Mike Shula

Panthers Fire OC Mike Shula

The Panthers announced that offensive coordinator Mike Shula and quarterbacks coach Ken Dorsey have been fired. Mike Shula (vertical)

Shula spent the past seven seasons with the team, working as quarterbacks coach for two seasons before becoming offensive coordinator in 2013. Last year, Carolina finished 19th in total offense (323.7), 17th in offensive DVOA, fourth in rushing offense (131.4), 28th in passing (192.3), and 12th in points (22.7). Ultimately, it wasn’t good enough as the Panthers were eliminated in the first stage of the playoffs.

Dorsey has been the Panthers’ QBs coach for the last five seasons. Although he has groomed Cam Newton into one of the league’s finest quarterbacks, the Panthers believe that they can do better.

The staff shakeup comes just days after a multi-year extension for head coach Ron Rivera. Between the firing of Shula and Dorsey and the likely departure of Steve Wilks, the Panthers will see serious turnover in 2018.

The Panthers join the Bears, Browns, Packers, and Giants as teams in search of a new offensive coordinator.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Coaching Notes: Panthers, Bears, 49ers, Jets

After going 15-1 and losing the Super Bowl last season, the Panthers have taken a huge step back in 2016. The team enters the final week of the season with a 6-9 record, and both the offense and the defense rank towards the bottom half of the league in several team stats.

Despite the struggles, coach Ron Rivera indicated that he isn’t anticipating any changes to his coaching staff…as long as it’s his decision.

“Remember, it’s the same group that was 15-1, same group that led the league in scoring,” Rivera told Bill Voth of Black and Blue Review. “And in the last five years, we’ve had a top-10 defense. So as I look it and break things down, yeah, there’s some things that we have to work on and change. You guys heard me talk about evolving. We have to.”

As Darin Gantt of ProFootballTalk.com points out, Rivera hasn’t stuck to similar promises in the past. For instance, the team relieved special teams coach Richard Rodgers of his duties following the 2014 campaign. Gantt believes that offensive coordinator Mike Shula and quarterbacks coach Ken Dorsey could find themselves on the hot seat.

Let’s take a look at some other coaching notes from around the NFL…

  • Things haven’t gone as planned during John Fox‘s second season with the Bears. The team is looking to avoid their worst 16-game record in franchise history, and blame will naturally lie on the head coach. Rich Campbell of the Chicago Tribune writes that chairman George McCaskey will likely wait until the end of the season to make any decisions on his coaching staff’s fate. Campbell notes that the organization waited until the 2014 offseason to fire general manager Phil Emery and coach Marc Trestman.
  • Eric Branch of SFGate.com wonders if head coach Chip Kelly‘s unwillingness to adjust his fast-paced gameplan could ultimately lead to his demise with the 49ers. As the writer notes, the coach wasn’t necessarily put in a position to succeed with a lack of talent on the roster. However, Campbell believes the coach’s devotion to his gameplan could come up during offseason discussions with CEO Jed York and a new general manager (assuming Trent Baalke is fired). For what it’s worth, Kelly hasn’t indicated that he’s willing to change his ways. “I think we always look at everything on a weekly basis trying to see how we can improve,” Kelly said following his team’s overtime loss to the Jets in early December. “You look at the game yesterday: It’s about making one more play than the other team. It’s not like we’re getting taken to the woodshed and don’t have an opportunity to compete and play.”
  • Jets head coach Todd Bowles and general manager Mike Maccagnan are expected to receive a “mulligan” from owner Woody Johnson for the team’s subpar performance this season, writes ESPN.com’s Rich Cimini. The writer acknowledges that it’s been a tough year for the organization, but he also notes that it’d be a knee-jerk reaction to fire the tandem after only two seasons.

NFC South Notes: Saints, Norman, Shula

Saints offensive tackle Terron Armstead and defensive tackle John Jenkins will see their salaries increase by nearly $1MM apiece for 2016, based on the proven performance escalator clause in their rookie contracts, writes Evan Woodbery of the New Orleans Times-Picayune. Both players had been slated to earn a base salary of about $700K, but will now make $1.696MM each.

