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Gettleman brings high hopes

As he approached the podium Tuesday at his introductory press conference, new Panthers general manager Dave Gettleman wore the New York Giants’ latest Super Bowl ring on his right hand.

Stepping to the microphone, Gettleman looked around at the reporters and TV cameras and said, “Wow.”

After 25 years in the NFL, Gettleman finally had the spotlight to himself.

The longtime scout and pro personnel director has been a part of three Super Bowl-winning teams. During his meetings with Panthers owner Jerry Richardson and coach Ron Rivera last week in Charlotte, Gettleman informed both men he thinks he can win a fourth.

“I told Mr. Richardson in the interview. I told Ron when we had breakfast Thursday morning,” Gettleman said. “I said, ‘If we do this right, you and I are holding up the trophy with Mr. Richardson.’ ”

Richardson said Gettleman’s experience and his 14 years with the Giants – an organization Richardson has long respected – sold him on Gettleman.

“I think his experience will benefit not only the organization, but he’ll be terrific for Ron at this time in his career,” Richardson said.

Gettleman, 61, was at a career crossroads last summer. Despite his success as a scout and personnel director, and his six Super Bowl trips, Gettleman said he did not “get a sniff” for any of the four GM openings last offseason.

He approached the Giants about taking a step back. Gettleman went from running the department to the newly created position of senior pro personnel analyst, and re-focused his professional and personal goals.

“As you get older, you think about those things. What is your legacy? I never wanted to become someone who went to work to collect a paycheck,” Gettleman said. “I just needed to change my focus, get a broader vision. And really what it meant was I wasn’t doing the day-to-day running the department things. I was able to look at the league, take a look at how it was going and changing.”

But when Richardson hired former Giants GM Ernie Accorsi – a longtime friend and former colleague of Gettleman – to consult on the search, Gettleman thought he might finally get his chance.

“I’m not an idiot,” Gettleman said, drawing laughter at a press conference attended by Joanne, his wife of 28 years, and their three children.

Gettleman, who declined to discuss his contract details, said he believes his age was a deterrent in getting interview opportunities for previous GM jobs.

“It’s about the person doing the hiring. I just needed someone who was looking for an older, more mature guy. That’s really what it came down to,” Gettleman said. “Our culture is the next whiz-bang is the next great thing. That’s just where we’re at right now as a culture. It was one of those deals where, ‘Oh, he’s an old dinosaur. He’s probably cranky.’ ”

Gettleman said he agreed with former Panthers GM Marty Hurney’s philosophy of building through the draft. He also believes there are good bargains to be found in free agency, citing a pair of Giants’ starters: Tight end Martellus Bennett and offensive tackle Sean Locklear both signed one-year deals last offseason.

Gettleman declined to address the Panthers’ salary cap situation – they are a projected $16 million over next year’s cap – saying he needed more time to evaluate the roster.

As for inheriting a coach he didn’t hire, Gettleman said it’s the same situation Giants GM Jerry Reese faced with Tom Coughlin in 2007 after Reese replaced Accorsi. Coughlin was under fire after an 8-8 season and an early playoff exit in 2006.

With Coughlin as coach, Reese and the Giants won the Super Bowl the next season.

Gettleman said he’s not planning any wholesale changes with the coaching staff or front office. As a scout with Buffalo in 1986 during his first NFL season, Gettleman watched Marv Levy take over for Hank Bullough near midseason and fire three of Bullough’s assistants.

“I promised myself from that point on if I ever got to be the king, you have to be very careful. You don’t want to throw the baby out with the bath water,” Gettleman said. “Right now moving forward, my plan is to work with the current Panther family and get this thing right.

“I told Ron, I don’t have a list of head coaches in my back pocket. I have no interest in that. I told the pro guys already and I will tell the college guys, I don’t have a list of personnel people in my pocket.”

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