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Offense still has its top producer


With the news that the Cleveland Browns have hired Rob Chudzinski as their head coach, the Panthers are in the market for someone to direct their offense.

The good news is that as they seek a director, they already have their producer.

In what turned out to be Chudzinski's final interview as Carolina's offensive coordinator with, he handed over a copy of an article entitled: "Cam Newton:  The Best First Two Seasons Ever."

With help from Chudzinski and the rest of the Panthers' coaching staff, Newton threw for 7,920 yards in his first two seasons, surpassing the NFL record previously held by Peyton Manning. His 62 total touchdowns rank second to Dan Marino.

Make no mistake: The search for a quality offensive mind to replace Chudzinski on the coaching staff is an important one. But at the end of the day in today's NFL, an offensive coordinator is only as good as his quarterback, and the Panthers clearly have a special one in Newton.

"We wish Chud the very best and appreciate the great job he did here in laying a foundation for our offense,"  Panthers head coach Ron Rivera said. "We are in the process of filling staff positions now and will continue to work through that in the coming days. Our goal is to identify the best candidates, and there is no specific timetable."

Would Newton have benefitted from the continuity of having Chudzinski back for a third season? It couldn't hurt. On the other hand, it would be premature to say that not having Chudzinski back will hurt.

For one thing, the Panthers' general philosophy isn't changing with Ron Rivera returning as head coach. Rivera's focus from a hands-on coaching standpoint lies on the defensive side of the ball, but his aggressive approach to the game will continue to carry over to every aspect of game day.

In addition, quarterbacks coach Mike Shula remains on the staff. He and Newton spend so much time together that they get their mail delivered to the same address.

But perhaps most importantly, Newton has a remarkable record of succeeding even without coaching continuity.

He played at three different schools over three years. The first change of venue resulted in a junior college national championship; the second change produced a BCS national championship and Heisman Trophy for Newton.

Then as an NFL rookie, Newton didn't get to spend any time with his new coaching staff until six weeks before the season opener because of the NFL's work stoppage. Still, he managed to open his career with back-to-back 400-yard passing games.

Coaching continuity didn't seem to help Newton early last season when he struggled through a sophomore slump of sorts, but he emerged from that and put up spectacular stats to close the season.

"Cam has learned a lot about being a leader and what it takes, not just when it's going good," Chudzinski told a week ago. "He learned to deal better with adversity. It was a tough time for him, but he pulled through it."

It's a tough time to lose your offensive coordinator, but the Panthers will pull through as well. Newton and the next guy will make sure of that.

Staff writer Max Henson contributed to this report.

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