Let’s round up a few more of today’s items from out of the NFC South:

  • The Panthers may end up using the franchise tag on cornerback Josh Norman this winter, which could postpone a lucrative, long-term extension for at least a few months. However, as Jason Cole of Bleacher Report (video link) outlines, it’s just a matter of time until Norman lands that big, multiyear deal.
  • In a separate video for Bleacher Report, Cole wonders if Mike Shula‘s lack of an agent could hinder his chances of landing a head coaching job. The Panthers offensive coordinator didn’t draw much interest last month from the seven teams conducting head coaching searches, despite Carolina’s success this season.
  • Drew Brees turned 37 years old last month, and is entering the final year of his contract, but the Saints don’t need to find his replacement quite yet, says Mike Triplett of ESPN.com.
  • Improving team speed, particularly at linebacker, will be a main focus for Falcons head coach Dan Quinn this winter, according to Vaughn McClure of ESPN.com. Within his piece, McClure takes a look at some fast, athletic linebacker prospects who may catch Atlanta’s eye as the draft approaches.

Coach Rumors: Shula, Lynn, 49ers, Manusky

It was widely reported during the week leading up to the NFL’s Wild Card games this month that Panthers offensive coordinator Mike Shula wasn’t interested in interviewing for any head coaching jobs while Carolina remained alive in the playoffs. However, speaking to Alex Marvez of FOX Sports, Shula says he’s not sure where that perception came from.

“All I said (to the media) was I’m focused on the playoffs,” Shula said. “The other quote was if it did happen, if I was approached, I’d have to consider that at the time. Those were my only quotes … Somebody said I had an agent out there talking, too. I don’t have an agent. I have a friend that helps me, but he definitely wasn’t that person … I don’t know where that (report) came from.”

It’s somewhat odd that Shula would clarify his stance now, after all the vacant head coaching positions have been filled, rather than earlier in the interview process. Those reports suggesting he was reluctant to interview for other jobs while preparing for Panthers playoff games didn’t materialize out of thin air, so even if Shula claims he would have been open to opportunities, I’d imagine he’s happy to remain in his current role.

Here are a few more coaching-related updates from around the NFL:

  • Bills running backs coach and assistant head coach Anthony Lynn is interviewing for the 49ers‘ offensive coordinator job, a source tells Marvez (Twitter link). Josina Anderson of ESPN.com (Twitter link) hears that the interview is scheduled to take place on Thursday. Lynn previously met with the Niners during the team’s head coaching search.
  • Matt Maiocco of CSNBayArea.com provides another update on the 49ers, tweeting that Chip Kelly is interested in finding a spot on his staff for Jeff Nixon, who spent five years as the Dolphins’ running backs coach.
  • According to Marvez (Twitter link), Washington is set to hire Greg Manusky – who was the Colts’ defensive coordinator up until the end of the 2015 season – as the club’s outside linebackers coach. However, Mike Jones of the Washington Post (Twitter link) and ESPN’s John Keim hear there’s no deal in place yet, though they both say Washington has interest in Manusky, with Keim confirming the team interviewed him.
  • The Titans have one more defensive line coach interview taking place today before making a decision on the position, tweets Marvez. Former Giants assistant Robert Nunn is one candidate for the job.

Extra Points: Shula, Irvin, Falcons, Packers

Panthers offensive coordinator Mike Shula made it known during the head coaching hiring cycle that he wasn’t interested in taking interviews until Carolina’s playoff run was complete, preferring to focus on the task at hand. While it’s certainly an admirable approach, it may have cost him at least one job, as Barry Jackson of the Miami Herald reports that the Dolphins never reached out to Shula because they wanted to hire a head coach quickly. Miami did become the first franchise to hire a new HC, agreeing to terms with Adam Gase on January 9.

