Instead of waiting until the offseason, Panthers coach Matt Rhule decided to relieve Joe Brady of his duties on Sunday as Carolina's offensive coordinator. The role will temporarily be filled by Jeff Nixon, a longtime friend of Rhule's who served as Rhule's offensive coordinator at Baylor.
So, what will the change mean for the Panthers' offense? We're glad you asked.
Panthers fans can expect several changes with Brady as offensive coordinator. The offense's halftime adjustments and game management -- two facets that came under fire during Brady's short time in Carolina -- will certainly improve. Those adjustments will likely help improve an offense that is currently 28th in third down efficiency and 23rd in red zone efficiency.
A specific example of the Panthers' lack of offensive adjustment under Brady took place during the team's Week 5 loss to the Eagles. Carolina receiver Robby Anderson was upset with the Panthers' limited route tree once it became clear that Philadelphia knew what was coming. Given Nixon's more extensive background as an offensive coach, it's safe to expect that he is more equipped to make those types of adjustments.
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Stretching the field
As far as what he brings to the table, Nixon has as extensive background as a running backs coach, but he's likely to use the run to set up more downfield shots. The Panthers are a decent running team (especially when Christian McCaffrey is healthy), but they need to stretch the field more during the final five games of the season. Carolina has the weapons to make this happen, led by McCaffrey and receivers Anderson and D.J. Moore.
More success downfield would likely help the Panthers win more close games, something that has been an issue throughout Rhule's time in Carolina. With just 16 plays of 25 yards or longer this season, defenses are stacking the box without any fear of giving up a big play. If Nixon can improve the Panthers' vertical attack, that should create significantly more headaches for opposing defenses, especially on third down.
It can't come at the expense of winning, but Nixon and Rhule would also be wise to give more opportunities to rookie wideout Terrace Marshall Jr. In nine games, the former second-round pick has just 14 receptions for 116 yards. Helping Marshall have success during the season's final five games could do wonders for Marshall and the Panthers' offense for 2022 and beyond.
One would expect Rhule and Brady to make a decision on who is the team's starting quarterback moving forward. Rhule himself said on Monday that having three quarterbacks is not a recipe for success. Cam Newton will likely get the start this Sunday, but that doesn't necessarily mean that he will remain the Panthers' starter for the remainder of the season. Sunday's game will largely help determine what the Panthers do with their quarterback position moving forward. Which quarterback can do the best job stretching the field while also avoiding turnovers will probably be the Panthers' starting quarterback beyond this weekend.
At 5-7, the Panthers are still within striking distance of the seventh and final playoff spot. That is probably why Rhule made the coaching change now rather than wait until after the season. And while the Panthers' offense will not morph into a juggernaut overnight, the unit should be noticeably better with Nixon as offensive coordinator.