When Dave Gettleman described himself as a pretty direct, pretty honest type of guy, Panthers head coach Ron Rivera noticed Gettlemans older son, Aaron, nodding his head.
Thats been the tone of conversations Rivera has had with the teams new general manager, who was introduced to the press on Tuesday at Bank of America Stadium.
And believe me, I really do appreciate that, said Rivera, who was seated in the front row of the press conference. He and I have a number of mutual friends and people that I talk to about him and they say the same things that hes very honest and very direct.
Panthers owner/founder Jerry Richardson and team president Danny Morrison handed Gettleman the job on Jan. 9, and the following morning Gettleman met with Rivera for breakfast to get to know his head coach.
Gettleman inherited a Panthers team that went 13-19 in two years under Rivera, and Richardson made the decision to keep Rivera for a third season before turning his attention to the general manager search.
I believe in inclusion; I dont believe in communism, Gettleman said. Everybody needs to have their say and everybody needs to understand that what they say is valuable. I firmly believe in the saying, Every man is my equal and I may learn from him. So were going to be an inclusive group.
Coming from the New York Giants organization as the 13-year director of player personnel, Gettleman has history with coaches on the hot seat. Tom Coughlin was close to getting a pink slip after an embarrassing 23-0 home loss to the Panthers in the 2005 Wild Card round and sneaking into the playoffs with an 8-8 record the following year.
In 2007, the Giants hired Jerry Reese as the new general manager and decided to keep Coughlin as the head coach, a move fans jeered at the time. The following year the Giants won the Super Bowl.
Tom was under a tremendous amount of heat, Gettleman said. Its the same situation (here). My responsibility is to make everybody better. My job is to support everyone, to get their input and move forward with clear lines of communication and teamwork. Thats my job.
Next on Gettlemans agenda is familiarizing himself with the Panthers roster, he said. The team is nearly $16 million over the salary cap for the 2013 season, but the general manager declined to discuss personnel specifics because he had not yet evaluated the team from top to bottom.
He did offer two opinions on the team, though. Gettleman said Carolina is set at quarterback with Cam Newton, and the Panthers fight to win five of their last six this past season speaks to Rivera and his staff.
Ive watched enough film that even when you havent been at a game you can see which guys are playing hard and which guys arent, which teams have mailed it in and which teams havent, Gettleman said. I think thats a great tribute to Ron and the coaching staff of the strength of the finish.
After spending two and a half decades in the league as a scout and executive, Gettleman said hes able to empathize with head coaches. Hes been a part of 13 playoff teams, including six teams that went to the Super Bowl and three that won.
Gettleman understands coaches are under more pressure to perform now than ever. And near the end of his press conference, Gettleman offered up some advice to Rivera he had picked up over the years.
Youve got 18-man coaching staff, youve got 61 players who are practicing and you have support staff everywhere. Then you get onto the field and youve got to have 11 guys doing the right thing on average 65 snaps. That is not easy, so I get that.
Ill say the same thing to Ron in time, if you do your job during the week, youll sleep good Saturday night and youll be fine on Sunday.