For better or for worse a 2-14 team with a new coaching staff will be a lightning rod for attention in their first full season. Fans will be jaded, likely expecting immediate success and change from a situation that almost always needs to sit and simmer, while the rest of the football world will pay close attention to successes and grade them highly, revering their coaches.
As some have speculated (and justifiably so) offensive coordinator Rob Chudzinski is getting a lot of national attention from teams who will be looking for head coaches in 2012. You don't simple turn around an offense the way Chudzinski has without quickly rising to the top of a lot of people's wish lists. In a perfect world would Chud stay to see his investment in Cam Newton mature? Sure... but becoming an NFL head coach is the end-game for almost all NFL coaches, and do you think he'd stay if San Diego axed Norv Turner and asked him to return? I sure don't.
Meanwhile reports came out today saying the University of Florida would be interested in Mike Shula as their offensive coordinator under Will Muschamp, after losing Charlies Weis to Kansas. This is really a grey area because to put it bluntly Shula sucked at the college level. For whatever reason he was inept as head coach of Alabama, and as a play-caller for the St. Louis Rams he was equally inept.
But what would happen if these two men did head for greener pastures? Where could we go? I'll look at this, after the jump
Let's suppose Chud leaves
If Rob Chudzinski left the Carolina Panthers for San Diego, Jacksonville, or another team looking to shake things up then I have no doubt that team would be getting a genius as a head coach. Like Ken Whisenhunt and Todd Haley before him, I believe he would be the next great offensive mind to transition to head coach.
So what would the Panthers do? They have the personnel now in place to run the air Coryell, a QB who excels at making plays downfield and an offense build for flexibility and creativity. The answer to this question is so simple it might as well be made a trade... why not get Norv Turner?
There's no doubting that Turner is an elite offensive mind, the questions about him have always been as a leader and stalwart head coach. With Rivera running the show it would allow Turner (who it should be mentioned in a North Carolina native) to return home, join his son and continue to build the Panthers offense. Sure, there would be a little adjustment as he adapted Chud's system, but we're not talking apples and oranges here.
Turner has also proved himself to be a fairly pragmatic guy who doesn't have a big ego. It doesn't seem to me that he'd take umbrage with the idea of serving under his former defensive coordniator, after all he did that very thing in San Francisco when he was the OC under his former DC in Washington- Mike Nolan. Would it suck to lose Chud? Absolutely, but I have a feeling Turner would arrive in Carolina fairly quickly and we'd be okay.
Let's suppose Shula leaves
The unsung hero for the Panthers' successes this season is Mike Shula who has helped mold Cam Newton into the QB he is now. With each week we see improvements from Cam from a technical standpoint, even if it doesn't always translate to the field. Looking back and week one and two now it's undeniable to see how far Cam has progressed as a pocket QB, even if the 400 yard games aren't there.
Again, like Norv Turner the answer should he leave is so simple it's been staring us in the face- we hire Chris Weinke. Already the Carolina Panthers have poached Ken Dorsey from IMG academy to head up their scouting department, so why not take their QB coach to give Weinke his foray into the NFL as a coach?
As much credit as Shula deserves it's definitely fair to say Weinke deserves some credit too. Whether you want to call Newton 'raw plutonium' or clay, it matters not... the fact is he helped harness Cam's potential during the lockout and gave us a rough-cut diamond for Shula to polish. Here again, I have no fears that the Panthers could bring in Weinke, and that he could be a successful QB coach here.
When it's all said and done the idea of early offensive success leading to the loss of coaches is a scary one, but one has to imagine that Marty Hurney has a backup plan in case this happens. You don't hire guys like Chudzinksi and Shula, men already considered at the top of their craft and not have any plan in case they leave. In my mind Turner and Weinke would be the perfect replacements and continue to push we've seen this season. I'm not really worried, and I don't think you should be either.