The Panthers are on the clock, and the decision they make is more important than any draft pick. And there’s a chance that every option is the wrong one, for some reason.
All of last season and this offseason, the Panthers were expected to give interim General Manager Marty Hurney his old job back. That was still the case as recently as last week when they interviewed some Rooney Rule compliance — until he was hit with a harassment complaint from his ex-wife which has already been dismissed.
And at a time of heightened sensitivity in their building because of the league’s Jerry Richardson investigation — lead investigator Mary Jo White was scheduled to be there yesterday — they put him on paid leave pending a league investigation.
The problem is, league investigations take a lot of time — more time than the three weeks until the Scouting Combine, or the five weeks until the start of free agency, or the six weeks after that until the 2018 NFL Draft.
So in the short term, the Panthers are likely going to choose who handles those duties while the league does its thing. Sticking with Hurney would likely cause some (more) public relations backlash, but hiring one of their other candidates will cause plenty of football problems. None of the candidates they interviewed last week has any meaningful background with coach Ron Rivera and his staff, the team’s scouts or the player personnel on hand.
And with key linemen on both sides of the ball (Andrew Norwell and Star Lotulelei) about to hit free agency, major needs at wide receiver, running back and the secondary, a team that’s made the playoffs four of the last five years has a lot of work to do this spring. Probably more work than a guy who needs directions to the executive bathroom is going to be able to handle efficiently. Drafts are projects months in the making, and a new G.M. will be cramming for a final without notes.
Oh by the way, the team’s for sale, and the new owner who’s expected to walk through the door in May is watching.
The people involved in the Panthers’ decision-making process have known Hurney for years, and have known that his divorce was a bad one (by the standards in which even the good ones are awful). Their familiarity with him was enough to bring him back for a second stint with the team after he was fired in 2013. If they keep him now, there’s a better chance for stability on the football side for the coming season, which increases the chances for stability elsewhere in the organization under new ownership. If they don’t and the team struggles in front of the new boss, the changes in the building are going to be bigger than one man, one free agent or one draft pick.
And they all know that. Which means your morning’s already off to a better start than theirs.