Marty Hurney yesterday was relieved of his duties as NFL Panthers GM and said that the parting "was not mutual," according to a front-page piece by Joseph Person of the CHARLOTTE OBSERVER. The Panthers “never had consecutive winning seasons under Hurney," a former sportswriter who joined the organization in '98 before being promoted to GM in '02. Hurney yesterday "spoke highly" of team Owner Jerry Richardson, saying that "there is no one in the organization he was closer with." But Hurney also “pointed to what he called the team’s ‘losing environment’ and questioned the leadership among the players." He had been “working without a contract, so the team is under no obligation to pay him a buyout.” The Panthers did not name an interim GM, and personnel decisions will be “a collaborative effort handled principally" by coach Ron Rivera and Pro Scouting Dir Mark Koncz. The rest of the front office and the scouting department “probably will remain intact through the season” (CHARLOTTE OBSERVER, 10/23). ESPN.com's Pat Yasinskas wrote Hurney's philosophy has been to “build through the draft and re-sign proven players rather than going after high-priced free agents.” But the team “wasted a number of high draft picks through the years on players who became busts.” Since Hurney took over as GM in '02, only “seven NFL teams have had more draft picks" than the Panthers' 91 selections (ESPN.com, 10/22). Panthers DE Charles Johnson yesterday wrote on his Twitter feed, "Marty wasn't the reason we are losing! That's bs! Unbelievable! Marty might be the realist GM that I know#InMyMind BS BS BS BS!" (TWITTER.com, 10/22).
ONLY THE BEGINNING? In Charlotte, Scott Fowler writes Hurney’s departure was “sudden, but not completely unexpected.” Hurney has “shepherded a team that has won only nine games since the beginning of 2010, the fewest in the NFL in that time period.” More changes "are coming” for the Panthers. Richardson yesterday morning met with Rivera, and while Rivera “wouldn’t reveal much of that conversation, it’s apparent that everything is on the table.” Richardson “isn’t known for his patience and is tired of losing.” If he will “fire his close friend Hurney ... than anything is possible.” Everyone in the organization "except for Richardson himself has to feel the pressure now.” Fowler: "But how far will the changes drill down? Hurney locked enough players into expensive long-term contracts that you can’t just fire them all without killing yourself under the NFL salary cap" (CHARLOTTE OBSERVER, 10/23). PRO FOOTBALL TALK’s Darin Gantt wrote, "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." It is "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” (PROFOOTBALLTALK.com, 10/22). ESPN's Tony Kornheiser said, "Firing the GM isn’t the thing that’s going to turn this thing around” (“PTI,” ESPN, 10/22).
CAUGHT OFF GUARD: In Charlotte, Tom Sorensen writes the timing “is odd,” as Richardson would “never fire a key employee to placate angry fans.” Richardson is “frustrated,” as “this was going to be his season.” Sorensen writes, “I believed Hurney had a job for life. … Richardson told me before the season he would not trade Hurney for any general manager in football.” Sorensen: “Hurney, however, told me twice Monday that the decision was Richardson’s. A source in the organization confirms it” (CHARLOTTE OBSERVER, 10/23). Pro Football Talk's Mike Florio said the firing of Hurney was “bizarre timing because they’re already out of their bye week," as that is "usually when you see changes get made.” Florio said Richardson “had gotten to the point where he had to do something, and what else are you going to do at this point?" ("Pro Football Talk," NBC Sports Network, 10/22). PFT's Gantt in a separate piece wrote, "The decision to fire Hurney in October is unusually timed within the context of the current season, but will give Richardson the chance to formulate a list of candidates now, so that ... he can talk to them as soon as the season ends.” In the short term, the “surprise might be greater that coach Ron Rivera and offensive coordinator Rob Chudzinski still have jobs” (PROFOOTBALLTALK.com, 10/22).
WELCOME TO CAM-ELOT? SI.com’s Chris Burke wrote after firing Hurney, "figuring out the next step might be even harder.” Barring a “miraculous 9-1 or 10-0 finish, this season stands as a lost one for the Panthers when it comes to competing for a playoff spot.” That means “two years of letdowns in the Cam Newton era.” If you compare Newton to “some of the other quarterbacks drafted in the past two years, it’s a troubling situation for Carolina.” Hurney’s dismissal “caught a lot of people off-guard Monday morning, but as Newton said, something has to change in Carolina.” It is “hard to expect that a new GM will bring instant success in 2013, either” (SI.com, 10/22). ESPN's Jemele Hill said Hurney's firing “is an off-season issue." Hill: "The in-season issue is Cam Newton, his maturity, his lack of leadership and his turnovers. Those are the reasons why Carolina isn’t further ahead” (“Around The Horn,” ESPN, 10/22).