When the Carolina Panthers begin training camp in Spartanburg in a week, Dave Gettleman will not be with them.
The team announced the firing of the general manager on Monday.
“I want to thank Dave for the role he played in our success over the past four seasons,” said team owner Jerry Richardson in a statement on the team website. “While the timing of this decision is not ideal, a change is needed.”
A source told the Observer that the firing caught members of the staff by surprise, although one veteran player told the Observer that it was “not a shock.”
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The Panthers’ news release did not indicate who would be making the immediate personnel decisions and did not mention a timeline for hiring Gettleman’s replacement.
Former assistant general manager Brandon Beane would have been an obvious candidate, but Gettleman’s right-hand man left in May to become Buffalo’s general manager. The team is now without a GM, a president (after Danny Morrison resigned in February) and an assistant GM.
Two names to keep an eye on are Trent Kirchner, who works in the Seattle Seahawks’ front office, and Ryan Cowden, who is with the Tennessee Titans. Mark Koncz is a possible internal candidate.
The team is likely hire an interim GM rather than feel rushed in deciding on Gettleman’s permanent replacement. One possibility for the interim job could be former general manager Marty Hurney, who resigned early in the 2012 season. He still lives in Charlotte (he runs the ESPN radio affiliate in the city) and remains well-respected by Richardson.
As the news of Gettleman’s firing unfolded, public speculation increased that decisions surrounding possible contract extensions for veteran players Thomas Davis, 34, and Greg Olsen, 32, factored into the decision.
In recent weeks, the two players, who are Panthers’ captains and two of Richardson’s favorite players, made it known they wanted new deals.
A team source indicated Gettleman was not interested in negotiating with Olsen two years after Olsen received a three-year, $22 million extension that carried him through 2018. But the feeling inside the organization was that Davis, in the final season of his contract, would get at least another year added before the start of training camp next week.
Gettleman’s tenure was marked by a series of unpopular moves, including releasing veteran leaders in the years after succeeding Hurney in January 2013.
He traded Pro Bowl linebacker Jon Beason to the Giants in 2013, then cut wideout Steve Smith, the franchise’s all-time leading receiver, before the 2014 season. Gettleman cut running back DeAngelo Williams, the team’s all-time leading rusher, a year later, then rescinded Josh Norman’s franchise-tag contract for the 2016, which would have paid the All-Pro cornerback $13.952 million.
While Gettleman was in charge of the roster for three consecutive playoff berths in 2013-15, the most successful three-year stretch in franchise history, his blunt management style and those personnel moves created a divide between players and the front office, according to a source with knowledge of the situation.
But Gettleman inherited a salary-cap mess when he was hired and has cleared up the problem.
Some of the above players made it well-known on social media that they were happy about the Panthers’ decision.
Williams tweeted that Gettleman was a “snake,” while Smith tweeted a picture of him smiling and the caption, “It’s Okay! Dave I know how you feel!”