A week after former Carolina offensive coordinator Rob Chudzinski was introduced as the Cleveland Browns’ new coach, the Panthers are close to finding his replacement.
Panthers general manager Dave Gettleman and coach Ron Rivera will choose their next coordinator from a group of three candidates – each a former head coach.
Panthers quarterbacks coach Mike Shula, former Cleveland coach Pat Shurmur and ex-Oakland coach Hue Jackson have emerged as the finalists, a source with knowledge of the search told The Observer on Thursday.
The Panthers could announce the hire as early as Friday.
Rivera had considered bringing in other candidates to succeed Chudzinski, who was hired in Cleveland after getting passed over for three head-coaching jobs last year. Former Arizona Cardinals coach Ken Whisenhunt was mentioned as a possible target.
Instead, the Panthers decided to interview the two external candidates and Shula, the former Alabama coach who has drawn praise for his work with Cam Newton. Shula met with Rivera and Gettleman on Wednesday, according to the source.
Promoting Shula would allow the Panthers to make the most seamless transition. The Panthers want to run an offense similar to the one employed by Chudzinski, who combined a downfield passing attack with a zone-read package to take advantage of Newton’s running ability.
But Shula’s four-year stint as Tampa Bay’s offensive coordinator from 1996-99 was unimpressive. With Trent Dilfer at quarterback, the Buccaneers ranked among the league’s worst offenses during that span.
Shurmur, who was fired after going 9-23 in two seasons with the Browns, worked with Rivera for five years on Andy Reid’s Eagles staff. Shurmur would have to scrap or significantly change his West Coast offense if hired in Charlotte.
Jackson, currently an assistant coach in Cincinnati, ran a multiple offense when he was the Raiders’ offensive coordinator in 2010 and head coach the following season.