NEW YORK -- Now that the Carolina Panthers have taken the plunge and put their future in the hands of a quarterback offering every bit as much risk as he does reward, it's time to examine what they do with him.
Cam Newton's arrival in Carolina suddenly means that Rob Chudzinski and Mike Shula have a whole lot of pressure on their shoulders -- far more than they already had as the new offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach, respectively, of a team with a huge rebuilding task.
Chudzinski faces an enormous challenge. He has to design an offensive scheme that takes full advantage of Newton's immense athletic ability and rocket-like throwing arm, but is simple enough for a quarterback who excelled in a spread offense that often put him in shotgun formation and allowed him to rely more on instincts and raw skill than structure.
Shula is likely to have a fairly difficult chore ahead as well. He will need to work on Newton's mechanics and address details with a player who hasn't been all that detail-oriented. Shula also tends to be a bit more passive in his approach than his legendary father, Don Shula, and Newton, who has known to have a considerable ego, could walk all over him.
The harder job seems to belong to Chudzinski, though. His offensive philosophy, which he learned from Norv Turner (for whom he previously worked as a tight ends coach with the San Diego Chargers) calls for frequent deep throws. Newton certainly has the arm for that, but it isn't as simple as dropping back and throwing. He will have to learn a fairly thick playbook that includes all sorts of motion and shifting before each play.
Newton isn't used to all that. He does his best when he is rolling out and working with play-action. Auburn's coaches understood that the best way for him to succeed was to typically make quick reads that required him to scan only half the field.
He won't be able to get away with that in the NFL. But it will be up to Chudzinski and Shula to gradually guide him along and get him comfortable with a new scheme.
The key is to do it slowly and surely, although that rarely tends to happen with a highly-touted rookie quarterback. The Panthers wound up starting Jimmy Clausen, the quarterback they drafted in the second round last year, for most of the season.
And it proved to be a large enough disaster that they ended up with the top overall pick that became Newton.
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