Bob Donnan-USA TODAY Sports
Rob Chudzinski is headed to Cleveland to try and fix the Browns, and now the Carolina Panthers are looking to find a new offensive quarterback to help Cam Newton entering his third season.
Carolina Panthers players' were adept at getting themselves in hot water over social media in 2012. Whether it was DeAngelo Williams's passive-aggressive sub tweeting about his lack of use, defensive end Charles Johnson furious at the firing of Marty Hurney, or Greg Hardy sharing photos 100-mph behind the wheel of a Bentley -- members of the team were always willing to offer a piece of their mind, often to their own detriment.
On Thursday night the silence was deafening.
Not a single member of the Carolina Panthers' offense spoke of missing their offensive coordinator, or voiced their fondness for a scheme that saw too many players used ineffectively. Sure, DeAngelo Williams was trying to work out whether he could call Chud, but there was hardly strains of anyone disappointed at his departure. It was a two-year tenure fraught with immense highs, and shattering lows. Cam Newton broke records one year, and the next he stopped just short of telling the media that the play calling was killing the Panthers -- all the while Chud remained silent, refusing to let Newton call audibles, and unwilling to relent.
If the offensive play calling hadn't been reigned in of the season's final two months, it would have been over long ago. The entire staff would be fired, and Chudzinski wouldn't have this opportunity now. Did he actually learn from his mistakes, or just enough to save himself? That's Cleveland's problem now.
The Carolina Panthers are in the market for a new offensive coordinator, and with Norv Turner rumored to be off the table -- joining Chud in Cleveland, this isn't a simple prospect. Darin Gantt calls the situations 'a mess', and while the backwards nature of Carolina moving from head coach, to hiring a GM may not result in 2013 success -- there could be far worse situations.
Cam Newton now finds himself in a spot familiar to many quarterbacks taken first overall -- getting a new offensive coordinator early. Mike Shula might be the most logical choice, but dig into his history and you see an established pattern of failure when he hasn't been a QB coach. As the only member of the Panthers' staff with OC experience, there are a lot of reasons why he could be Chud's replacement, but hopefully they show a little more creativity.
Former Arizona Cardinals' head coach Ken Whisenhunt has a lot of the qualities Carolina is looking for. He has head coach experience, worked with a similar quarterback in Ben Roethlisberger, and I'm pretty sure JR has a trapper-keeper with a Steelers' logo on it, emblazoned with 'BFFs 4 EVA'. Carolina love ex-Steelers, but the risk in hiring Whisenhunt is that the Panthers will return to this song and dance in 2014. He interviewed for head coaching jobs this year, and if there is any modicum of success he'll be in demand again.
There are a wealth of candidates out there, ranging from Pat Shurmur to Brian Schottenheimer. After the dumpster fires in Cleveland and the New York Jets, their past failures are unlikely to be indicative of their ability -- and both could be possible options. Also, when Dave Gettleman rolls into town next week there's no telling what members of the New York Giants' staff he could suggest to Ron Rivera.
Is the Panthers' offensive future bright? Shake a Magic 8-Ball and it will say 'reply hazy, try again'. There's no quick-fire answer for who will be selected, but whoever it is needs to not carry the offensive hubris that Rob Chudzinski displayed in Charlotte. Creativity, understanding, and patience -- that's what the Carolina Panthers need. West Coast offense, Air Coryell -- it's all pointless if the heartbeat of any new scheme isn't building around Cam Newton. That's what we wait to see.