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Can Ben McAdoo Fix the Panthers Offense?

Initial thoughts on the Panthers' hiring of Ben McAdoo as offensive coordinator.

When Matt Rhule first spoke to the media about what he was looking for in his new offensive coordinator, he mentioned someone who had experience calling plays in the NFL. It may not have been a "rockstar" hire but Ben McAdoo does have several years of play-calling experience and was also the head coach of the New York Giants for two seasons.

McAdoo's success as an offensive coordinator led to his promotion as the Giants head coach, but things didn't work out as well in his time in charge. The one big knock on McAdoo is that he runs a very basic, vanilla offense that doesn't present opposing defenses with many different looks. However, his philosophy is somewhat similar to that of Joe Brady's which featured a lot of underneath passing concepts. Having a simplified offense could also be beneficial to Sam Darnold who has had issues with going through progressions downfield and making the right decisions.  

By now, you've probably seen McAdoo's analysis on Darnold when he was coming out of the draft about how he didn't like his throwing mechanics turnover prone. This makes me think the Panthers aren't completely out on adding to the quarterback room this offseason despite GM Scott Fitterer saying that Darnold will be on the team in 2022. If McAdoo and Rhule fall in love with a quarterback during the draft process, it could lead to Darnold's inevitable exit. 

I'm a little skeptical that this is going to work with McAdoo and the Panthers, but a lot of it will be personnel driven. If they fail to improve the offensive line this offseason, it won't make a difference. 

To get some more insight on McAdoo's background, I reached out to SI Giants publisher, Patricia Traina.

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Ben McAdoo’s arrival as the Giants offensive coordinator and later head coach marked a significant shift in the organization’s offensive play calling. New York went from a vertical concept with elements of the old run-and-shoot implemented by Kevin Gilbride to more of a West Coast offense, in which the emphasis was put more on short to intermediate range passes which relied on the receivers to pick up YAC.

If there was one thing, though, that bothered many Giants fans about McAdoo’s offense, it was that he tended to lean more heavily on the passing game. Under his direction, Eli Manning threw the ball over 600 times in three straight seasons, and the running game was more of an afterthought. McAdoo’s offense also became somewhat predictable. Chris Simms did a wonderful breakdown of how predictable the offense was in this article (see the video). In a nutshell, there wasn’t much variety, and a big reason for that, I suspect, was that Odell Beckham Jr was the only receiver in the offense McAdoo felt comfortable with.

So here’s the thing. If McAdoo stays with his West Coast-like offense in which he looks to stretch the field horizontally rather than vertically, I would question if that will work against faster defenses that have linebackers with good sideline to sideline range. But the advantage here is if your offensive line is shaky or your quarterback isn’t experienced, a West Coast offense can help get the ball out of his hands quicker and simplify the decision making process for the quarterback. I also think the system might help with Christian McCaffrey as it’s designed to get the running back into space as a receiving threat and in fact, I think that could be the key for the Panthers who no doubt want to see CMC get back to being the player he was before his injury issues happened.

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