NEW ORLEANS — Veteran wideout Steve Smith knows the Panthers’ new offensive coordinator, having worked with Mike Shula the past two seasons.
As for the new general manager, Smith has done his homework on Dave Gettleman and plans to meet with him next week.
Speaking at his charity auction near the French Quarter on Wednesday night, Smith said he’s optimistic Shula can keep the Panthers’ offense rolling following the departure of Rob Chudzinski to Cleveland.
After Chudzinski interviewed with three teams last offseason, Smith said his leaving was inevitable.
“It eventually was going to happen, and it did. Now you just take it with a grain of salt. Chud’s left and Shula’s there,” Smith said. “You never know what’s going to be moving forward. You never know what’s in store. You’re optimistic and you’re high in spirits and you think and assume that a man who has been promoted is going to take it seriously, which I think he is. We’re ready to go.”
The Panthers finished seventh and 12th in total offense in Chudzinski’s two seasons.
Coach Ron Rivera cited continuity – particularly where quarterback Cam Newton is concerned – in promoting Shula, the team’s quarterbacks coach.
“You always want to hire a guy that doesn’t set you back or changes up. And how a guy sets you back is all of a sudden you have to change up everything,” Smith said. “I think that is a vital role. That’s important to keep in perspective, and I think that’s what we did.”
Interestingly, Cincinnati Bengals assistant coach Hue Jackson was among those in attendance at Smith’s fundraiser for Samaritan’s Feet, the Charlotte-based charity that provides shoes to indigent children.
Jackson, the former Oakland coach, was one of three candidates who interviewed for the Panthers’ offensive coordinator post.
Former Buffalo wideout Andre Reed and ESPN broadcaster Trey Wingo were among the guests at the auction, which included autographed cleats worn by Smith and Newton, a signed Colin Kaepernick helmet and an autographed photo of Heisman winner Johnny Manziel.