Here’s more from around the NFL:

  • Although Seahawks linebacker Bruce Irvin recently told the media that he’d be willing to accept less money to stay with the Seahawks, Vaughn McClure of ESPN.com isn’t necessarily buying it. Irvin is an Atlanta native, and the Falcons would be offering him a chance to reunite with ex-Seattle coordinator Dan Quinn. Plus, notes McClure, Atlanta has shown a willingness to spend on defensive acquisitions in the past.
  • In other Falcons news, receiver Devin Hester is set to face a three-to-six month recovery after undergoing toe surgery today, according to McClure. Hester, who missed 11 games in 2015 due to the injury, might miss some offseason work, but should be healthy by the start of the 2016 season.
  • The Packers and GM Ted Thompson are interested in Mississippi State linebacker Beniquez Brown, a source tells Tony Pauline of DraftInsider.net. Brown is a potential third-round pick, in the estimation of Pauline.
  • CFL receiver Eric Rogers recently worked out for the Colts, according to Aaron Wilson of the Houston Chronicle (Twitter link). This is Rogers’ third PFR mention today, so it’s clear that he’s getting attention around the league.

Coach Rumors: 49ers, Shula, McDaniels, Gruden

The 49ers‘ head coaching search is starting to heat up, with meetings for Chip Kelly, Anthony Lynn, and John DeFilippo having been reported since Thursday night. Matt Barrows of the Sacramento Bee weighs in with a couple more updates on the search, writing that the team may circle back to candidates it interviewed last year after it finishes with its first round of interviews. That group could include Mike Shanahan, Adam Gase, and Josh McDaniels, among others.

According to Barrows, the 49ers have also inquired about Panthers offensive coordinator Mike Shula. However, Shula’s agent has indicated that his client doesn’t plan to interview for jobs while Carolina remains alive in the playoffs. So if the Niners hope to talk to Shula, they’ll have to wait until at least January 17th, and possibly longer.

Let’s round up some more of Friday’s coaching-related items….

  • Despite having generated interest from multiple teams, Patriots offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels won’t interview for any head coaching jobs during New England’s bye week, tweets Ian Rapoport of NFL.com.
  • As Mike Florio of Pro Football Talk rightly observes, Eagles owner Jeffrey Lurie prefers a head coach who can co-exist with Howie Roseman, and won’t engage in the same sort of power struggle Chip Kelly did. So even if Jon Gruden has interest in the Eagles’ head coaching job, he may not be the type of candidate the team is seeking. I discussed the Gruden rumors earlier today.
  • At least two teams have conveyed interest in speaking with former Niners head coach Jim Tomsula, a source tells Adam Caplan of ESPN.com (Twitter link). Tomsula figures to draw interest as a defensive line coach or defensive assistant.

Coach Rumors: Payton, Giants, Fins, Marrone

Coaching-related news and rumors have dominated Pro Football Rumors on the first Monday of the offseason (for 20 teams, at least), and they show no signs of letting up just yet. Here’s the latest from around the NFL on teams with coaching vacancies and candidates to fill those jobs:

  • The Browns have requested and received permission to interview Patriots‘ defensive coordinator Matt Patricia, a league source tells Adam Schefter of ESPN.com (on Twitter).
  • The Lions have asked for and received permission to interview Patriots director of pro scouting Bob Quinn for their GM job, league sources tell Adam Schefter of ESPN.com (on Twitter).
  • Lions defensive coordinator Teryl Austin is scheduled to interview with the Browns for their head coaching vacancy on Wednesday, a source tells Mary Kay Cabot of The Plain Dealer (on Twitter).

Earlier Updates:

