In a teleconference with Seattle-area reporters -- Smith was not available to Carolina-based media Wednesday -- No.89 said: “The prior offensive coordinator really was positioning himself to just apply for that head coaching job. I think our offense suffered a little bit because of that. At times, we got cute. We did things that weren’t necessarily us, like the under-utilizing of (fullback) Mike Tolbert. But we’re out of that. The past is the past.”
"Chud," as everyone calls him, is now the head coach at Cleveland. Smith's comments were the most negative ever directed at the Panthers' playcaller in 2011 and 2012, although Tolbert earlier this preseason made a reference to what he called "a lot of broken promises" regarding his own use in 2012. I believe Smith's comments echo an undercurrent among a number of Panther offensive players -- this is something that has been whispered about, for sure, but outside of reporters' earshot until now.
Here's what I think: Smith is correct in at least one sense. There's no debate: Tolbert was not used enough last year until the very end of the season. The guy can play. He's a fine short-yardage back, and he's really good out of the backfield as a pass-catcher. He's about to get used a whole lot, too, assuming his body holds up, with Jonathan Stewart out the first five weeks.
Another thing I didn't like about "Chud's" offense -- too many carries (and hits) for Cam Newton. No way your quarterback should lead the team in rushing in the NFL, but Newton did in 2012 (the first time that happened since Donovan McNabb for Philadelphia in 2000). Too much risk.
But in another sense Smith is wrong. To imply Chudzinski put his own personal goals in front of the Panthers winning doesn't make sense to me. For "Chud" to get a job, Carolina had to do well. I think he called plays to win, not to impress owners around the NFL. If it did both, so much the better. And he was innovative. He brought the "read-option" to Carolina in 2011 before RG3 made it much more well-known. He had some incredible gadget plays that worked (remember Richie Brockel's TD)? He certainly got Smith the ball a lot (well, that was Newton throwing it but still).
Smith had 1,000-yard years in both 2011 and '12 in Chud's offense after a terrible season in 2010 with Jimmy Clausen as his QB. And Chud's two offenses at Carolina ranked very high in team history (setting a team record for yards in 2011 while ranking No.7 in the NFL and then a more modest but still respectable No.12 in 2012).
So, like many controversial comments, Smith's has some truth to it but is not entirely true. It's very possible Smith will find something to complain about in Mike Shula's more conventional offense, too, before this season is over -- it certainly hasn't looked good in the preseason.