This still in: The Carolina Panthers are not going to fire general manager Dave Gettleman during the season, and I’ll be shocked if they fire him when the season ends. They were rather good last season, you’ll recall, and the general manager collected that talent.
Gettleman gambled by not signing cornerback Josh Norman in April. Norman is one of my all-time favorite Panther players and people. He’s funny and outrageous and doesn’t say, “no comment.” He also works – I mean he really works – at his craft. He’s talented and he believes, and he’s entitled to believe.
Norman obviously benefited last season from playing behind the best front seven in football. The front seven also benefited from Norman’s presence behind them. Unable to sign Norman, Gettleman applied the franchise tag – we always write applied as if it’s a wrestling hold. The Panthers were going to rent him for a season. Gettleman then rescinded the tag and allowed Norman to leave. Norman now is a star with Washington.
Gettleman is a tough guy, and he does tough things in front of everybody. You’ll recall that he went to a long-term veteran Jordan Gross and compelled him to take a pay cut, which is in large part why Gross retired the following season, 2014.
Gettleman released his hold on Norman not because Panthers owner Jerry Richardson told him to be cheap (that Richardson is cheap probably is the greatest sports myth in Charlotte history). Gettleman did not think he could sign Norman to a long-term contract that would benefit the team.
And in the Panthers’ system, a defensive tackle (such as Kawann Short, whom Carolina was unable to sign this off-season) is more valuable than a cornerback.
I wrote this in September, and it becomes truer every week. Carolina’s front seven has been reduced to a front two – linebackers Luke Kuechly and Thomas Davis. And even they have been inconsistent. It’s as if Kuechly and Davis are trying to compensate for the players around them.
The Panthers aren’t blitzing much. Under defensive coordinator Sean McDermott, they never have. They didn’t have to. Send four and knock the quarterback to the floor. A blitz was a pleasant surprise, and McDermott’s timing was impeccable. Short was superb last season. He hasn’t been this season, and nobody is getting to the quarterback from the outside.