Carolina Panthers wide receiver Steve Smith saw a ton of success over the last two seasons under his former offensive coordinator Rob Chudzinski, now head coach of the Cleveland Browns. Despite a resurgence in the 34-year-old veteran's career in 2011, both Smith and the rest of the Panthers' offense took a dip last season, to varying degrees.
Smith seems to think that not only does the blame fall on his former OC, but it's because of Chudzinski's efforts to get a job as a head coach that he changed the 2012 Carolina offense.
Smith made the comments in response to a question while on conference call Wednesday morning. Doug Farrar of SI.com asked him how things might be different under Shula:
"I think it was really a power move by the former offensive coordinator [Chudzinski] – he was really positioning himself and trying to show, ‘Hey I’m capable,’" Smith said. "I think he was applying for a head coaching job, and our offense kind of suffered because of that. At times, we got kind of cute and did things that weren’t necessarily us."
If any Browns fans find themselves believing that, they might actually have some things to worry about. Which of the following seems worse?
- An offensive coordinator that is willing to put his current team's success at risk for personal gain.
- An offensive coordinator that thought his best shot at landing a head coaching job was to get "kind of cute" as some sort of ploy to prove he's "capable."
If Smith is correct in his criticism of Chudzinski, both are true.
The problem: Since when do suffering offenses look good on an NFL head coaching application?
Even if we assume that Chudzinski thought favoring cuteness over a more sustained running attack wasn't mutually exclusive with offensive success, did he also think NFL executives looking to hire their next head coach would value someone's willingness to do those things as a positive?
Smith said "all kinds of different things" were an issue, but was more specific with just one point on the matter: "Underutilizing Mike Tolbert."
Marc Sessler, writer for NFL.com's Around the League, elaborated much more on the Panthers' running game last year:
Carolina ranked 12th in total yards and 18th in scoring in 2012, despite just two teams having fewer possessions. That was down from seventh in total yards and fifth in scoring in 2011. Those are the numbers, but Carolina certainly struggled to develop a sustainable run game early last season, largely because of the team's scheme.
The Panthers relied heavily on zone-read runs as their base formation in the ground game, with Newton rarely under center. A surprising 66 percent of Carolina's runs were out of the shotgun entering Week 8. The Panthers adopted a more traditional run game down the stretch, and Newton enjoyed a sneaky-productive second half of the season -- but Smith isn't happy with how it went down.
An offensive coordinator willing to adapt if a scheme isn't working as well as expected sounds like someone trying to win. A coach that wasn't willing to do just that should be fresh in Browns fans' memories.
A novel idea, a coach trying to win. Is it more likely than one that's willing to put a team's success on the line so he can get his next job, a job where the ultimate goal is the exact same as the previous – to coach the team to wins – to success?