bottom line, as always.