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Panthers fire OC Mike Shula, QB coach Dorsey

Panthers making some changes

Mike Shula

By Steve Reed

AP Sports Writer

CHARLOTTE (AP) — Panthers coach Ron Rivera fired longtime offensive coordinator Mike Shula on Tuesday, saying the team’s offense needs a “different perspective.”

Along with Shula, the Panthers also cut ties with quarterbacks coach Ken Dorsey two days after a playoff loss to the New Orleans Saints.

“I believe we need some different ideas going forward,” Rivera said at a news conference.

Shula spent seven seasons with Carolina, working as the quarterbacks coach before being promoted to offensive coordinator in 2013.

Carolina was 11-5 this season and finished 19th in total offense, but again struggled moving the ball through the air and was 28th in passing. The Panthers were 12th in scoring.

Rivera said the Panthers already have “a few” candidates in mind, and strongly hinted it will be someone with NFL experience, not a college coach, from outside the organization.

Among some of the potential candidates that make sense are Norv Turner, whose son Ron was hired as an offensive consultant by the Panthers last June, and Rob Chudzinski, who worked as the team’s offensive coordinator in 2011 and 2012 before taking over as the head coach of the Cleveland Browns.

Rivera was a defensive coach under Turner with the then-San Diego Chargers from 2007-10.

“It signals an opportunity that we are looking to get better and continue to grow,” Rivera said.

“That is what the move was made for. Something different, something additional can give us the boost that I’m looking for that can help us get to the ultimate goal, and that is winning the Super Bowl.”

The news comes one day after Rivera seemed to give his entire coaching staff an endorsement.

However, the two-time AP Coach of the Year said he woke up at 3 in the morning and began looking at his notes.

He started to have second thoughts and decided to meet with interim general manager Marty Hurney about the decision.

Then he made the change.

Rivera was vague on exactly what bothered him about the offense this past season and prompted the change in thinking, but when asked about the team’s lack of an identity he said, “you want to be able to understand this is who we are and this is what we do.”

Rivera said he still expects the Panthers will use the read option with quarterback Cam Newton, who was the team’s leading rusher last season with 754 yards. He also wants to see the ball in Christian McCaffrey’s hands in open space.

Carolina has been one of the league’s top running teams — in large part because of Newton’s ability to run the ball — over the past four seasons, averaging the league’s fourth-highest total at 128.3 yards per game.

However, its passing game has sputtered.

Over that same span the Panthers averaged 229.5 passing yards per game, which is the third fewest in the league.

It didn’t help that the Panthers suffered several injuries at wide receiver and tight end this season and traded away No. 1 receiver Kelvin Benjamin.

Newton’s passing numbers have taken a nosedive since he was selected as the league’s MVP in 2015 when he combined for 45 touchdowns — 35 passing and 10 rushing — and led the Panthers to the Super Bowl.

He has posted the worst two quarterback passer ratings of his seven-year NFL career in the past two seasons.

Rivera said he informed Newton about the decision to fire Shula after it was made, but wouldn’t comment on the quarterback’s reaction to the news calling it “personal.”

This past season, Newton posted a QB rating of 80.7, which ranked 18th in the league. He completed just 59.1 percent of his passes for 3,301 yards with 22 touchdowns and 16 interceptions.

“This is all about growth as a football team, and we have room to grow,” Rivera said.

Shula, the son of Miami Dolphins legend Don Shula, has coached 30 years, 26 of those in the NFL.

Dorsey served as quarterbacks coach from 2013-17 following two seasons as a pro scout.

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For more NFL coverage: http://www.pro32.ap.org and http://www.twitter.com/AP_NFL

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