As it turns out, the Carolina Panthers didn't have to look far to find Rob Chudzinski's successor at offensive coordinator.
The team promoted quarterbacks coach Mike Shula to the vacant position on Friday, according to the Charlotte Observer.
The Panthers also promoted two other members of the coaching staff. Assistant receivers coach Ricky Proehl will take over for fired receivers coach Fred Graves, and interim special teams coordinator Richard Rodgers will assume the same role on a full-time basis next season.
Although Shula has more than two decades of NFL coaching experience, his last and only stint as a play-caller was markedly unsuccessful.
Shula served as Tampa Bay's offensive coordinator from 1996-1999, during which time the Bucs offense never finished higher than 22nd in total offense.
Not surprisingly, the immediate reaction around the Carolinas has been decidedly negative.
Many fans believe that the decision was made purely for financial reasons, alleging that Shula was hired because he was the cheapest option.
Hue Jackson was the guy that most people wanted, and appeared to be the most qualified candidate.
During his last stint as offensive coordinator, Jackson transformed the Raiders' 31st ranked offense into the 10th best in just one year. His offensive philosophy, which revolves around using the power running game to open up the vertical passing game, seems to align perfect with the Panthers' personnel. Although he hasn't enjoyed success at every stop, Jackson has experience coaching nearly every offensive position. Throughout his 25-plus years of experience on the collegiate and pro levels, he has spent time as a running backs coach, receivers coach, quarterbacks coach and offensive coordinator.
Nonetheless, it's not fair to indict Shula before he even gets a chance. After all, there is no question he's a lot wiser and more knowledgeable now than he was when he got his first OC gig 16-plus years ago.
Not to mention, Shula does make the most sense in terms of continuity. He knows Cam Newton better than anyone else, and understands how to best utilize his strengths and weaknesses. He also knows Rob Chudzinski's system and isn't likely to deviate too far from the offense that the Panthers quarterback has grown comfortable playing in over the last two seasons.
Panthers fans definitely have the right to be upset with the team's decision to promote Shula. There's no doubt that the move was, well, a typical Panthers move. Given past circumstances, there's no reason to think he will pan out as a play-caller.
But it's important to remind ourselves that games aren't won and lost in the offseason. Let's at least wait until November and December before we declare Shula a failure.
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