If Carolina had beaten Dallas Sunday, Marty Hurney would still be the general manager of the Carolina Panthers.
But Carolinas fourth straight loss, against a team that looked as ready to lose as the Panthers, undid Hurney.
The timing is odd. Panthers owner Jerry Richardson is not fragile. He would never fire a key employee to placate angry fans.
He also would not fire Hurney because theres a replacement he hopes to court before, say, the Cleveland Browns do.
Richardson is frustrated. Hes 76 years old and this was going to be his season. Everybody in the organization thought so. Hurney stood on the side of Carolinas practice field in mini-camp and told me, We have to make the playoffs.
Instead the Panthers, like Cleveland, like Jacksonville and like Kansas City, have only one victory. If you have as many victories as Cleveland, Jacksonville and Kansas City, this is not your season. Cleveland, Jacksonville and Kansas City probably say the same thing about Carolina.
Hurney became general manager in 2002 after his then close friend John Fox was hired as head coach.
I believed Hurney had a job for life. He and Richardson are, and will remain, close. Richardson told me before the season he would not trade Hurney for any general manager in football.
I also believed that if Hurney left it would be his idea. Hurney, however, told me twice Monday that the decision was Richardsons. A source in the organization confirms it.
Hurney believes in his ability. He believes in the ability of the players he drafted and signed. But he says he failed to find a player who would lead. There are several candidates, he adds quickly.
He never found Ray Lewis of Baltimore or Tom Brady of New England. Yes, they are enormous talents. But they also know how to win. They insist their teammates join them.
Hurney asks me what the Houston-Baltimore score was Sunday. The Texans won 43-13. Baltimore hasnt given up 43 points for five years. The Ravens went into the game with a record of 5-1.
What was the difference?
Lewis, who tore his triceps last week, didnt play.
This game is confidence, Hurney says. Its momentum. It just seems like when you get in a situation where you lose close games, the teams tend to lose close games throughout the season. And the teams that win close games do it. So somebodys got to step up and say enough is enough.
Is there a Panther who leads when the locker room door is closed and the media is gone and image doesnt matter? Is there a player who through words and deeds tolerates nothing less than total commitment? Is there a player who commands such respect from his peers?
I dont know.
Heres what I know: At least five readers a week tell me Hurney should be fired and ask why I dont have the guts to say so.
Truth is, its easy to write that somebody should be canned if you believe it. I didnt write it because I believed the Panthers would win with Hurneys players.
If fans had the power to fire general managers and coaches, the unemployment rate in professional sports would hover at 90 percent.
Also, Im biased. I like and respect Hurney. When he achieved early success the Super Bowl in the 2003 season, the NFC championship in 2005 he stayed humble.
I introduced him to one of my brothers in 03 and my brother said, He cant be the GM. Hes not pretentious.
Hurney is so unpretentious I sometimes could tell what he had for lunch by looking at his tie.
But you have to win, and the Panthers dont not since 2008, not in consecutive seasons, not this season. On Monday Hurney recites the numbers twice.
Firing him wont revive the Panthers.
But thats not the point.
This is: If Richardson is willing to fire Hurney, who wont he fire?