Steve Smith was outspoken when talking about former Carolina Panthers offensive coordinator Rob Chudzinski, now the head coach of the Cleveland Browns. Smith implied Wednesday on a conference call that Chudzinski's mind was on other things last season besides running an offense that fit the Panthers' strengths, via ESPN:
"The prior offensive coordinator [Chudzinski] really was positioning himself to just apply for that head coaching job," Smith said Wednesday on a conference call with Seattle Seahawks reporters. "I think our offense suffered a little bit because of that.''
In particular, Smith cited a lack of touches for running back Mike Tolbert, saying that the Panthers "got too cute" at times on offense.
Smith's criticism of Chudzinski is somewhat surprising, given how productive he was under Chudzinski's direction. Smith's 79 receptions in 2011 were the most he had since recording 87 receptions in 2007. He followed up the performance with 73 receptions last year.
Chudzinski helped implement the zone-read option last season. The scheme should have been a success with the the uber-athletic Cam Newton playing out of the shotgun, but the Panthers' running game struggled until the team reverted back to a more traditional running game over the second half of the season.
Smith is optimistic about new offensive coordinator Mike Shula, who has a track record of running pro style offenses. Once again via ESPN.
"I think Coach Shula is going to change things up, and he has so far," Smith said. "He just does little different things. Some of it looks small, but we're focusing more on the details, and that's the difference."
Whether the Panthers can perform better this season remains to be seen. Returns from preseason weren't very good. The offense managed just two offensive touchdowns through the first three games.