Panthers should hand offense to Shula

With Rob Chudzinski leaving to become the head coach of the Cleveland Browns, a lot of Carolina fans have been clamoring for Norv Turner to become the new offensive coordinator.

But that might not even be possible. There are reports out there that Turner is likely to join Chudzinski in Cleveland.

If the Panthers don’t get Turner, who is close with Carolina coach Ron Rivera, it might not be as catastrophic as Carolina fans think. Maybe the best guy for the job already is on staff.

I say the Panthers simply should promote quarterbacks coach Mike Shula.

He knows Chudzinski’s offense. He has a close relationship with franchise quarterback Cam Newton and, now in his mid-40s, Shula is more than ready for the job.

Shula has his detractors, who point to his time as Tampa Bay’s offensive coordinator and as the University of Alabama’s head coach. Those people say Shula got those jobs simply because he was the son of Hall of Fame coach Don Shula.

I don’t think that was the case either time, but I can see where that perception came from. That kind of talk is only natural when you’re the son of Don Shula. A lot of people said Shula was too young to be the offensive coordinator in Tampa Bay back in the 1990s, and too young to be the head coach at Alabama.

I don’t buy into that either. I covered Shula in his Tampa Bay days, and he was mature and studious. He just wasn’t in a good situation. Tampa Bay coach Tony Dungy didn’t want a flashy offense, and the Bucs didn’t have the personnel to run one.

Shula ran an offense that was heavy on the running game and he got labeled as conservative, but I think that was only because his hands were tied by Dungy and the personnel he had to work with. Shula eventually was fired.

Shula then went to work as quarterbacks coach for the Miami Dolphins. But he was thrust back into the spotlight in 2003 when he was hired as Alabama’s coach. That came on the heels of the Mike Price fiasco, Dennis Franchione’s departure and NCAA sanctions. It was an impossible situation.

Shula lasted four seasons at Alabama. He then did a stint as the quarterbacks coach in Jacksonville before moving to Carolina in 2011.

There are a lot of people out there that say Shula is just fine as a quarterbacks coach, but shouldn’t be anything more.

I’m not one of those people. I think Shula can succeed as an offensive coordinator -- under the right circumstances.

And I think Shula is a natural fit as Carolina’s offensive coordinator. He would provide continuity for Newton, and that might be the best thing you can do for a young quarterback. The current Panthers have way more offensive weapons than the Bucs did when Shula was calling their plays, and I don’t think he’d be nearly as conservative.

Unlike Tampa Bay and Alabama, this job would be a good situation for Shula.

It would be a situation where a good coach finally would have a chance to thrive.