Carolina Panthers to hand offense to Chudzinski

Ron Rivera got his man, and the Carolina Panthers appear headed for some changes on offense.

The Panthers agreed to a deal with San Diego assistant Rob Chudzinski to be their offensive coordinator, with only a contract signing standing in the way of the official announcement.

He was the first choice of Rivera, who had to sell him to Panthers officials who had built their own list of candidates before hiring Rivera. Chudzinski, 42, interviewed Friday.

Chudzinski, who played on two NCAA championship teams as a tight end at Miami, has a reputation for developing talent at that position, which would be new around here. He also has had success leading offenses, and with the Panthers coming off a league-worst year in points and yards, that's something they could use.

Former Panthers linebacker Dan Morgan was playing at Miami when Chudzinski was beginning his rise in the coaching ranks, and said he thinks the Panthers made an excellent decision.

"He's a great guy, and he just has such a bright mind, he really knows the game of football," Morgan said. "I know from seeing it first-hand, he's a great teacher, and he's had a lot of success with different guys over the years. He just has a gift for putting guys in the right places to make plays.
"He's not a yeller and a screamer, but he's a teacher, and he's definitely got the smarts for this job."

The biggest change he could bring is at his old position.

Since five-time Pro Bowler Wesley Walls was released after the 2002 season, the Panthers have had a hard time getting much from their tight ends. In fact, Kris Mangum's 34 catches during 2004 are the most by a Panthers tight end since Walls.

This year, Carolina's tight ends combined for 51 catches for 385 yards, led by Dante Rosario. Starter Jeff King is the best blocker of the lot, and he had 19 catches and two touchdowns.

Third-year man Gary Barnidge didn't have a catch this season, but he probably has the most potential to be the all-around answer they're apparently looking for.

Rivera said the search was on in his introductory news conference, when discussing the team's offensive personnel.

"The tight end is by committee," he said. "There are three guys there I like and they each have a quality of their own. But if there is a guy out there whether through the draft or free agency or on our roster that can become that guy that does it all of the time, we have to find him. I think that will help us as an offense."

By hiring Chudzinski, he has a guy who could bring about that kind of change.

Chudzinski coached three All-Americans at Miami (Bubba Franks, Jeremy Shockey, Kellen Winslow), and under his tutelage, San Diego's Antonio Gates had his only 1,000-yard seasons during 2005 and 2009.

He also has succeeded at the macro level.

When he was Cleveland's offensive coordinator during 2007, the Browns were eighth in the league in scoring and yardage, helping quarterback Derek Anderson to his most productive season. Anderson threw for 3,787 yards and 29 touchdowns that year, leading to Pro Bowl invitation.

As the Hurricanes offensive coordinator in 2001-03, he led offenses that played in three Bowl Championship Series games and won two
national championships. In 2002, the Hurricanes set school records for points and yards, losing only to Ohio State in the title game.

His hiring also illustrates the shuffle-the-deck reality of coaching. He replaced Jeff Davidson here and in Cleveland, and was replaced in Cleveland by Brian Daboll. Daboll was just hired by the Miami Dolphins to replace Dan Henning, whom Davidson replaced here in 2007.

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