Panthers linebacker Thomas Davis has literally given his body to the Carolina Panthers, playing the Super Bowl with a badly broken arm, and coming back from three torn ACLs. So when he asked for a contract extension prior to the last year of his deal, it seems like an almost automatic call for the owner who had practically made Davis a part of his family.
But Panthers General Manager Dave Gettleman always vowed that if he ever got a top job after years of waiting, he’d do it the way he always wanted to, and if that meant making cold, calculating business decisions about popular older players, then so be it.
The difference between those two positions might be a large part — if not the central part — of Gettleman’s sudden unemployment.
The 34-year-old linebacker has been clear about his desire to finish his career with the Panthers, and that he thought he had more than one year left in that career. He’s made his only two Pro Bowls the last two seasons, and considering the physical setbacks he’s overcome, that means a bit more.
But if you want to see how deeply the divide between Gettleman’s pragmatism and Davis’s emotional draw was felt, you only need a peek at a post that didn’t last long on social media.
A month ago, Davis’s wife Kelly posted on Twitter a message which read: “Loyalty means NOTHING nowadays but I love a person who knows their worth! #BigOlFacts #KnowYourWorth #NotShockedAtAll #ItsRumbleTime.”
It was worth a screenshot at the moment, if not an immediate news story, as the negotiations were at an early stage and she deleted it within minutes.
But looking back in the context of today’s news, and it was absolutely an omen for the future of Gettleman.
Richardson has always played favorites. He signed off on a number of contract extensions for players with dubious medical situations (Jake Delhomme, Dan Morgan) because he liked the players involved. He was willing to let Gettleman make some hard calls on others (Jordan Gross, Steve Smith), because he felt compelled to in the wake of overspending to keep a core together previously.
If the Davis situation turns out to be the linchpin in this move, then Gettleman deserves credit for sticking to his beliefs, and running a team in a practical way, without the intrusion of feelings. Giving money to aging players who are blocking former first-round picks (Shaq Thompson) is not the way to run a business.
But Richardson runs this particular business, so he gets to decide.
The Panthers owner is about to turn 81 years old tomorrow, and he’s more than eight years removed from the heart transplant that saved his life. His legacy matters very deeply to him, now more than ever.
Today’s move seems to make clear that when Richardson was deciding what he valued more, he went with that heart instead of his head, and Gettleman’s out of a job because of it.