The Carolina Panthers are overhauling their offensive coaching staff.
The team announced Tuesday offensive coordinator Mike Shula and quarterbacks coach Ken Dorsey have been relieved of their duties.
The firings came after Carolina finished 2017 ranked 19th in total offense (323.7 yards per game), 28th in passing (192.3 per game), fourth in rushing offense (131.4 per tilt) and 12th in points per game (22.7). The Panthers scored 26 points and put up 413 yards of offense in Sunday’s playoff loss to the New Orleans Saints.
Shula spent the past five seasons as the Panthers offensive coordinator after joining the franchise in 2011 as a quarterbacks coach. Shula helped nurture Cam Newton early in his career and piloted the quarterback to his 2015 MVP season. The OC, however, often caught the ire of Panthers fans for an up-and-down offense that lacked a consistent identity.
Jettisoning the offensive coordinator and QB coach signals that head coach Ron Rivera wants to take a fresh approach with Newton.
The Panthers coach told reporters Tuesday that Carolina’s new offensive coordinator must bring a “different perspective” to the offense. “It is about growth,” Rivera said, “and this football team has room to grow.” Rivera added that the Panthers don’t have a timeline for the new hire.
That “different perspective” might be that of the old guard. NFL Network Insider Ian Rapoport reported that Carolina is expected to interview 65-year-old coach Norv Turner for the offensive coordinator vacancy. Turner is reportedly a “top choice” to join Carolina’s staff.
Since leaving the Vikings mid-season in 2016, Turner has been out of football. Norv has made previous stops as a head coach in D.C. (1994-2000), Oakland (2004-2005) and San Diego (2007-2012) and as an offensive coordinator in Dallas, San Diego, Miami, San Francisco and Cleveland.
Rivera repeatedly spoke last offseason about tailoring an offense that would rely less on Newton’s running ability and helping the quarterback transition into a pocket passer. The plan stumbled out of the gate in 2017, thanks in part to Newton’s offseason shoulder surgery.
After spending the first quarter of the season stuck in the mud, the Panthers‘ offense only got on track when Newton began running the ball more heavily. While Newton’s ability to run the ball will never be completely abandoned, it’s clear that Panthers decision-makers want the offense to evolve beyond an overreliance on the team’s most important player getting beaten up each week.
Who Rivera taps to replace Shula will give a glimpse into the team’s plans for Newton going forward.
With defensive coordinator Steve Wilks interviewing for head coaching jobs this week, it’s likely Rivera will be completely overhauling his coaching staff weeks after signing a new two-year extension.