CHARLOTTE, N.C. Ron Rivera kept his job, but several of his assistants did not.
After Rivera fired three staff members, he and the Panthers received a jolt when offensive coordinator Rob Chudzinski bolted for the Browns.
With Rivera putting the finishing touches on his re-made staff Tuesday by hiring assistant special teams coach Bruce DeHaven and offensive quality control coach/assistant receivers coach Lance Taylor, it's worth looking at where the Panthers' staff improved, stayed the same or took a step back.
Offensive coordinator: There's a segment of Panthers fans who believed Chud was crazy for running the zone-read option, the same scheme San Francisco used to get to the Super Bowl. Chudzinski might have gotten too cutesy at times, but he's a gifted play-caller who will be missed.
The Panthers were smart not to hit the reset button with a new offense, and former quarterbacks coach Mike Shula knows the scheme as well as anyone. Shula's track record an an NFL play-caller is suspect, although he worked with a pair of sub-par quarterbacks in Tampa Bay in Trent Dilfer and Shaun King.
Rivera is banking that Cam Newton and 15 additional years of experience will make Shula more successful in his second stint as a coordinator.
Quarterbacks: When the Panthers hired Ken Dorsey as a pro scout two years ago, it was assumed the former University of Miami and Browns quarterback would join the coaching staff at some point. Dorsey knows Newton well, having worked with him along with former Panthers QB Chris Weinke at IMG during the lockout.
Special teams: Rivera interviewed a couple of veteran special teams coaches in Bobby April and Dave Toub before both were hired elsewhere. So Rivera promoted Richard Rodgers the interim special teams coordinator last season after Brian Murphy was fired and brought in DeHaven to assist him.
This looks like a good combination. Unlike Murphy, Rodgers is popular among Panthers' players and did a good job last year.
But he's still inexperienced as an NFL assistant. Enter DeHaven, who has 26 years in the league and last season led a Buffalo special teams unit that was first in the league in punt returns and fourth in kick returns.
Running backs: The Panthers upgraded by bringing back Jim Skipper, Carolina's assistant head coach under John Fox who has the respect of DeAngelo Williams and Jonathan Stewart. Like DeHaven, Skipper has a wealth of NFL experience.
Receivers: Rivera was confident former Panthers WR Ricky Proehl was ready to run the receivers room after he assisted Fred Graves for two seasons. Graves was Steve Smith's position coach at Utah, and helped Brandon LaFell develop into a dependable No. 2 wideout.
But Proehl brings more energy to the position. He'll be assisted by Taylor, a former Appalachian State assistant who played for Shula at Alabama.
Linebackers: Warren Belin had no NFL experience when Rivera hired him on Sean McDermott's recommendation two years ago. Al Holcomb, who replaced him, has only a little more than Belin and has never been a position coach.
But Holcomb comes from the Giants, so new GM Dave Gettleman knows him and obviously likes him.
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