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Tuesday, January 18, 2011
Panthers finalize Chudzinski's deal

By Pat Yasinskas
ESPN.com

The word was out yesterday the Panthers were hiring Rob Chudzinski as their offensive coordinator. But the team waited until a contract was signed to formally announce the move and that just happened.

“I have worked with Rob and know that he is a very good offensive coach who possesses a strong knowledge on that side of the ball,” Carolina coach Ron Rivera said. “I have seen him work with players and he has the communication skills and expertise to make a most positive contribution to our coaching staff as offensive coordinator.”

Chudzinski was the tight ends coach and assistant head coach for the San Diego Chargers, who had the NFL’s No. 1 offense in 2010. Rivera was with the Chargers as the defensive coordinator before being hired by Carolina.

Chudzinski, 42, was Cleveland’s offensive coordinator in 2007, a season in which the Browns went 10-6, ranked eighth in the league in offense and sent quarterback Derek Anderson, tight end Kellen Winslow and receiver Braylon Edwards to the Pro Bowl.

We’ll hear more about Chudzinski’s plans for the Carolina offense once he gets a chance to meet with the media. But, at the moment, I think it’s fairly safe to assume the tight ends will be much more involved in the passing game than they ever were in the John Fox years. The Panthers haven’t had a true pass-catching tight end since Wesley Walls.

Chudzinski worked with Antonio Gates in San Diego and Winslow in Cleveland and at the University of Miami. While an assistant at Miami, Chudzinski also coached tight ends Jeremy Shockey and Bubba Franks.

Carolina’s tight ends last season were Jeff King, Dante Rosario and Gary Barnidge. King and Rosario are potential free agents. Each of those guys has some receiving skills that weren’t used all that much in Fox’s system and could be retained. But I think there’s a very good chance the Panthers will look for a pass-catching tight end in the draft or free agency.

That's a novel concept for the Panthers, but it might help make them more competitive in the NFC South, where the other three teams have strong pass-catching tight ends. New Orleans has Shockey and Jimmy Graham, who developed nicely in his rookie season. Tampa Bay has Winslow and Atlanta has Tony Gonzalez, who probably is the best tight end in history.

Now, if Chudzinski, Rivera and the rest of the Carolina organization can figure out a way to get a quarterback who is in the same league as Drew Brees, Matt Ryan and Josh Freeman, the Panthers might have a chance.