Carolina Panthers general manager Dave Gettleman and his assistant Brandon Beane spent more time together over the past four years than with anyone other than their wives.
And maybe not them, either.
Gettleman would watch video with Beane long past bankers’ hours, evaluate prospects with him and sit next to him in the press box on Sundays, grooming Beane to someday become an NFL general manager.
That someday came Tuesday, when Beane became the latest Panther to follow Sean McDermott to Carolina’s burgeoning satellite office in western New York.
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When Beane informed Gettleman he was leaving for the Bills, Gettleman did not try to stand in his way. He patted him on the back and sent him out into the cold.
“I’m excited for Brandon. He was a big piece here. We’re sorry to see him go. But it was an opportunity he couldn’t turn down,” Gettleman said Wednesday. “I certainly gave him a million Buffalo stories. I lived in Buffalo (as a scout) for nine years. That’s going to be a little shock to his system, the weather.”
Gettleman was used to the weather, having grown up in Boston.
Beane, 40, is a North Carolina man, so ... not so much.
He grew up in Norwood (if you get to Lake Tillery you’ve gone too far) and graduated from South Stanly High, where he was the starting quarterback until tearing up his knee in the first quarter of the first game of his senior season.
He went to UNC-Wilmington with the idea of going into education. But before becoming Mr. Beane, high school coach and teacher, Beane took an internship with the Panthers in 1998 and never left – until Tuesday.
Beane’s training camp internship in the public relations department led to a full-time position in football operations, where Beane’s duties included picking players up at the airport, setting up travel arrangements and anything asked of him.
Former GM Marty Hurney promoted Beane to football operations director in 2008. Four years later, Beane took over as interim GM for the final 10 games after Hurney resigned.
The Panthers went 6-4 while Beane held the post. More important than the record, Beane showed a knack for evaluating talent by plucking edge rusher Mario Addison from Washington’s practice squad and signing kicker Graham Gano.
Addison re-signed with the Panthers on a three-year, $22.5 million deal this offseason after leading the team in sacks in 2016. Gano has made 83 percent of his field goals in five seasons in Charlotte, but struggled last year and will compete with rookie Harrison Butker at training camp.
Beane had experience managing the salary cap, but hadn’t done a ton of scouting early in his career. But he started going on the road to scout college games when he was interim GM, a practice he continued after Gettleman was hired (Beane was the only in-house candidate to interview).
Beane further honed his scouting chops under Gettleman, whose affinity for film-study is as well known as his love of minivans and bagels.
Gettleman and Beane would watch video of every play from every Panthers game, as well as most of the plays of free agents Carolina was considering. Gettleman says Beane was an eager film critic.
“I spent a lot of time with him watching film and teaching and doing those kind of things. And Brandon’s a sponge. He really listens. He’s very diligent. He works at it,” Gettleman said during a phone interview. “The only way you’re going to improve your evaluation skills is just grind tape. ... It was his willingness to listen and learn that really accelerated his progress in terms of becoming a general manager.”
Beane was promoted to assistant GM in 2015, and his name started popping up in discussions of up-and-coming front office executives.
He interviewed in January for the 49ers’ GM job that went to John Lynch. And when the rumblings began around the combine that former Bills GM Doug Whaley and McDermott weren’t on good terms, Beane was viewed as a logical candidate whenever Whaley was shown the door (hours after the draft wrapped up).
Beane, who will be introduced in Buffalo on Friday, and McDermott worked together six years in Carolina. Despite speculation to the contrary, Beane – not McDermott – will have control of the 53-man roster. If Beane wasn’t going to get the final say on personnel decisions, he wouldn’t have interviewed (and the Panthers wouldn’t have let him).
Gettleman does not foresee any major issues between his two former colleagues.
“He’ll have a comfort level having been with Sean all these years,” Gettleman said. “I think it’s a really good spot.”
Beane, 40, will have time to adjust to the lake-effect snow in Buffalo and the pressures of not having the “assistant” next to his title anymore. But not much.
The Bills haven’t made the playoffs since 1999, the NFL’s longest active postseason drought. McDermott and Beane certainly gave some thought about waiting for more attractive jobs to open.
But as lifelong climbers in the respective hometown organizations – McDermott got his start with the Eagles in his native Philly – they risked having their windows slam shut had they passed on Buffalo.
There are only 32 of these jobs – fewer for GMs when accounting for head coaches who have control of the roster, as Gettleman noted.
“It’s all about timing. Is he going to have the resources to get it done? Is he ready? Is the place ready? It’s all those things that come into play,” Gettleman said.
“Wherever you go there’s going to be issues. There’s a reason the job’s open. (Beane) investigated that. He had a second interview (Tuesday) and he pulled the trigger. It’s a good landing spot.”