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Carolina Panthers

Williamson | Strange timing of Panthers firing Dave Gettleman

FILE - In this April 21, 2016, file photo, Carolina Panthers NFL football team general manager Dave Gettleman speaks during a news conference in Charlotte, N.C. Gettleman isn't second-guessing the team's decision to allow quarterback Cam Newton to continue to play last season despite a partially torn rotator cuff in his right throwing shoulder. Gettleman said Friday, March 24, 2017, "Cam is a football player and he wanted to play and the medical people felt it was fine, so we did." (AP Photo/Chuck Burton, File)
AP Photo/Chuck Burton, File

Black Monday … in July.

An interesting trend has developed in the NFL. General managers are no longer finding themselves safe,  even during the NFL’s deadest period. A few weeks after Kansas City surprisingly shoved general manager John Dorsey out the door, Dave Gettleman awoke Monday, a week before training camp begins, to find out he is longer the general manager of the Carolina Panthers.

Weird.

Like Dorsey in Kansas City, Gettleman did a pretty nice job in Carolina. The Panthers advanced to the playoffs in his first three seasons there, including a 15-1 season and a Super Bowl appearance in the 2015 season. The wheels fell off in Carolina in 2016, resulting in a 6-10 Super Bowl-loss hangover season. But those types of seasons happen.

Yet, general managers getting fired this late into the offseason (or is it this early into the season?), usually don’t happen.

Like with Dorsey, the first reaction to the Gettleman gassing is, why now?

Is there a back story we don’t know about? That’s why analyzing this move is so difficult. Perhaps we will find out in the coming hours or days that there was something that led to this firing that no one knew about. Unless a tangible reason for Gettleman’s ouster materializes, we will be resigned to focusing on the bizarre timing.

Of course, the elephant in the room surrounding Gettleman is the Josh Norman decision of April, 2015. That’s right, it happened 15 months ago.

Out of the blue, Gettleman rescinded Norman’s franchise tag because he decided giving Norman a long-term deal wasn’t in the best interest of the team. However, the decision to rescind Norman’s franchise tag meant he was a free agent, and the Panthers were not entitled to any compensation. Had Gettleman decided that he didn’t want to give Norman a long-term deal in February, he could have easily traded him. So, the late decision conceivably cost Carolina a first-round draft pick; a second-round draft pick at worst.

The Norman decision was shocking and universally panned around the league. It was the start of a miserable 2016 in Carolina.

Now, Norman is in Washington and Gettleman is unemployed.

The early Gettleman-firing speculation on Monday has naturally focused on the Norman situation.

It’s fair, but if that’s the case, why did Carolina owner Jerry Richardson wait for more than a year to make this decision? If Norman really is the inspiration for this firing, why didn’t Richardson make this move in January?

Why did he let Gettleman run his team’s free agency and draft board? Why did he put his team in a position where it has no leader just a week before training camp starts?

There is major flux in Carolina. Team president Danny Morrison resigned, assistant general manager Brandon Beane (who would have been the natural replacement for Gettleman had Richardson made this move six months ago) is now the general manager of the Buffalo Bills, and now this Gettleman move.

The Panthers have to scramble to replace Gettleman with the season looming. They need to be focusing on what is ahead on the football field, not in the front office. Again, this is all so unnecessary. That’s the story here. It’s not whether Gettleman deserved to be fired or not. The story here is whether the Panthers hurt their own cause by waiting so long to do this.

Ironically, Gettleman’s late decision on Norman was only the first questionable late decision made by the franchise.

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