During his final year as Tampa Bay's offensive coordinator in 1999, Mike Shula coached a pair of proven running backs in Mike Alstott and Warrick Dunn and a rookie quarterback in Shaun King.
The Bucs put up pedestrian offensive numbers, but fell a game short of the Super Bowl.
Fourteen years later, Shula is an offensive coordinator again after the Panthers promoted him last week. He inherits a veteran running back corps featuring DeAngelo Williams, Jonathan Stewart and Mike Tolbert.
Instead of a rookie quarterback, Shula has a franchise quarterback – the same one he's worked with the past two seasons: Cam Newton.
“I'm excited because number one, our quarterback,” Shula said Tuesday following the first of two Senior Bowl practices. “And I'm excited because of the guys that we're coaching.”
Shula, 47, said his offense will resemble the one Rob Chudzinski ran for two years before becoming Cleveland's coach. But Shula, the former Alabama quarterback and head coach, wants to put his own stamp on it.
“I think we're going to try to keep all the good stuff,” Shula said, laughing. “There's going to be a lot that's going to look similar. But there's going to be other things that we'll continue to throw around in the offseason.”
Shula said he was proud of the way the players ended the season after a tough start. The Panthers won five of their last six games to finish 7-9 and in second place in the NFC South, enough to keep Ron Rivera in Charlotte another year and get Chudzinski hired in Cleveland.
Shula said the key is continuing to find new ways to utilize Newton, who enjoyed the best stretch of his two-year career over the second half of last season.
“Obviously, we want to make things as best we can to allow our quarterback to play fast. And I think he's playing faster,” Shula said. “I'm more excited about him now than I was this time last year.”