  • Saints head coach Sean Payton is monitoring the Giants‘ situation “very closely,” tweets Ian Rapoport of NFL.com. It’s not clear whether Payton would be a top choice for the Giants, or whether the team would be willing to give up a draft pick to land him, but it sounds like the New York job would be at or near the top of Payton’s wish list if he leaves New Orleans.
  • Jason La Canfora of CBSSports.com also weighs in on the Giants‘ job, tweeting that the club is “fully expected” to include its coordinators in its search. That means OC Ben McAdoo and DC Steve Spagnuolo could both get interviews.
  • As we speculated earlier today, the Dolphins are meeting with former Falcons head coach Mike Smith to discuss their head coaching opening, according to Armando Salguero of the Miami Herald. Smith’s interview with the club is happening today.
  • Doug Marrone‘s interview for the Browns‘ head coaching vacancy will take place on Thursday, not Tuesday, a league source tells Mary Kay Cabot of Cleveland.com (Twitter link). Meanwhile, Matt Lombardo of 97.5 The Fanatic passes along a report from ESPN’s Chris Mortensen, who says Marrone will also interview with the Eagles (Twitter link).
  • A report earlier today suggested that Panthers offensive coordinator Mike Shula didn’t want to interview for any head coaching jobs while Carolina remains alive in the playoffs. However, according to Joseph Person of the Charlotte Observer (via Twitter), Shula said this afternoon that he’ll make that decision if and when he receives an invitation to interview for a head coaching position.

Coach Rumors: Coughlin, Shula, Shaw, McCoy

The Giants have yet to announce a decision one way or the other on head coach Tom Coughlin, but it sounds like we’ll find out shortly whether the club will be in the market for a new coach. According to Dan Graziano of ESPN.com (Twitter link), Coughlin is scheduled to meet with Giants ownership at 1:00 pm eastern time, and it appears a decision has been made.

As we wait to find out Coughlin’s fate, let’s check in on a few other coaching-related notes and rumors….

  • Panthers offensive coordinator Mike Shula figures to draw interest from teams searching for a head coach, but he doesn’t plan to interview while Carolina remains alive in the postseason, according to Ian Rapoport of NFL.com (via Twitter). Since the Panthers aren’t scheduled to play until the divisional round, that would mean any potential suitors for Shula would have to wait until at least January 17th, and possibly later, to interview him, which could reduce interest.
  • Rapoport also provides an update on David Shaw, tweeting that the Stanford coach plans to remain in his current role, despite the possibility of garnering interest from the 49ers and/or Colts.
  • Chargers head coach Mike McCoy is scheduled to address the media later today, and as Ben Higgins of 10News in San Diego tweets, that looks like a positive sign for McCoy, since teams don’t typically schedule presser for coaches that are being fired.
  • The Browns‘ unusual approach to their coaching and GM searches could complicate the process for the team, writes Tom Pelissero of USA Today. Since executive VP of football operations Sashi Brown will have final say on the 53-man roster, rival teams will have the option of blocking their own executives from interviewing for Cleveland’s GM job. The Browns also plan to hire a head coach before landing a GM, so while it may be appealing for a head coaching candidate to have the opportunity to bring in his own personnel guy, that guy would have to be unemployed, or employed by a team willing to let him go.
  • Giants offensive coordinator Ben McAdoo is among the candidates the Eagles are expected to consider for their head coaching job, per Alex Marvez of FOX Sports.

East Notes: Dolphins, Giants, Eagles, Cowboys

Dolphins interim head coach Dan Campbell, whose short stint is almost sure to end Sunday, spoke about his tenure to Adam H. Beasley of the Miami Herald.

On what he’ll do differently if given another opportunity in the future, Campbell said, “I would do a better job of holding everyone more accountable, from staff to players.”

Going forward, Campbell believes the Dolphins need more leadership from quarterback Ryan Tannehill and defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh.

“Certainly, those are two guys that you’d love to see grow more into that area, and it would help,” he stated.

Campbell also used the word “frustration” to describe the Dolphins’ 5-10 season (and 4-7 mark under his reign). He’ll try to go out with a win Sunday as the Dolphins host AFC East rival New England.

