So, you’re spittin’ mad at Jerry Richardson.
On Monday, the Carolina Panthers’ owner and founder made what appears to be a purely emotional decision to fire general manager Dave Gettleman.
Context clues continue to point toward two of Richardson’s favorite players. Veteran linebacker and franchise face Thomas Davis, in the final year of his contract, wants an extension. Veteran tight end and franchise face Greg Olsen wants a restructured, longer-term, higher-paying deal than the 3-year extension (complete with $12 million bonus) he signed before the 2015 season.
As the Observer reported Monday morning, talks hadn’t even gotten underway with Olsen, although Davis confirmed to WCNC on Tuesday afternoon that his have started.
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And then, Richardson fired Gettleman in a shocking move that caught most coaches and players by surprise.
Or maybe you’re chafing at Gettleman. Maybe you think, “It’s about time.”
Gettleman was notorious for making tough fiscal decisions to correct the salary cap fiasco he inherited in 2013.
Sources say Gettleman could be a jerk in contract meetings if he didn’t get his way. The way he dealt with players he was about to cut loose was “brusque,” if you’re describing it in polite company.
Hard feelings from some of those players dribbled out into the public. Josh Norman, the chatty corner with the rescinded franchise tag, and franchise greats Steve Smith and DeAngelo Williams tweeted their gleeful reactions after Gettleman was fired. Former linebacker Jon Beason jumped on air with WFNZ in Charlotte on Monday night and said Gettleman accused him of faking an injury.
Whatever side you’re on in this, you’re hopping mad. Based on the phone calls I’ve gotten and the tweets, emails and interviews I’ve seen in the last 24-or-so hours, there is no middle ground. It’s black-and-white, one sideline or the other.
But consider this.
It’s not that Mister Richardson was right, and Gettleman had it coming. Or that Gettleman was right, and the Big Cat made the wrong call.
In this situation, if it is in fact what it appears to be, they both are wrong.
In a viciously competitive, financially bloated NFL, a team needs both kinds of personalities to thrive.
A team needs a leader in the front office who cares deeply about legacy, and about doing right by the players. That person, at times, still needs to remove himself emotionally from the “business” aspect of the NFL.
That team also needs a ruthless businessman who can haggle with agents and has no problem being blamed for decisions that are unpopular but fiscally sound. That person still needs to treat his players with respect – even the ones he cuts loose with the big picture in mind.
Gettleman was hired to be ruthless. It seems like he was also fired for it.
But he set the team up well first. The Panthers are built for a strong run in 2017.
Gettleman brought back talented alumni in free agency, extended the contracts of key players such as pass-rushers Mario Addison and Charles Johnson, and drafted efficiently to jolt a sagging offensive attack and stock up positions of need.
Carolina also sits at $17 million under the salary cap, has its franchise quarterback secured for a good price before the “Derek Carr phenomenon” inflates salaries at the position, and is out from under the massive deals executed pre-Gettleman.
And it looks like Carolina will be fine in camp despite missing a GM, an assistant GM and a team president, because even if there is nobody in the front office to execute the annual Spartanburg roster churn, who really knows this team better than head coach Ron Rivera?
Rivera can make whatever calls are needed to field the 53-man come September, while the Panthers hire an interim GM take their time to find the right fit for the future.
Yet, who on earth would want the job?
Enough rope was given by the owner for Gettleman to make the tough decisions when the team was in financial trouble, then appears to have been used to hang him when those decisions became a little too tough.
For the sake of situational speculation, let’s assume Gettleman was being cautious about giving a 34-year-old linebacker and 32-year-old tight end contract extensions with league-inflated negotiations with young talented guards Trai Turner and Andrew Norwell rapidly approaching. If that’s not the right stance, when so many other “business decisions” were OK, where is the line an incoming GM will need to know not to cross?
Richardson just turned 81, and if what he wants is to win now, with the players he cares most about, he might do just that in 2017.
It’s what comes later that was thrown into flux by the Big Cat on a shocking Monday afternoon.