Part Eight of our Meet the Coaches segment will take a look at head coach Ron Rivera’s right hand men – the Offensive and Defensive Coordinators.
Mike Shula – Offensive Coordinator
PLAYING AND PERSONAL
A two-time All-Southeastern Conference choice at quarterback for Alabama from 1984-86, Shula completed 298-of-552 passes for 3,881 yards and 33 touchdowns and finished his career with a 32-15-1 record as a starter. He was selected by Tampa Bay in the 12th round of the 1987 NFL Draft and spent part of the season on the Buccaneers’ roster.
Shula graduated from Alabama with a degree in labor relations. He is the son of legendary NFL head coach Don Shula of the Baltimore Colts and Miami Dolphins and the brother of former Cincinnati Bengals head coach Dave Shula.
Shula broke into coaching as an offensive assistant for Tampa Bay in 1988 and was promoted to quarterbacks coach in 1990. As the Buccaneers’ quarterbacks coach, Shula tutored Vinny Testaverde. From there, he moved to the Miami Dolphins ans served as coaching assistant for two years from 1991-92. He then went to the Chicago Bears, where he handled tight ends for three seasons from 1993-95.
In addition to Shula’s work as a quarterbacks coach, he presided over the Tampa Bay Buccaneers offense as offensive coordinator for four seasons from 1996-99. The Buccaneers reached the playoffs in two of Shula’s four years, advancing to the NFC Championship in 1999. Shula helped quarterback Trent Dilfer earn Pro Bowl honors in 1997 when he set then team records for touchdowns and most consecutive pass attempts without an interception.
Shula returned to coach the Miami Dolphins quarterbacks for three seasons from 2000-02. During Shula’s tenure as Dolphins quarterbacks coach, Jay Fiedler became just the second quarterback in franchise history to pass for more than 3,000 yards with 3,290 in 2001.
From 2003-06, Shula compiled a 26-23 record as head coach at Alabama and led the Crimson Tide to three consecutive bowl games. While at Alabama, he mentored quarterback Brodie Croyle, who holds school career records for attempts, completions and yards and was a third-round draft choice by Kansas City in 2006.
Shula spent four seasons as the quarterbacks coach of the Jacksonville Jaguars (2007-10) before arriving in Carolina.
With Jacksonville, Shula oversaw David Garrard’s development from becoming a full-time starter in 2007 to making the Pro Bowl in 2009. In Shula’s first year with the Jaguars, Garrard ranked third in the NFL with a 102.2 passer rating, threw an NFL-low three interceptions and established a team record with a 64.0 completion percentage.
After posting career highs for attempts, completions and yards in 2008, Garrard capped the 2009 campaign with a Pro Bowl appearance. In 2010, under Shula’s guidance, Garrard came through in the clutch by finishing second in the NFL with a fourth-quarter passer rating of 108.3 and directing five game-winning drives.
Shula spent the last two seasons as the team’s quarterbacks coach. He has helped shape an offense that gained 12,008 total net yards from 2011-12, the most in a two-year span in team history, and compiled an NFL-high 165 plays of 20-or-more yards.
With his extensive knowledge of the quarterback position, having successfully played and coached it, Shula has been instrumental in the development of 2011 No. 1 overall draft choice Cam Newton. Newton, with Shula as his position coach, set an NFL record for the most passing yards in a player’s first two seasons with 7,920.
In 2012, Newton improved on his first-year passer rating with an 86.2 mark while rushing for more than 700 yards for the second consecutive season. He was at his best in the final nine games, throwing for 14 touchdowns against just four interceptions and running for five more scores to lead the Panthers to a 6-3 mark during that period. Newton set a team record with 176 consecutive pass attempts without an interception and helped guide the Panthers to 5,771 total net yards and 328 first downs, the second-highest totals in team history. The offense ranked among the top 10 in the NFL in yards per completion, yards per pass attempt, yards per play and third down conversion percentage.
Under Shula, Newton was named Associated Press Offensive Rookie of the Year in 2011 after turning in one of the most prolific rookie seasons in NFL history, passing for 4,051 yards and accounting for an NFL rookie record 35 total touchdowns (21 passing and 14 rushing). With Newton at the helm, the Panthers offense experienced a 210-point improvement in scoring from the previous season and set team records for with 6,237 total yards and 345 first downs.
Mike Shula brings continuity and familiarity in his first year as the Panthers’ offensive coordinator in 2013.
Quarterback: Alabama 1983-86. Pro quarterback: Tampa Bay Buccaneers 1987. College coach: Alabama 2003-06 (head coach). Pro coach: Tampa Bay Buccaneers 1988-90, 1996-99, Miami Dolphins 1991-92, 2000-02, Chicago Bears 1993-95, Jacksonville Jaguars 2007-10, joined Panthers in 2011.
