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Dave Gettleman put his stamp on Panthers, without firing a soul

Dave Gettleman AP

Dave Gettleman had 27 years in the NFL before he got his first General Manager’s job, so he had a long list of contacts and people he trusts and guys he had thought about hiring one day.

But after he took over the Panthers in 2013, he didn’t hire anyone. Because he didn’t have any openings. Because he didn’t create any.

Not only did Gettleman not blow up the Panthers front office or scouting department or coaching staff, he didn’t fire a single person after getting the job he had always dreamed of — keeping the entire football operation he inherited from former G.M. Marty Hurney. It wasn’t that his new boss insisted he keep them, he had decided years before he wasn’t going to do business that way.

The 64-year-old Gettleman smiled when asked how hard it was to not put his stamp on his new team after so long searching for such a job, and he went back to his early days in the business, in 1986 when he was in Buffalo.

When then coach Hank Bullough had the team off to a 2-7 start, he was fired midseason, replaced by a guy named Marv Levy who would go onto four Super Bowls. But Levy cleaned house (which may have been necessary), and that made an imprint on Gettleman, then a lowly scouting intern.

“I said to myself, if I ever get one of these jobs, I’m determined to give everybody an opportunity,” Gettleman said. “I just believe everybody deserves a shot. Firing people ain’t easy, and when you fire a coach or a scout, you fire all their wives and kids too.”

Gettleman was only fired once, by the Bills in 1992, and moving on to four years with the Broncos. He joined the Giants in 1998, and that’s where he met Ernie Accorsi, who would later become the consultant who pointed Panthers owner Jerry Richardson Gettleman’s way.

Gettleman said that after getting the job, he met with everyone and discussed some “philosophical changes,” but those didn’t cost a single scout or coach or bean-counter or anyone in the football side a job. He took what he had, and worked with it. The payoff is this week, the seventh Super Bowl he’s been a part of.

And while the Panthers’ stability has certainly played a part in their success, it’s also far from the norm in the NFL. When he was hired, he’d have been justified blowing the place up and starting over. He did the opposite.

It’s one thing to come into a job and make only minor changes, but to make none requires dedication to a principle. For Gettleman, that principle goes beyond football.

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35 Responses to “Dave Gettleman put his stamp on Panthers, without firing a soul”
  1. 23rdusernameused says: Feb 2, 2016 11:38 AM

    good move, good man, “firing wives and kids” is a good way to go about not having tons of turnover! Seems to have worked well for Dave too!
    props!

  2. rolltide510 says: Feb 2, 2016 11:46 AM

    Meh. Feel-good story, but he got pretty lucky. The idea it can always work this way and result in this kind of success is a bit naive.

  3. thereisalwaysnextyear says: Feb 2, 2016 11:46 AM

    I hate to suggest that you missed the point of your own article… But it did say that he was making changes just with the same people.

  4. themage78 says: Feb 2, 2016 11:47 AM

    Giants were stupid to have this guy walk away. They’d be playing in a couple more Superbowls if this guy had gotten the GM job instead of Reese.

  5. 1heatedtoombrayduh says: Feb 2, 2016 11:49 AM

    this is rare, glad it worked out for the guy though, but sometimes you just NEED to get rid of the dead weight.

  6. whodat5150 says: Feb 2, 2016 11:50 AM

    I don’t like giving this man his props because his success comes at the expense of my Saints. But while I sometimes have hate, I’m NOT a hater. Dave Gettleman deserves to be a winner because he didn’t let his ego get in his way. SOMETIMES things need to be “blown up” but not always. Too many executives (in other businesses also) see the need to put their personal stamp on things. He told the Panther staff members about his vision for the team and they were able to implement his plan. Big props to GM Gettleman, Coach Rivera and the other members of the organization.

  7. terminalmancer says: Feb 2, 2016 11:57 AM

    Success in reaching something that is as hard to get to as a Super Bowl is often the result of good luck. It’s probably fair to guess that Gettleman got lucky, and his humane approach had very little to do with his success. By the same token, the competing GMs who got to the Super Bowl and did clean house are also probably lucky, and cleaning house may not have helped much.

    Sometimes (most of the time?) it just doesn’t matter one way or the other, and you just aren’t helping yourself by being an a jerk. Might as well be nice to people and see what happens. At least that way you can still look in the mirror in the morning without too many regrets.

  8. cfbfan says: Feb 2, 2016 12:02 PM

    Kudos to a guy who worked his way up through the ranks as a HS coach, later as a scout and finally GM. Very good guy! Was our BLESTO scout for many years and spent many days with him in our meeting rooms watching video, talking football and food.

  9. granadafan says: Feb 2, 2016 12:07 PM

    Anyone who has been laid off by new management or for whatever lousy reason has a lot of respect for Gettleman and his approach. It’s easy to say that coaches and personnel chose this nomadic life, but these are still people with families trying to make a life in the community. Give them a chance. Often, the management are the ones who failed, not the people under them.

