Panthers narrow search for offensive coordinator to three

Jackson, Shula, Shurmur still in the running

jperson@charlotteobserver.comJanuary 17, 2013 

  • Offensive Coordinator Candidates Hue Jackson Age: 47 Current position: Bengals assistant defensive backs and special teams coach Connection to Ron Rivera: Coached vs. him in AFC West in 2010 when Rivera was San Diego’s defensive coordinator and Jackson was Oakland’s offensive coordinator. Pros: Offensive coordinator at college level (including Southern Cal from 1997-2000) and NFL; QBs coach in Baltimore in 2008 when Joe Flacco became the first rookie QB to win two playoff games. Cons: Raiders offense took a step back in 2011 during Jackson’s lone season as head coach; Oakland set league records for penalties (163) and penalty yardage (1,358 yards) in 2011.
  • More information Mike Shula Age: 47 Current position: Panthers quarterbacks coach Connection to Ron Rivera: Part of Rivera’s inaugural staff with Carolina; was tight ends coach in Chicago when Rivera was covering the Bears for WGN. Pros: Has an established relationship with QB Cam Newton; well-versed in the offensive system Panthers ran under Rob Chudzinski; has 21 years of NFL coaching experience. Cons: Unsuccessful, four-year stint as Tampa Bay’s offensive coordinator from 1996-99, when the Buccaneers ranked among the worst offense’s in the league.
  • More information Pat Shurmur Age: 47 Current position: None Connection to Ron Rivera: Spent five seasons with him in Philadelphia from 1999-2003. Pros: When Shurmur was St. Louis’ offensive coordinator in 2010, Rams QB Sam Bradford was Offensive Rookie of the Year; worked for Nick Saban at Michigan State and Andy Reid in Philly. Cons: Background is with the West Coast offense, which seems like a bad fit for Panthers’ personnel, particularly Newton; Cleveland’s coach and offensive coordinator in 2011 when Browns finished 29th in offense and 30th in scoring.

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.

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