August 17, 2012; New Orleans, LA, USA; New Orleans Saints offensive coordinator Pete Carmichael during the first half of a preseason game against the Jacksonville Jaguars at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome. Mandatory Credit: Derick E. Hingle-USA TODAY Sports

Is Pete Carmichael a Fit for the Carolina Panthers?

In the long article I just posted regarding a possible successor to Ron Rivera, I pointed to Pete Carmichael, Jr., as being a candidate near the forefront of a possible search.

While I’m certainly putting the cart before the horse at this point, Rivera’s resume’ is not looking good. While he’s done a great job with the defense and General Manager Dave Gettleman has added some small pieces to the offense, as the budget allows, but with no real influx of talent on the offensive side, QB Cam Newton has limited weapons available to him.

He also lacks a good offensive line and good fundamentals coaching. As I’ve stated numerous times, Cam is still making rookie errors. We all know what those errors are or should by now.

Carmichael has been a person a lot of different teams have shown interest in both at the collegiate level and in the pros. Former Auburn Head Coach Gene Chizik had considered him as their “new hire” as the OC there before Chizik was himself let go. He was also near the top of the list for the job in Indianapolis before the start of 2012. The Jaguars and the Jets both had his name in the pool in the last couple of years, as have others.

Among those “in the know” in the NFL, it appears that his services are sought-after and for good reason.

But what about Carmichael’s resmume’?

Actually, that’s the reason he’s so talked about.

During the 1990’s, he was am assistant college coach in then-division II schools. He started as an offensive line coach at New Hampshire then became the Quarterbacks coach at Louisiana Tech after one season at New Hampshire. Fortunately for him, he arrived a few years after a QB named Brett Favre left rival Southern Mississippi for the NFL.

Carmichael has served under only two head coaches at the NFL level: Marty Schottenhiemer and Sean Payton. That’s two pretty good names for you. My feeling is that Schottenheimer did fairly well and was one of the better NFL coaches of the time. Payton certainly is.

Oct 6, 2013; Chicago, IL, USA; New Orleans Saints head coach Sean Payton against the Chicago Bears during the second half at Soldier Field. The Saints beat the Bears 26-18. Mandatory Credit: Rob Grabowski-USA TODAY Sports

He spent 2000-2005 as a wandering assistant, following Marty some and then breaking away to form the next chapters in his career. At one time or another, he has been the position coach for every offensive position except for the running backs. That’s a pretty broad range of experience and something that Sean Payton saw in him, undoubtedly, when he hired Pete on before the 2006 season to be their quarterbacks coach to help Drew Brees.

While the raw material in Brees is pretty good, Brees has never been a dominant physical guy. He’s not strong, he’s not tall, he’s not fast. He doesn’t have the strongest arm around (although it’s pretty good), but his accuracy is right up there with Tom Brady and his football IQ is on par with Peyton Manning’s.

The biggest question mark to me is this: Could he “coach up” a guy who is nearly the Anti-Brees? Cam DOES have the physical dominance going for him, but his development has so far been rather slow. Now, I certainly am not going to insult Cam’s intelligence. I’ve seen his interviews and, despite his southern slang that turns off some people on principle, he comes across as a thoughtful young man and he IS KNOWN to have a great work ethic.

Cam tries. He really, really does. I hate saying bad things in general, but what’s the issue at work here, then?

Signs all point to coaching. Cam HAS progressed some, just not at the pace he should when you look at the Russell Wilsons, the Andrew Lucks, or others that have entered the NFL since Cam did and who have out-played him consistently. Again, some of that is the people around him and Cam could fall into that Tony Romo category if he continues playing the way he has. Flashes of brilliance abound, but there are some boneheaded plays sprinkled about as well. Romo’s are highlighted because he’s the QB for America’s Team and the high-profile Dallas Cowboys, but Newton’s are there too.

I was watching Eric Davis this morning talking about winning in the NFL and he made an excellent point: He said “Winning isn’t about being good; it’s about being consistent.”

Oct 6, 2013; Chicago, IL, USA; New Orleans Saints quarterback Drew Brees (9) warms up before the game against the Chicago Bears at Soldier Field. Mandatory Credit: Rob Grabowski-USA TODAY Sports

Hear, hear! When you can be both, THAT is the formula for a champion…being consistently good, or even bordering on great.

Think of the Super-Bowl winning teams of the last 20 or so years, and the only journeymen QBs I can immediately think of that won are Brad Johnson and Trent Dilfer. The difference between these guys and Cam isn’t the individual; it’s the team around them. Both those championship teams were loaded with talent at almost every position, and the Panthers have a championship-caliber defense right now – or are at least very, very close to it.

If you’re going to start over in the coaching ranks, it makes sense to hire someone according to the people you have and what they need. In Carolina’s case, it’s the offense that needs help and a lot of it. Better to have an offensive-minded Head Coach for Gettleman to have those long talks with about things like what types of players the coach is looking for vs. what’s available in the draft vs. how they’re ranked on their team’s draft board.

As I said, the NFL is a cutthroat business. It may be that Rivera has done his part, much like Tony Dungee had done his part in Tampa Bay before the offensive-minded John Gruden was hired…and won the title basically with Dungee’s team his first year without challenging in subsequent seasons.

That’s the pitfall to avoid – lack of sustainability. With a nearly 20-year football resume’, Carmichael has seen pretty much all there is to see. He’s not “stained” by the Bountygate scandal as he was the offensive coordinator – not the Head Coach, not an assistant Head Coach, not the guy putting bounties out on people. All he did was coach the offense.

Last year’s Saints squad had so many distractions I don’t see how anyone could have done much better. Remember, to win in the NFL you need consistency and that was sorely lacking last season. How did the offense perform in 2012?

Second in the NFL with 411 yards/gm. First in the NFL in passing yards/gm with 312.

Need I say more?

If Carmichael can put stats like this together in the midst of that sort of turmoil, I think he’s ready to take over his own NFL program.

Will it be the Carolina Panthers? And if so, can he turn Cam’s talent into statistics, and more importantly, wins?

Only time will tell.

Here is a link to the Saints’ site which has multiple interviews with Carmichael.

Follow me on Twitter @Ken_Dye

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