  10. celticsforever says: Feb 2, 2016 12:09 PM

    He’s done very well. Kudos. It must feel good to be 5 days away from an easy 25-point SB victory.

    Signed,
    Not a Panthers fan.

  11. pugstradamus says: Feb 2, 2016 12:10 PM

    Wasn’t he the fool for letting Steve Smith go? Oh yea something about hindsight being 20/20. Good for him, good for the Carolinas. Miss you all even though I was always talking trash with my Patriots playing your Panthers. You guys know who I am rooting for with my team out.

  12. polamalurulz43 says: Feb 2, 2016 12:12 PM

    Let’s not get too carried away. True as to the front office, but he let/forced Stevone Smith out the door before his prime, and it sure seems that would have been a good weapon to have between then and now.

  13. genericnflfan says: Feb 2, 2016 12:21 PM

    what a job this guy has done. people on here are calling him lucky? haha ya ok

  14. 6thsense10 says: Feb 2, 2016 12:38 PM

    polamalurulz43 says:
    Feb 2, 2016 12:12 PM
    Let’s not get too carried away. True as to the front office, but he let/forced Stevone Smith out the door before his prime, and it sure seems that would have been a good weapon to have between then and now.
    ——-
    You do realize that the money they saved by forcing Smith out was used in other areas on the roster right?

    I here you. I was right there with people joking that Cam would be passing to himself in addition to playing QB and part time RB after the Panthers got rid of their veteran receivers and didn’t sign any free agent of note to play the position. But it appears the plan worked out very well. And the money they used to shore up other areas of this team instead of signing receivers appears to be money well spent.

  15. realfootballfan says: Feb 2, 2016 12:53 PM

    He would have been silly to do so since this team found a lot of good talent under Hurney that was a consistent playoff contender. Hurney just never picked the botoom of the roster well, something Gettleman has excelled at and what the Giants excelled at when they won their 2 Super Bowls recently. You blow up the building if that’s not what you’re walking into like say what’s going on in Tennessee at the owner’s request or what was going on in Jacksonville when David Caldwell and Gus Bradley got there.

  16. Patch24680 says: Feb 2, 2016 1:06 PM

    When Dave Gettleman first came to the Panthers, I know I had concerns along with everyone else in Panther Nation. Didn’t know what to expect. But, clearly, he had a definite plan, and just needed some time. Who knew it was going to take him under 2 years to do what he has done?!!

    Kudos to JR for hiring Dave Gettleman! He has done an incredible job over the past couple of years and both the team and the community is now getting to celebrate the rewards of his hard work! And it’s only the beginning, Panther Nation! Keep Pounding!!!

  17. krabballs says: Feb 2, 2016 1:36 PM

    He did fire Steve Smith though.

  18. fishyinalittledishy says: Feb 2, 2016 1:39 PM

    If the you don’t win, heads will roll. Simple truth of the the NFL. If you don’t sell seats, bye bye loyal fans we are off. Simple truth of the NFL.

  19. matt2calvin says: Feb 2, 2016 2:02 PM

    Quinn did essentially the same thing in Detroit, recognizing the turn around that occurred after the Offensive Coordinator was replaced midseason.

    He did drop some scouts that were not pulling their weight, but everyone knew these guys were coasting for years.

    Although I don’t like the HC, I appreciate Quinn’s decision to give him one more year. Hopefully it turns out as well in Detroit as it did in Carolina…

  20. silvernblacksabbath says: Feb 2, 2016 2:07 PM

    How rare….Accorsi was with the Colts in ’83 (Elway) and then was with the Giants in ’04 when Sissy Manning refused to play for Sandy Eggo.

  21. virgiltab says: Feb 2, 2016 2:44 PM

    polamalurulz43 says:
    Feb 2, 2016 12:12 PM

    Let’s not get too carried away. True as to the front office, but he let/forced Stevone Smith out the door before his prime, and it sure seems that would have been a good weapon to have between then and now.
    ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

    As much as I loved Steve Smith, I was never bitter DG let him go. I knew/felt it had to be done for the sole purpose of whose team this was going to be….. Cam Newton’s team.

    I don’t think Smitty being here would have helped Cam’s growth as a leader. This was literally Smitty’s team, period, no one else. I feel there would have been way too much fighting(not literal) of who was the leader/Alpha Male on the team, in the huddle and off the field.

  22. popolover1 says: Feb 2, 2016 2:58 PM

    Realfootballfan: To EVEN compare Gettleman and Caldwell is ridiculous. One man has paid his dues and moved up in the NFL the right old fashion way. It’s called experience. How do you compare a man in his 60’s to one in their 40’s??? Caldwell took too many short cuts, and he has had his 3 years in with the Jags and now he is looking for excuses. His last draft with the Falcons is prime example.(2012). Caldwell can blame Gene Smith all he wants, his owner is new and may buy it. But the ‘Real’ football guys know and there are a whole crew of them who have been skipped over and eventually will get their dues, just like Gettleman.

