Quarterback isn't a position known for quick fixes. It's a position of projects, development and hard work to make a questionable player 'NFL ready'. It seem that in 2011 more than ever the Carolina Panthers will be leaning heavily on getting someone to work with their cadre of quarterbacks and quickly make them 'NFL ready'. It was this reason Mike Shula was such an important hire for the Panthers, and it foreshadowed what we're seeing now- a team looking to take a QB #1 overall.
While we only have a few examples of Shula's work in Miami from 2000-2002 and again in Jacksonville from 2007-2010 we see a extremely reliable pattern emerging and one that will serve the Carolina Panthers well. We'll look more into this...
After the jump
Case Study One: Jay Fiedler
Mike Shula arrived in Miami with a near impossible task- find a replacement for the legendary Dan Marino. At the time the Dolphins had only one quarterback on the roster who was there the previous year, Damon Huard. In limited time Huard was okay, but overall he was underwhelming. This prompted the Dolphins to sign four year veteran Jay Fiedler.
Fiedler has previously played in just 12 NFL games, starting just one- but Shula saw something he could work with. The first season Fiedler was okay posting a 74.5 QB rating, but over time he consistently got better. Here are Fiedler's stats under Shula:
As you can see, Fiedler experienced good gains each of his three years in Miami. He raised his overall QB rating 10.7 points from 2000-2002. When Shula left in 2003 to head to Alabama his quarterback rating fell to 72.3. It would seem that Shula had a large effect on Jay Fiedler's development.
Case study Two: David Garrard
Following 2006 the Jacksonville Jaguars had realized that former 1st round pick Byron Leftwich wasn't the long term answer or franchise QB they had hoped him to be. The team made the change to 5 year veteran David Garrard. Though Garrard had a very solid season in 2006 where he finished with a QB rating of 80.5 he needed more work as he completed just over 60% of his passes and his 10/9 TD/INT ration left a lot to be desired.
Below are Garrard's stats under Shula:
Immediately Shula made a huge difference working with Garrard. His 2007 season was extemely effective in his 12 starts, and in 2009 he made the Pro Bowl. Those are just the statistical differences- empirically Garrard has become a better decision maker with his passes, throws into coverage less and is stronger in the pocket.
Sure, there's a chance Shula got lucky twice... but it seems less than likely. He was able to put in good work with both Fiedler and Garrard to the point where he truly seems to be the difference maker. This season will tell us a lot both about Shula and David Garrard as we look to see if he experiences a similar drop off Fiedler did.
Here's hoping lightning strikes a third time and Mike Shula can help the QB position in Carolina as he has in Miami and Jacksonville.