Carolina Panthers Coaching Changes & Scheme Changes
NFL Coaching Changes and Anticipated Scheme Changes
There is only one constant in the NFL, and that’s change. For the third consecutive year, 25% of the league’s teams will enter the season with different head coaches — and that doesn’t include Sean Payton, who returns to the head coaching ranks after a one-year suspension. Seven of the eight new head coaching hires are from the offensive side of the ball, emphasizing the NFL’s continued transition to an offensive-friendly environment. Only the Jacksonville Jaguars opted to hire from the defensive side of the ball (Gus Bradley).
As if that weren’t enough change, consider that 27 of the league’s 64 offensive and defensive coordinators were replaced. Including the head coaching changes, 37% of the NFL’s most important coaching positions are different from a season ago. Thinking about this another way, there are only 13 teams that return the same head coach, offensive and defensive coordinators:
The NFL is both a cyclical league and one prone to copy cats. When something works for a team, you can be sure other teams will look to duplicate that success; and it doesn’t always work. Not every iteration of the West Coast offense enjoyed the success of the Bill Walsh 49ers. Not every version of Dick LeBeau’s zone-blitz stopped opposing quarterbacks. With that in mind, today’s trends including the zone-read, spread attacks and no huddle approaches will have a mix of successes and failures. That’s the very nature of the league as success only comes with the confluence of great coaching, great players and health.
We will detail each team’s major coaching changes and the schematic implications of those hires. We will update and post our views throughout the preseason as more information is made available in training camp and the preseason.
Today we take a look at the Carolina Panthers
• Head Coach: Ron Rivera
• Offensive Coordinator: Mike Shula (replaces Rob Chudzinski)
• Defensive Coordinator: Sean McDermott
What to expect on offense:
Mike Shula last called plays in the NFL in 1999, his final season coaching under Tony Dungy in Tampa Bay. Since then Shula is better known as the guy who preceded Nick Saban at the University of Alabama and less for his abilities as an NFL offensive difference maker. In spite of his limited recent experience, the Panthers quickly promoted Shula to offensive coordinator after Rob Chudzinski accepted the Cleveland Browns head coaching vacancy. Shula served as the Panthers QB coach in 2011-2012, and it was his relationship with and tutelage of Cam Newton that made him the obvious choice for the OC position.
Schematically Shula is keeping the foundation of Chudzinski’s offense in place, but in an effort to expedite the pace he has simplified the terminology. By doing so, Cam Newton can get in and out of the huddle far faster and the Panthers can try to dictate tempo in a way that was impossible a season ago. Cam Newton explained in a recent interview, “Twins Right, Key Left, 631 Smash M sounds completely different than Twins Right Tampa…It comes out of your mouth faster. You get in the huddle, it’s the same exact play.” Some worry that Shula will be too conservative for today’s NFL, but those criticisms tie back to his approach in the late 90s, and aren’t a fair representation of his approach almost 15 years later.
Next Up: The Chicago Bears
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