Sean McDermott – Defensive Coordinator
PLAYING AND PERSONAL
An All-Atlantic 10 Conference choice at safety for William & Mary as a senior in 1997, McDermott graduated with a degree in finance.
McDermott began his coaching career as a graduate assistant at his alma mater in 1998.
He moved on to the pro ranks that same year as a scouting administrative coordinator with the Philadelphia Eagles before being promoted to assistant to the head coach in 1999.
McDermott served as the defensive assistant/quality control coach from 2001-02, assisting with linebackers and as the team’s assistant defensive backs coach in 2003.
From 2004-06, McDermott served as the Eagles’ secondary/safeties coach. In 2004, both starting safeties, Dawkins and strong safety Michael Lewis, went to the Pro Bowl. Under McDermott’s guidance, Dawkins proceeded to make two more Pro Bowls after the 2005 and 2006 seasons.
In 2007, McDermott took over the linebackers when Steve Spagnuolo left to become the New York Giants defensive coordinator. The young linebacker corps flourished under McDermott as Omar Gaither and Chris Gocong progressed into full-time starters for the first time in their careers.
Tutoring the defensive backs in 2008, McDermott helped the pass defense improve in nearly every statistical category from the previous year, ranking third in the NFL in pass defense and second in net yards per pass play. Two members of the secondary – free safety Brian Dawkins and Samuel – garnered Pro Bowl recognition, while Mikell, who entered the league as an undrafted free agent in 2003, captured second-team All-Pro accolades.
One of the few NFL assistants to successfully mentor two different position groups, McDermott coached the secondary and linebackers before becoming defensive coordinator, learning all phases of the defensive game plan from the late Jim Johnson, the Eagles’ legendary defensive coordinator from 1999-2008.
During his first season overseeing the Eagles defense in 2009, McDermott overcame a rash of injuries to help lead the team to the playoffs and direct a unit that ranked third in the NFL with 38 takeaways and 44 sacks. Also, Philadelphia stood second in the league in third down defense and fifth in yards per play allowed.
Three of McDermott’s players earned Pro Bowl honors: defensive end Trent Cole, cornerback Asante Samuel and safety Quintin Mikell. As a result of his efforts, McDermott was named the NFL’s top defensive coordinator by Pro Football Weekly.
McDermott spent a total of 12 seasons with the Philadelphia Eagles, the last two as defensive coordinator, where he contributed to six division titles. In 2010, McDermott led one of the league’s youngest defenses to a playoff appearance, finishing the year ranked in the top-10 in takeaways, sacks and negative play yardage.
In 2011, his first year with the Panthers, McDermott was faced with leading a unit that was plagued by injuries. It was the second half of the season before Carolina fielded the same defensive lineup in consecutive weeks, but McDermott’s young and inexperienced group showed signs of potential as the season progressed, forcing key stops and turnovers that contributed to wins in four of the final six games.
Facing stiff competition throughout the 2012 campaign with 11 of 16 games against opponents that finished in the top 15 in the NFL in total offense, including nine in the top 10, Carolina rated 10th in the league in total defense – an 18-spot improvement from 2011.
Despite ending the year with seven starters or significant contributors on injured reserve, the Panthers ranked in the top 10 in many defensive categories – including sacks, third-down conversion percentage, yards after catch, plays of 20-or-more yards allowed, and negative plays created. Carolina also tied a team record with three interception returns for touchdowns, the first time since 2007 that the team had multiple defensive scores in a season.
McDermott’s unit played its best down the stretch, rising from 24th in total defense after four games to its final ranking of 10th. Over the season’s final 13 weeks, the Panthers ranked sixth in total defense, eighth against the run and 11th against the pass, yielding 312.8 yards per game – 101.8 rushing and 211.0 passing.
An integral part of the defense’s success was rookie linebacker Luke Kuechly, who earned Associated Press NFL Defensive Rookie of the Year honors after leading the league in tackles with a franchise record 205. Carolina also gathered 39 sacks, and defensive ends Charles Johnson and Greg Hardy led the charge as they became the first Panthers tandem to record double-digit sacks since 2002. Johnson ranked sixth in the NFL with a career-high 12.5 sacks and second with seven forced fumbles, while Hardy added a career-high 11 sacks.
Sean McDermott is in his third season as the Panthers’ defensive coordinator in 2013.
Safety: William & Mary 1994-97. College coach: William & Mary 1998. Pro coach: Philadelphia Eagles 1999-2010, joined Panthers in 2011.