In a conference call with reporters from Seattle, Carolina Panthers wide receiver Steve Smith brought up his former offensive coordinator and current Browns head coach Rob Chudzinski, according to profootballtalk.com.
Smith said of Chud, “The prior offensive coordinator really was positioning himself to just apply for that head coaching job. I think our offense suffered a little bit because of that. At times, we got cute. We did things that weren’t necessarily us, like the under-utilizing of Mike Tolbert. But we’re out of that. The past is the past.”
Right out of the of the same playbook as “I’m not saying, but I’m just saying”, Steve Smith made sure to get in his two cents about his former offensive coordinator. The thing is that Smith is right and he is not the first person to bring this up, but he is the first Panthers player to come out and say it on the record. Chud was positioning himself to apply for a head coaching gig. He probably did get too cute with the play calling at times and it was slightly different and really tried to make quarterback Cam Newton shine as much as possible.
First, mission accomplished. Chud is the head coach of the Cleveland Browns. Second, despite being ‘cute’, the Panthers still rated 12thin offense, 18th in scoring, 16th in passing, and 9th in rushing. For a team devoid of wide receiver talent with the exception of whatever Smith has left, himself, that is not that bad. The Panthers have a stable of running backs who are constantly getting hurt, Newton, Smith, a couple good tight ends and some good offensive linemen.
Another thing that Smith managed to leave out of his analysis is that his head coach, Ron Rivera was a bigger problem for their offense than Chud was. The Panthers had the Atlanta Falcons on the ropes late in the fourth quarter of a game on 4th and 1. Rather than putting the game in the hands of their 6’6” 250lb quarterback and franchise center piece on offense, Rivera opted to punt and play field position. The Falcons led by Matt Ryan promptly went right down the field in large part due to a huge play to Roddy White that picked them about 50 yards. They were able to score and win the game. Had the Panthers forced a turnover or made the stop, the strategy would have worked, but philosophically, why would Rivera not bet on his bull of a quarterback to pick up a yard and win the game right there. In the worst case scenario, they fail and their defense still has a chance to play against one of the most explosive offenses in the league, albeit on a shorter field.
Lastly, the best way for an offensive coordinator or any coach to audition for a job elsewhere is to be successful. So while Chud may have been slightly different in his playcalling, had it all backfired on him and been ineffective, the likelihood is that he would not be the head coach of the Browns now. The biggest aspect of Chud’s career has been the fact that he took two teams with struggling offenses and immediately had them running far more effectively in his first season. Certainly, making Newton look good helps him in making a sales pitch for saying he can develop a quarterback and here are the reason why, but again, success is the best way to move up in the coaching world.
Smith also went on to endorse (sort of) the current offensive coordinator, Mike Shula, who was promoted from the position of quarterbacks coach: “I think Coach Shula is going to change things up, and he has so far. He just does little different things. Some of it looks small, but we’re focusing more on the details, and that’s the difference.” The confidence in that quote is off the charts. Smith sounds like he is ready to run through a wall for Shula.
While Smith puts the spotlight on Chud, who will defuse the situation when he addresses it by not feeding the fire, this will end up being more pressure on Shula than Chud. Should the Panthers’ offense struggle under Shula or look any less effective, Smith has set up Shula to look incompetent. The ‘cute’ offense that was run to get Chud another job being more effective than the guy coming in and giving it everything he had is not a good look. This could really backfire on the Panthers and Smith, because outside of development with the players they already have, their investment from this year’s draft was on the defensive side of the ball. The Panthers desperately need wide receiver help for Newton this coming offseason.
Whether just gossip or there is something behind it, there were reports that Ron Rivera was retained for this season because they liked Chud and his work with Newton. There was some speculation that had Rivera been fired, Chud might have gotShortly, after the Panthers made the announcement, Chud was hired by the Browns. If there is any validity to that report, Rivera is likely coaching for his job and now his offensive coordinator has added pressure on him to perform. All of this is happening in a division where every other team has the chance to make the playoffs. The Panthers might be headed for a fourth place finish and a new coaching staff. So while Smith is not saying, but he is just saying Chud was auditioning for a head coaching job he ultimately got, the Panthers coaches are likely auditioning for new jobs elsewhere after this season too. Unfortunately for them, those jobs will likely not be head coaching gigs. Steve Smith is likely right about his comments in regards to Chud, but they really do not work to serve the good of Smith or really anyone involved with the Panthers. But hey, the past is the past and we’re out of that, right Steve?