Carolina Panthers

Short takes: New Orleans paper’s headline right to offend, amuse Panthers fans

I thought the headline on the front page of the New Orleans Times-Picayune was hilarious. “The Panthers already have a new owner: The New Orleans Saints.”

Come on. Didn’t any of you?

Of course, the headline is offensive. Athletes on the winning team often offend the losing team. When the Carolina Panthers win, even they do. Yes, it’s true.

New Orleans celebrates, and its newspaper joined in the celebration. If the Panthers beat the Saints next season there — or in Charlotte or in Toronto or in London or in Mexico City —the headline will be remembered…

▪  When Ted Ginn Jr. played for the Panthers, he got as much attention for what he failed to do, which is to catch the ball, as for what he did. But every time Cam Newton reared back and stepped into a throw you knew where the ball was going.

Ginn’s presence changes defenses. Watch him run. Every part of him is invested with purpose. Nothing is wasted. You imagine being able to run like that once? I’ve written this before, but when Ginn played for the Panthers, I asked him the last time he was on a field with somebody faster than he was.

He looked at me as if he were a Panthers fan and I wrote headlines for the Times-Picayune.

“I was in fifth grade,” Ginn said.

How old was the player who was faster than you?

“He was a senior.”….

▪  So, what do the Panthers need? They need to find a creative way to keep guard Andrew Norwell. They need a running back. They need a No. 1 wide receiver.

They also need Curtis Samuel, the No. 2 pick last season out of Ohio State. Samuel spent the season being hurt. But he ran a 4.31 at the NFL scouting combine. The Panthers had planned to move him around. If Christian McCaffrey is a running back that can play receiver, Samuel is a receiver that can play running back. He will be good.

Every team has requirements. The Panthers require a safety, and they could use a defensive back. Be interesting to see what they do with unrestricted free-agent defensive tackle Star Lotulelei. He doesn’t rush passers like fellow tackle Kawann Short, but he demands attention from the offensive line. He takes up space. If Lotulelei played basketball, he’d be a zone defense. He helps put Carolina’s fast and instinctive linebackers in position to run free….

▪  I was pulling for Georgia in the College Football Playoff national championship for two reasons. I like the school. And I spent a little time around Alabama coach Nick Saban. That said, Alabama’s 26-23 overtime victory was a thrill. At some point, you stopped thinking about how the matchup was regional, and how the college football playoff system is flawed, and simply enjoyed the game. There were a lot of surprises. Alabama’s victory was not one of them…

▪  The Carolina Panthers have had eight offensive coordinators; the best of them Dan Henning. When the coordinator left, fans did not say, “No!” They said, “Good!” Or, “Thank you.” Or, “It’s about time.”

No coaching job in Charlotte is as thankless.

And yet, it's about time they dismissed offensive coordinator Mike Shula. The Panthers let him go Tuesday.

The offensive coordinator doesn’t get to draw plays in the dirt with a sharp stick. He works within the parameters the coach establishes. Yet the good ones find a way to surprise.

Rarely did Shula surprise. Despite his flashy quarterback, his offense was solid, and little more. When he did get it working, he’d draw in and revert to offense that was solid, or stolid.

Give him this. Shula rarely was presented with an all-star receiving cast.

But regardless of receivers, his offense was beige. In Shula’s final game, Carolina amassed 413 total yards. If you’re going to go out, you might as well go out on that.

Tom Sorensen is a retired Charlotte Observer columnist. Sign up for his newsletter, and follow him on Twitter: @tomsorensen

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