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Change is coming for Carolina's offense, but how much?

Posted Jan 9, 2018

Head coach Ron Rivera is looking for a new offensive coordinator, not a new offensive philosophy.

CHARLOTTE – Ron Rivera knew change was needed.

He made that abundantly clear when he spoke to the media following his decision to part ways with offensive coordinator Mike Shula and quarterbacks coach Ken Dorsey, who had been in those roles since 2013.

But just how much different will the Panthers offense be in 2018?

The new coordinator will bring fresh ideas and perspective, but Rivera knows what he wants from his offense.

“The thing we have to look at is the system is in place,” Rivera said Tuesday. “Just how much of that is going to be impacted? We want to try and make sure it stays very similar to what we do and how we do it. I think that's important."

What we do.

Rivera used that phrase a couple of times during his press conference. In seven years as Carolina’s head coach, Rivera’s philosophy has become well known to all who watch the Panthers on a regular basis.

He wants to establish a physical run game and control the clock. Time and time again, Rivera will reiterate the importance of winning the ground game and the value of carrying that into the postseason.

“Absolutely. I think you win football games when you do that,” Rivera said. “I've quoted this stat before: When you outrush your opponent, when you rush for over 100 yards, you win 70 percent of the time. We want to win that consistently and put ourselves in position to get into the playoffs and win in the playoffs.

“Unfortunately we didn't do that this year, but that is a big part of what we want to become going forward.”

This isn’t all to say that the next coordinator will simply do what’s been done before. Every scheme has room for new wrinkles. Evolving from year-to-year is the name of the game in the NFL.

To that end, Rivera stressed the importance of getting the most out of a dynamic weapon like Christian McCaffrey in his second season. The eighth overall pick recorded a franchise-record 80 receptions as a rookie.

“You want to make sure you're getting the ball in your playmakers' hands, give those guys opportunities,” Rivera said. “Looking at some of the guys I've thought about, some of the things they do, they do use the backs. And we have a back in Christian that has that type of ability and you do want to get him the ball in space." 

The scheme, the philosophy, the system – that’s one part of this equation.

The other is play-calling, and that can make all the difference.

Play-callers are defined by the decisions they make in pressure situations and they’re often under the microscope. The most effective ones have a great feel for the game and what’s needed to navigate the ebbs and flows.

Mike Shula was the man behind the controls of the offense for five seasons. He and the Panthers enjoyed moments of great success, most notably the 2015 season that included an appearance in Super Bowl 50 and an MVP award for quarterback Cam Newton, who directed the No. 1 scoring offense in the NFL.

But the Panthers have yet to reach the pinnacle. Rivera believes this move had to be made to get them there.

“I just believe something different can give us the boost that I’m looking for,” Rivera said, “that I believe can get us to the ultimate goal – that’s winning a Super Bowl.”