The Panthers were often more creative than effective on offense last year.
And Panthers wide receiver Steve Smith said he thinks that’s because former offensive coordinator Rob Chudzinski was more interested in getting a promotion than using the resources he had to their fullest. If he did, it worked, as Chudzinski’s now the head coach in Cleveland.
“The prior offensive coordinator [Chudzinski] really was positioning himself to just apply for that head coaching job,” Smith said during a conference call with Seattle reporters, via Terry Blount of ESPN.com. “I think our offense suffered a little bit because of that.”
When Chudzinski walked into Carolina in 2011, he had a set of personnel which included a stable of talented backs, one great deep threat in Smith and a good one in Brandon LaFell, a solid tight end in Greg Olsen and a young quarterback in Cam Newton who throws a good deep ball.
But the Panthers leaned too heavily toward the read-option game with Newton at times, and had more success when head coach Ron Rivera dialed back some of the versatility in the second half of last year. Expect them to stay more traditional under new offensive coordinator Mike Shula.
“At times, we got cute,” Smith said. “We did things that weren’t necessarily us, like the underutilizing of [running back] Mike Tolbert. But we’re out of that. The past is the past. . . .
“I think Coach Shula is going to change things up, and he has so far. He just does little different things. Some of it looks small, but we’re focusing more on the details, and that’s the difference.”
While it remains to be seen if Shula’s the right man for the job, it’s obvious that Chudzinski might not have been. Smith is a passionate player, and has traded in blunt honesty for other means of expressing himself in recent years.
So while Chudzinski’s motivations might be subject to debate, the results indicate that Smith’s got a point, even if it wasn’t expressed in time.