Meet the new guy: Understanding why John Ramsdell's hiring is significant


On the surface it's simply hiring an offensive assistant, but there's far more going on.

There are seldom universal truths in life, but in my experience happy people don't cheat on their relationship. Why look for someone else if you're truly secure with your significant other? Similarly in the NFL, happy teams don't hire senior offensive assistants. It's here where we uncover the true potential of John Ramsdell coming to the Panthers.

The answer is simple if a bad team fails, replace the coaches who struggled. Everything becomes more difficult when a team wins. Changing staff following a playoff berth might be the right move in order to take steps forward, but it's rarely understood by fans, just like cutting your top receiver tends to be met with skepticism.

In 2011 the Baltimore Ravens went 12-4 on the back of a solid defense, but the offense was clearly lackluster. Cam Cameron wasn't a good enough offensive mind to get the team over the hump, so Jim Caldwell was hired after being axed in Indianapolis. His role was officially named "quarterback coach," but the overtones were obvious -- they wanted a guy inside the organization to take over if Cameron struggled once again.

Nine months later Caldwell took over when the Ravens dismissed Cameron, they won the Super Bowl.

Mike Shula tends to get effusive praise for his conservative, ball-control approach to offense but that isn't enough. In fact, it's eerie how much Shula and Cameron share in common, both on 12-4 teams.

Mike Shula (2013) Cam Cameron (2011)
Total yards 26th 15th
Passing yards 29th 19th
Rushing yards 11th 10th
Points 18th 12th
Time of possession 5th 11th

Both coordinators were far better at running successful rushing offenses than passing and had a knack for controlling the clock as a result. Those might be things to hang your hat on, but they shouldn't be. The average ranking across these five areas is an edge to Cameron, 13.4 vs. 17.8.

Meet the Indianapolis Colts. Another year, another playoff team, another floundering offense. If you make the playoffs you can't fire your offensive coordinator, so you hire a senior offensive assistant. This time it's Rob Chudzinski, who will serve as a "special assistant" to Chuck Pagano and will aid offensive coordinator for Pep Hamilton. Stampede Blue saw the significance of the hiring.

It's certainly possible that Hamilton was consulted prior to the hiring, but it doesn't seem that way. It seems more likely that Pagano is bringing in "his guy" to help him control the offense more. Imagine you're doing your job - either at an office or onsite somewhere - and, based on most metrics, you're doing it quite well. Then, your boss hires his old college buddy to act as a "special assistant." Your boss's buddy has the same background you do, and he does not answer to you. He talks directly to your boss most likely about the very stuff you are doing.

Enter John Ramsdell. A man with almost 20 years of NFL experience and a star-studded resume for developing quarterbacks and passing offenses. He's a student of the Air Coryell system that flourished in Chudzinski's madness, a coach who was instrumental in establishing "The greatest show on turf" in St. Louis, while happening to serve six years with the San Diego Chargers -- along with Ron Rivera.

It's a slightly different situation in Carolina by virtue of the fact it appears Ramsdell will answer to Shula as offensive assistant, but make no mistake he's still "Rivera's guy." You don't hire Ramsdell to a senior offensive position if you're secure in your staff, that hiring never happens if you truly believe Shula is "the guy" moving forward in the long term.

The hopeful will probably say "he's here to work on the passing," but teams don't work that way. There isn't some weird pseudo democracy where five guys have their fingers in the pie, you want one coordinator who can do it all. Sure, maybe out of the gate he offers some input -- but my money is on Ramsdell being a fallback plan, the Panthers' Jim Caldwell. If Shula falters once again they'll have a guy waiting in the wings.

Dave Gettleman believes that the answer is on the roster, now he's made sure the answer is on his coaching staff too.

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