It was announced on Monday morning the Carolina Panthers were parting ways with general manager Dave Gettleman. This move came seemingly out of the blue, with just weeks before training camp and the start of the season. Now we are left wondering what happened and more importantly, was this the right move?
Gettleman had led the Panthers to very positive results in his four seasons as general manager. The team went 40-23-1 with three playoff appearances in that time. This was highlighted by an NFC championship in 2015 where the Panthers were later favored to win it all vs the Broncos. However, the team took a big step back last year, finishing 6-10 and last in the NFC south. Even with this setback, it was very unexpected for this move to be made.
I want to publicly say @Panthers is off my list of teams I won’t play for due to the firing of that snake Dave gettleman! 😎😎👌🏽✊🏽
— DeAngelo Williams (@DeAngeloRB) July 17, 2017
One thing that may shed some light on this move was his relationship with the team’s star players. In recent years the Panthers have parted ways with the franchise’s all-time leading receiver, Steve Smith, all-time leading rusher, DeAngelo Williams, and star cornerback Josh Norman. This was not well received by man fans and clearly it wasn’t taken well by these Panthers icons. Each one directed a comment on Twitter regarding Gettleman’s firing. Williams even went as far as to call him a “snake”. Clearly there was a problem with the way relationships were handled under Gettleman.
The burning of these bridges could have been overlooked if Gettleman had drafted young stars to replace these legends. However, that was not was not the case. In fact the Panthers have been very rocky in the draft since Gettleman took over in 2013. Specifically in the first round. In his tenure Gettleman drafted DT Star Lotulelei, WR Kelvin Benjamin, LB Shaq Thompson, DT Vernon Butler, and RB Christian McCaffrey. Here’s What we can take away from their careers so far.
Obviously, McCaffrey hasn’t played a snap in the NFL yet. It’s impossible to make any kind of judgment on him, although I do believe he’s going to be a very good player. Lotulelei and Butler are both good players, but have 11.5 combined sacks in five combined seasons. This kind of production just isn’t going to cut it for a pair of first round picks. Benjamin has found success in the league, but there have been red flags that lead many to question his long-term future as a top wide receiver. Beyond the various weaknesses on the field, he’s also had questions raised with him off the field. Specifically showing up to recent team activities overweight and seemingly out of shape. Thompson has been a solid player, but hasn’t emerged as the star Gettleman was hoping when he took him with the 25th overall pick in 2015. Thompson has never had 60 tackles in a season and only has one career sack. At this point he’s just a nice third linebacker and has not lived up to his draft position.
While Gettleman has drafted some very good players, highlighted by Kawann Short and Trai Turner, his first round blunders have greatly overshadowed his success. The bottom-line is that he hadn’t done a good enough job bringing in young talent to build around. That had become painfully obvious when looking at the direction the Panthers were heading.
Last year Carolina dropped to last place in the NFC South after appearing in the Super Bowl the season before. Some viewed this as the classic hangover after a championship loss. Others, which now seem to include Panthers ownership, believe last year was a sign of things to come.
The Falcons have established themselves as the team to beat in the NFC South. Their explosive offense and defensive minded head coach seem to have a foundation in place that will keep Atlanta in contention for years to come. The Buccaneers have also built a strong young team that is set up to compete for years to come. With Jameis Winston set to have a breakout year and a developing defense that can pressure the quarterback and force turnovers, the Bucs are another team that are in better position than the Panthers. That leaves Carolina likely battling for third place in their division. Certainly not the situation the Panthers invisioned themselves in this time last year.
So despite Gettleman’s success in Carolina, this seems to be the right move. His inability to manage relationships with his players and history of missing on first round picks was ultimately too much for ownership to accept. This was a proactive firing to help get the team back on track while star quarterback Cam Newton is still playing at a high level. And while this move was certainly bold it, seems to clearly be the right move for the Panthers.