CHARLOTTE, N.C. (AP) — Just over a week before training camp opens, the Carolina Panthers have no general manager. And no president.
The team that faded from a Super Bowl spot to a losing season in 2016 fired Dave Gettleman on Monday, eight days before the Panthers get down to preseason business. They already were without a team president after Danny Morrison resigned in February.
Owner Jerry Richardson said in a statement he made the decision after a long evaluation of the team’s football operations.
“I want to thank Dave for the role he played in our success over the past four seasons,” Richardson said. “While the timing of this decision is not ideal, a change is needed.”
The Panthers report to Wofford College in Spartanburg, South Carolina, on July 25 and have their first practice the following day.
Gettleman had been Carolina’s general manager for four seasons, when the Panthers went 43-26-1. But Carolina was 6-10 last season a year after reaching Super Bowl 50, where it lost to Denver. The Panthers had won the NFC South his first three years at the helm.
The relationship between Richardson and Gettleman began to deteriorate shortly after Carolina’s Super Bowl defeat.
Gettleman used the franchise tag on cornerback Josh Norman, but rescinded it a few weeks later and allowed him to become a free agent. Norman signed with Washington. The Panthers entered last season with two rookie starters and the secondary struggled early on, allowing two 500-yard passing games en route to their worst record since 2011.
While Richardson signed off on the move to let Norman walk, he was upset that Gettleman was unable to use the money originally earmarked for Norman to sign other potential free agents, including defensive linemen Kawann Short and Mario Addison and guard Tre Turner before last season. Eventually, Short and Addison re-signed earlier this year, but it cost Richardson more money than originally expected.
Gettleman made other decisions that were unpopular with fans after taking over for Marty Hurney in 2013. Among them: cutting star wideout Steve Smith before the 2014 season and running back DeAngelo Williams in 2015.
Williams, now a free agent after two seasons with Pittsburgh, tweeted he would consider returning to the Panthers “due to the firing of that snake Dave Gettleman!”
Smith, arguably the franchise’s most popular player, never took the move well.
After learning of the news of Gettleman’s firing, Smith tweeted “It’s Okay! Dave I know how you feel…”
The final straw in their relationship apparently came when Gettleman, known for his gruff demeanor, wasn’t open to extending the contracts of linebacker Thomas Davis and Greg Olsen — players Richardson feels have been ideal representatives of the Panthers on and off the field. Davis is in the final year of his contract and Olsen has two years left on his current deal.
The way Gettleman handled the situation created a divide between the front office and the players. That ultimately led to his being fired.
Richardson did not say who would be responsible for personnel in the interim.
Former assistant general manager Brandon Beane left in May to become Buffalo’s general manager, reuniting him with Sean McDermott, who was Carolina’s defensive coordinator for six seasons (2011-16).
Gettleman is the second NFL GM fired in less than a month. Kansas City fired John Dorsey on June 23.
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