Panthers general manager Marty Hurney was fired Monday.
But the clock on his tenure really started ticking on Feb. 1, 2009, the day Panthers owner Jerry Richardson underwent heart transplant surgery.
Since then, Richardson has been a man aware of his mortality, and time to build was no longer the first priority for the 76-year-old owner.
How the Panthers are closer to winning now than they were last night is a mystery, because many of the moves Hurney made in recent years were strictly of the owner’s bidding.
From taking a hard line on franchised defensive end Julius Peppers to paying loyalty contracts to players such as Jake Delhomme to keep the 12-4 2008 division title team together, many of the moves Hurney was criticized most heavily for had Richardson’s thumbprints all over them. Likewise using the uncapped year in 2010 to clear the books for a post-lockout splurge on fan favorites such as DeAngelo Williams were moves dictated from upstairs.
The former sportswriter turned salary cap manager handled those moves, and built as best he could after the Panthers once-happy marriage with coach John Fox fell apart in 2009.
The current mess is as much about the coaching staff he hired not using the players he acquired properly, but Hurney was an easy fall guy for a team which had won nine games since the start of the 2009 season.
That overshadows a stable base of talent he’s assembled, including quarterback Cam Newton.
How they proceed at this point is a mystery, though it’s reasonable to assume team president Danny Morrison (the man Richardson hired to run the business when he fired his sons) will have a strong hand in the process.
Either way, the next football man will be on a short leash, because the man who brought football to the Carolinas believes he’s on borrowed time.