  23. harrisonhits2 says: Feb 2, 2016 3:03 PM

    Continuity. It matters. The badly run teams reset their staffs over and over again. It factors into their consistent losing.

  24. MDRaider says: Feb 2, 2016 3:13 PM

    Many of the best players on the 2015 Panthers team were drafted by Marty Hurney, including Cam Newton, Luke Kuechly, and Thomas Davis.

  25. petezjunior says: Feb 2, 2016 3:19 PM

    Giants should’ve replaced Jerry with this guy…

  26. virgiltab says: Feb 2, 2016 3:25 PM

    MDRaider says:
    Feb 2, 2016 3:13 PM

    Many of the best players on the 2015 Panthers team were drafted by Marty Hurney, including Cam Newton, Luke Kuechly, and Thomas Davis.
    ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

    These were all easy picks to make.

    Its all the bad contracts and poor mid level talent scouting that Hurney did that handcuffed the Panthers and put them in Salary cap jail. DG came in, cleaned it up, drafted right and built the team from the middle out. The mid tier players(2nd and 3rd string) are what keep the team being successful.

  27. junkmtb says: Feb 2, 2016 3:51 PM

    GMAN!!!!! aka The Godfather!!!

  28. realfootballfan says: Feb 2, 2016 4:33 PM

    popolover1 ,

    Are you proposing that Caldwell walked into a great situation in Jacksonville? It’s not for me to say whether he deserved the shot when he got it, but I was comparing the disaster that Gene Smith did before he got there to what Hurney did before Gettleman got to Carolina. Same with Rustin Webster.

  29. enikville says: Feb 2, 2016 4:56 PM

    He did in fact fire some players though, including Steve Smith and DeAngelo Williams.

  30. bigblu73 says: Feb 2, 2016 5:03 PM

    themage78 says:
    Feb 2, 2016 11:47 AM
    Giants were stupid to have this guy walk away. They’d be playing in a couple more Superbowls if this guy had gotten the GM job instead of Reese.

    **********************************************************************************************************************

    You do realize that Gettleman got the Panthers Gig the year after WE(GIANTS) won the SuperBowl right?

    What WINNING Organization/Corporation fires a GM after winning 2 SuperBowls within 4(’07&’11) Years???

    Lol And the fact that you have over 107 IDIOTS that think the Giants in 2012 should have fired Reese to give Gettleman the job is proof that some folks truly are

    “PRISONERS OF THE MOMENT”

    —-A Real Giants Fan

  31. bigblu73 says: Feb 2, 2016 5:06 PM

    You do realize that Gettleman got the Panthers Gig just 2 years after WE(GIANTS) won the SuperBowl right?

    What WINNING Organization/Corporation fires a GM after winning 2 SuperBowls within 4(’07&’11) Years???

    Lol And the fact that you have over 107 IDIOTS that think the Giants in 2013 should have fired Reese to give Gettleman the job is proof that some folks truly are

    “PRISONERS OF THE MOMENT”

    —-A Real Giants Fan

    *******************************************************************************************************************
    Thats how it should have read before someone gets on here and blasts me for a insignificant detail……

  32. charliecharger says: Feb 2, 2016 7:26 PM

    This guy sounds like a great person. If he’s the chief scout, he’s going to grade all the top players anyway, so it doesn’t matter about the other scouts. Plus, when guys are expecting to be fired by the new guy, they’ll run through walls for you if you keep them.

  33. bigbluenationdb says: Feb 2, 2016 7:54 PM

    Giants should have kept him and got rid of Reese!

  34. kingfi says: Feb 2, 2016 9:44 PM

    enikville says:
    Feb 2, 2016 4:56 PM
    He did in fact fire some players though, including Steve Smith and DeAngelo Williams.

    *********************************************************

    He didn’t fire them right away though. He gave them a shot. He wanted Steve Smith to help bring along the younger receivers and Smith was unwilling, so he was let go. Williams was kind of coasting at the end of his time with the Panthers – he’s gotten better this year now that he’s lost weight. But the point is, Gettleman wanted to give them everyone the opportunity and he gave Smith & Williams opportunities they just blew them.

  35. popolover1 says: Feb 2, 2016 10:03 PM

    Realfootballfan: No I am saying Its been 3 years, Jags have not improved enough, moving up a couple draft picks does not warrant an applause, he just plain has not done well. Football rules are you should see some kind of changes in 3 years, those are facts for a reason….. Did he go after the best scouts? In fairness, all Caldwell did was give a bunch of his buddies jobs, and the rest are the same scouts Smith had, so this where he is….Watch, I bet one of them back stabs him and replaces him…… Wait, watch, and see.

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