It’s unfair to say that Mike Shula is a bad offensive coordinator given the fact that the Carolina Panthers had the highest scoring offense in the MFL last year. However, it’s pretty fair to say that Mike Shula doesn’t know how to make any adjustments and has benefitted from a dynamic quarterback who is reaching the prime of his career.
Shula had seven months to figure out that Carolina doesn’t do well against attacking defenses with dominant lines. After Von Miller and the Broncos defense had destroyed Cam Newton and the Carolina offense, Shula had seven months to figure out what most coaches figure out during halftime. If the defense is in the backfield in within four seconds, design plays that gets the ball out of the quarterback’s hands in three seconds.
Through seven months and three NFL weeks, Shula still hasn’t figured this out.
Instead of throwing screens or quick slants and hooks, Shula dials up long pass plays that only start developing after Cam is being helped up by his offensive line. Instead of sticking with the run game when the team gets behind, he tries to get back the points in one play. And when Cam is sacked on that one play, he tried to get back those yards and the points on the next play.
Ron Rivera deserves some blame as the head coach, but Rivera is a defensive guy, and the defense is playing pretty well. He trusts Shula to handle the offense, and Shula has sucked at handling the offense in three of the last four games.
Not many teams have the personnel of the Vikings and Broncos, and the Panthers showed against the 49ers that they could carve up inferior defenses, but if the Panthers hope to make it back to the Super Bowl, they’ll have to face a defense that can do exactly what the Vikings and Broncos did.
Shula has been with Newton his entire career. He was the quarterback’s coach when Newton was drafted and is now the offensive coordinator. There’s something to be said for consistency. We’ve seen plenty of highly-touted quarterbacks fail in the NFL because they’ve had a new offensive coordinator or head coach every year and have to learn a new playbook and system. Newton has benefitted from the consistent voice of Shula.
That doesn’t mean that the Panthers and Newton should be afraid of finding a new voice. The notion that Newton can’t go any higher as a quarterback and the Panthers offense can’t go any higher as a team after last year is stupid. We’ve seen how high they can go under Shula, but I’m willing to bet that they could go higher under a different coordinator.
It’s not like the new offensive coordinator would entirely change the system. Smart coaches know that they need to adapt to their talent. Smarter coaches know how to adapt with their talent. Shula is a smart coach. The Panthers could benefit from someone smarter.