Since the day of his hiring we've been saying QB Mike Shula has one of the key tasks of the Panthers coaching staff. At the time we were only referring to the continued grooming of QB Jimmy Clausen and the other young QBs on the Panthers roster. Once the Panthers drafted Cam Newton #1 overall the task's important expanded 10 fold.
By now I'm sure you're aware of his resume: started coaching at age 22; he's been a college head coach, NFL OC and is on his 3rd QB coaching assignment. So there is no questioning this guy has the experience on many levels and in many areas. Bryan Strickland has a nice interview with Shula in which he says, in my view, all the right things when it comes to grooming a rookie QB:
"It presents different challenges, but when you get a guy early in his career, it's kind of fun," he said. "You can mold them pretty much however you want to coming out, and you've got to really be on top of your coaching because you want them to really understand the importance of the details, of doing the little things. You have to stay on top of it, and then that gets entrenched into their thought process, too, so that they start thinking that way. That's what we're going to have to do here with these young guys.
"Any team that's got a quarterback that's pushing the right buttons - and we feel like we have guys here that can do that - has a chance. It's just a matter of them learning it and us coaching it. We feel like we do have some pieces in place up front and outside, but as we know, you've got to be on top of your game every Sunday if you're going to have a chance at all."
Shula really seems like the kind of coach that can get through to guys like Cam and Jimmy. I like the comment about emphasizing the little things. There is no truer statement that could be said if you've studied the interviews and advice of all the greats. It's the little things that wins championships. I've got more on QBs coach Mike Shula...after the jump...
So why does Shula continue to settle for QB coaching jobs when he could most likely be the head guy somewhere in the college ranks?
"Most of the guys that I've worked with, now that I think about it, have been guys that were just becoming starters," Shula said. "I like working with quarterbacks and everything about the position and the challenge - on the field, off the field, leadership, communication, decision-making - to be able to help a young man who has aspirations to be the best quarterback he can be. Helping him is why I do it."
Shula now has young QBs in spades, the a fore mentioned Newton and Clausen plus potentiall Matt Moore and Tony Pike depending on how free agency shakes out.
Speaking of the Jimmy, Shula remains slightly upbeat...well, I should probably characterize it more as 'non-committal':
"There's still so many unknowns with Jimmy - on where his ceiling is mentally and physically - but he was exposed to a lot in college with playing quarterback at Notre Dame and also working with Charlie Weis, who does a great job offensively preparing a young man for the NFL," Shula said.
The 'most ready' QB in last years draft sure didn't look the part...but that's well-worn topic around here. I think it's fair to say that between Newton and Clausen Shula has one of the hardest jobs in football at any level in 2011:
He's going to have a lot of learning to do, but at the same time we're going to have to make sure that we find things for him and for Jimmy that they do well and put them in position to do those things."
The challenge for Shula will be that Newton and Clausen will most likely be good at very different things. What exactly that is I'm not going to speculate here...lol.
One last beauty of quote from this piece is Shula describing how Bucs coach Ray Perkins broke it to him that maybe he isn't cut out for playing QB and should instead go into coaching:
"I was asked by our head coach (Ray Perkins) - who was also my college coach - if I would consider retiring and start coaching in the spring," Shula recalled. "I said, ‘I kind of really still want to play,' and he said, ‘Mike, you're the third quarterback on our team and we're only keeping two, so you do the math.' It took me about a week to figure the math out, and then I decided. I knew I wanted to coach at some point and I was so lucky to have an opportunity to coach in the NFL at 22 years old.
Fortunately there isn't much math required to coach QB's! At 22 Shula was coaching a 38 year old QB...that is too rich! You can bet he learned a lot from that experience. I can see it now in practice:
Shula "Stretch that 3rd step on the drop back a little further back Joe". Ferguson "Screw you kid. go get me a Gatorade"....;)
I'll tell you Panthers fans, our young QBs are in good hands.
Hat tip to MMA Pitbull for posting the link as a fanshot