In the latest development to shock the football world at-large, the Carolina Panthers summarily dismissed general manager Dave Gettleman – a week before the team’s training camp commences.
During his four seasons with the franchise, the Panthers posted a cumulative 40-23-1 record, won the NFC South three times, and went 15-1 two seasons ago, only to be upset by the Denver Broncos in Super Bowl 50. Why would the Panthers allow Gettleman to conduct this spring’s draft – where he reshaped the team’s offensive trajectory by selecting hybrid back/receivers Christian McCaffrey and Curtis Samuel in the first two rounds – if he was a sitting duck?
It’s an astonishing move in every sense and begs the question: What exactly are the Panthers doing after smashing their long-term vision into smithereens with one fell swoop?
Related: Panthers fire GM Dave Gettleman
If the Panthers planned on firing Gettleman all along, why didn’t they make the move sooner? The Panthers held a perfectly groomed replacement for Gettleman in assistant general manager Brandon Beane, but he became the Buffalo Bills GM on May 9 without any contestation. There could’ve been a seamless transition of power if the Panthers elected to fire Gettleman earlier in the offseason. Now, the Panthers stumble into the abyss less than two months away from their season opener, while the rest of the league stares with their mouths agape.
Panthers owner Jerry Richardson is a central figure in this conflict, admitting Monday “the timing of this decision is not ideal” in a statement. The dissolution of Richardson and Gettleman’s relationship is slowly being parceled out in real-time. NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport reported that both parties feuded when Gettleman elected to allow Josh Norman to test free agency last summer, rescinding the franchise tag. If the Norman decision – a move made in April 2016 – was the impetus to fire Gettleman, why act now?
Norman, himself, appeared to also find the decision curious:
Richardson turns 81 on Tuesday and perhaps we’ll never know the real reason behind Gettleman’s firing. It seems like the next Panthers’ general manager will need to be an obsequious presence, waiting at Richardson’s beck and call as the club navigates the turbulent waters of the NFC South. Either Richardson was dissuaded by one disappointing season that appeared to be an outlier, or he’d prefer a sycophant running the day-to-day operations of his beloved franchise. In any event, he’ll have a lot to answer for if the Panthers spiral into disarray. Even more, the legacy of the team’s next GM will inextricably linked to him.
Would Gettleman still be employed if the Panthers defeated the Broncos two years ago? Perhaps, but like many questions emanating from this stunning decision, the viewing public will likely remain in the dark. Boasting one of the NFL’s most talented rosters, the Panthers could return atop the NFC South and no one would bat an eye. Nonetheless, the Panthers have found a way to potentially derail their comeback season in a move that begets further questions about both the franchise’s short- and long-term future.
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