More on the Dolphins and three NFC East teams:
  • With the Giants’ Tom Coughlin era seemingly on the verge of ending, the New York Daily News’ Ralph Vacchiano wrote Friday that the team should pursue the Saints’ Sean Payton and Alabama’s Nick Saban as possible successors. In addition to Payton and Saban, Vacchiano listed more potential candidates Saturday. Featured prominently: New England offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels, current Giants O-coordinator Ben McAdoo – though Vacchiano argues that he’d be tough to sell to their fan base – as well as college head coaches Brian Kelly (Notre Dame) and David Shaw (Stanford). There’s also Giants defensive coordinator Steve Spagnuolo, a pair of Carolina assistants in OC Mike Shula and D-coordinator Sean McDermott, two more O-coordinators (Pittsburgh’s Todd Haley and Cincinnati’s Hue Jackson), and Jacksonville assistant Doug Marrone. Haley, Jackson and Marrone were all mixed bags in their prior head coaching stops, while Spagnuolo and McDaniels flamed out in epic fashion in St. Louis and Denver, respectively.
  • The Dolphins’ Olivier Vernon, who leads the team in sacks (seven), could be playing his last game with the team Sunday, ESPN’s James Walker writes. Vernon, 25, stands to cash in as a pending free agent. Thus, he might not fit within the Dolphins’ budget. Vernon does want to stay in Miami, though. “I’d like to be here,” Vernon told Walker. “But at the end of the day, business is business. So if this is my last game and I enter free agency, then I’m going to see how that goes.”
  • As we learned Saturday afternoon, the Eagles interviewed running backs coach Duce Staley for their vacant head coaching job. Whether they’re truly serious about him remains to be seen, but the interview means they’ve already fulfilled the Rooney Rule because Staley is a minority candidate. That means they could hire Chicago offensive coordinator Adam Gase, whom they’re interested in, as early as Monday. However, Mike Florio of Pro Football Talk reports that won’t happen. Gase will bide his time and explore all options, per Florio.
  • Cowboys linebacker Sean Lee will lose out on $2MM extra if he doesn’t play Sunday against Washington, Brandon George of SportsDay writes. Lee, whose status is up in the air because of a hamstring injury, has incentives in his contract that will kick his 2015-16 salary from $3MM to $5MM if he plays 80 percent of snaps on the season. He’s currently at 82.1.

Extra Points: Dolphins, Lynch, Giants, Browns

As the Dolphins get their head coaching search under way, the Miami Herald’s Armando Salguero lists a slew of candidates. Chip Kelly, Todd Haley, Josh McDaniels, Jim L. Mora, Jim Schwartz and Hue Jackson are those with NFL head coaching experience. The potential first-timers consist of three offensive coordinators – Carolina’s Mike Shula, son of legendary ex-Dolphins coach Don Shula, as well as Chicago’s Adam Gase and Tampa’s Dirk Koetter. The Dolphins are looking for a leader of men capable of assembling a great staff, according to Salguero.

More from around the league as the first day of 2016 wraps up:

  • Welcome news for the Seahawks as the playoffs near: Running back Marshawn Lynch should return to practice Monday, head coach Pete Carroll said (link via The Seattle Times’ Bob Condotta). Lynch has been out since mid-November because of abdominal surgery.
  • Sunday could be head coach Tom Coughlin‘s last game with the Giants. The same holds true for a pair of the club’s defensive institutions, writes Paul Schwartz of the New York Post, as end Jason Pierre-Paul and cornerback Prince Amukamara are both pending free agents. “I’d be lying if I said it’s never come up in my head or someone has never brought it up to me,” said Amukamara, whom the Giants chose in the first round of the 2011 draft. Amukmara added that he’d like to remain a Giant. “I love the organization, definitely treated first class here, so it’s been great.’’ There’s no word on whether the Giants want to retain Amukamara, but there was a report Thursday that they are hoping to keep Pierre-Paul, a 2010 first-rounder.
  • Browns pass rusher Paul Kruger indicated Thursday that the team’s coaching staff hasn’t deployed him properly this year. “Personally, I probably wouldn’t say so. I don’t have too much more to say about it, and I don’t put everything personally this year on that, but I don’t think I was utilized in the best way,” he opined, per Jeff Schudel of the Morning-Journal. Kruger has just 27 tackles and 2.5 sacks, his lowest total since 2010, though Schudel notes that he’s second in the league in quarterback hurries (33, up from 18 in 2014). Assuming Kruger’s with the Browns next season, he’ll probably work under a different staff than the one with which he’s currently disenchanted, as head coach Mike Pettine and coordinator Jim O’Neil are both on the outs.