Analysis: Why Ben McAdoo could be the right man for for the Panthers’ OC job

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Two years ago, Panthers coach Matt Rhule hired Joe Brady to be his offensive coordinator, banking on the 30-year-old coach’s potential to give the Panthers a high-powered offense.

But after a failed experiment, Rhule is taking the opposite approach this time with the imminent hire of Ben McAdoo. Instead of potential, he’s banking on McAdoo’s experience to help turn around a Panthers offense that in 2021 was among the worst in the NFL.

The Panthers offense is in bad shape right now. It ranked 29th in points per game (17.9) this past season, 30th in total yards (298.9), and gave up the second-most turnovers (29).

So it’s not hard to see why Rhule chose McAdoo over the seven other candidates he spoke with for the job.

Other candidates included former Washington head coach Jay Gruden; former East Carolina coach Scottie Montgomery; former Texans offensive coordinator Tim Kelly; Vikings OC Klint Kubiak; Colts’ wide receivers coach Tim Groh; Packers quarterbacks coach Luke Getsy; and a college coach.

Rhule wanted someone with playcalling experience, a coach with an established resume and an established offense.

“At this point, for me I want someone I can go back and look at what they’ve done and say, ‘This is who they are,’ “ Rhule said earlier this month. “I want someone that can walk in that room and make sure that everyone, all the coaches and all the players, are on the same page.”

McAdoo checked his boxes.

McAdoo, who was most recently an offensive consultant with the Cowboys, spent time as an offensive coordinator with the Giants before being promoted to head coach.

Most attractive to Rhule was how McAdoo helped the Giants’ offense improve in his first season there.

Like the Panthers in 2021, the Giants were struggling in 2013. They ranked 28th in the league in points per game. And Eli Manning, who had won two Super Bowls with the franchise, was starting to decline. So they hired McAdoo, who had had success in Green Bay, as both a tight ends and a quarterbacks coach.

In his first season calling plays, McAdoo helped the Giants get to 13th in the league in points per game in 2014. The following year, they improved to sixth.

Manning went from throwing 18 touchdowns and 27 interceptions in 2013 to 30 touchdowns and 14 interceptions in 2014.

That’s the kind of transformation Rhule needs in Year 3 from his offense and his quarterback, Sam Darnold, who threw nine touchdowns and 13 interceptions in 12 games in 2021.

When McAdoo became the head coach of the Giants in 2016, they finished 11-5 and made the playoffs before losing in the wild-card round. They were 8-3 in games decided by a touchdown or less.

So McAdoo has a history of success.

He also has a history of failure. In 2017, McAdoo was fired after a 2-10 start as New York’s head coach. The Giants were ranked 31st in the NFL in points per game. The Giants haven’t been to the playoffs since.

But that was also important to Rhule. He said he wanted someone who had experienced both highs and lows.

“It’s one thing to have suggestions and all those things,” Rhule said. “It’s another thing to make the calls and have had success, not had success and learn from (them).”

McAdoo’s hire looks like the right one. But it’s just the first step.

The offense still needs to make some significant changes, which McAdoo will play a part in.

The Panthers must first improve their offensive line through the draft and free agency. The offensive line allowed 52 sacks last season, fifth worst in the league. The Panthers must also improve their quarterback play.

The Panthers quarterbacks threw for 14 touchdowns and 21 interceptions this past season.

McAdoo has experience with that, too.