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Marty Hurney returns to Panthers

CHARLOTTE, N.C. — The Carolina Panthers on Wednesday hired Marty Hurney — on an interim basis — to replace the general manager who replaced him four years ago.

Hurney takes over for Dave Gettleman, who on Monday was fired by team owner Jerry Richardson despite helping Carolina reach the playoffs — including a trip to Super Bowl 50 — in three of his four seasons.


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Gettleman was hired in January 2013 to replace Hurney, who was fired after a 1-5 start to the 2012 season and a 6-10 record in 2011.

Hurney said at a news conference that he heard from a “buddy of mine” on Monday morning that Gettleman had been fired. Late in the afternoon he got a call asking if he would meet with Richardson on Tuesday.

“There’s a trust there,” he said. “I know him. He knows me. We know the principals and philosophy. We both have a burning desire to win games, to bring a successful season to this city.”

Hurney said when he and Richardson met they talked strictly about moving forward, not about why Gettleman was fired. But he said knowing Richardson the way he does it wasn’t a rash decision made in one day.

Hurney said his immediate focus was on learning the roster and getting ready for this season. He won’t start narrowing down a list of candidates for a fulltime general manager until after the season.

Asked if he might be a candidate for the fulltime position, Hurney was vague.

“Honestly, I’ve got 93 text messages on my phone right now,” he said. “I’m not looking past this afternoon. I’m here in an interim capacity and I’m here in this role.”

By naming an interim general manager, the Panthers, according to a league spokesman, did not violate the Rooney Rule. The rule requires a team to interview at least one minority candidate for high-profile positions such as general manager and head coach.

There was no formal search in 2012 when Brandon Beane was promoted to interim general manager after Hurney was fired.

But John Wooten, the chairman of the Fritz Pollard Alliance that advocates for minority hiring in the NFL, told The Charlotte Observer he believes the rule should apply.

“The Rooney Rule clearly states that if you are hiring a person or in search of filling a position and that position has to do with being in charge or being in charge with personnel, then you must adhere to the Rooney Rule,” Wooten said.

Marty Hurney is back in the role of general manager for the Panthers, although this time on an interim basis. AP Photo/Neil Redmond, File
The transition for Hurney should be simple. Hurney remained in Charlotte and purchased radio station ESPN 730 after his dismissal. Most of the front-office personnel and many of the key players remain in place from when he was with the organization.

Hurney also hired coach Ron Rivera in 2011 and has remained close to Richardson.

Rivera said with training camp starting on Tuesday, “we’ve got the right guy at the right time.”

“He knows us,” Rivera said. “He knows the organization. He knows how Mr. Richardson thinks, which is very important.”

Bringing back Hurney now gives the organization time to find a full-time replacement after the season with players reporting to training camp on Tuesday. Richardson also would have the option of making Hurney the full-time general manager. Team officials said Hurney will help hire the next GM.

Hurney joined the Panthers in 1998 after serving in the Chargers’ front office under Bobby Beathard. He was named the general manager in 2002 and helped the Panthers reach the Super Bowl after the 2003 season.

Hurney was responsible for bringing to the organization 10 of the 21 starters on the 2015 team that went an NFL-best 15-1 and reached Super Bowl 50.

“He worked with us for 15 years and understands the culture we have here,” Richardson said in a statement. “He had a lot to do with the core of our team being in place. I’m thankful that he is willing to help us in this transition period.”

Among the current players Hurney drafted are quarterback Cam Newton, middle linebacker Luke Kuechly, center Ryan Kalil, outside linebacker Thomas Davis and defensive end Julius Peppers.

Peppers, like Hurney, is on his second go-around with Carolina. The nine-time Pro Bowl selection and team’s all-time sack leader re-signed during the offseason after spending the past seven seasons at Chicago and Green Bay.

Peppers left after the 2009 season because he and Hurney were about $6 million apart in negotiations for a new deal.

Hurney also selected defensive end Charles Johnson, second on the team’s all-time sack list, in the third round of the 2007 draft. In 2011, Hurney made Johnson the highest-paid player in the league with a six-year, $76 million deal that received a lot of criticism.

The Panthers were $16 million over the salary cap when Gettleman was hired. He made tough personnel decisions, such as the release of all-time leading wide receiver Steve Smith after the 2013 season and all-time leading rusher DeAngelo Williams after the 2014 season.

That received harsh criticism from both players, who expressed their satisfaction with Gettleman’s firing on social media this week.

Gettleman also was criticized for rescinding the franchise tag of 2015 Pro Bowl selection Josh Norman after the Panthers’ Super Bowl run. The Panthers, with a young, untested secondary, fell to 6-10 in 2016.

Hurney selected Norman in the fifth round of the 2012 draft out of Coastal Carolina.

One of Hurney’s first tasks will be to negotiate an extension for Davis, 34, who is heading into the final year of his contract.

Olsen, who has two years left on his deal, also wants an extension after becoming the first tight end in NFL history to record three straight seasons with 1,000 receiving yards.

“The only time I’ve heard of that so far is in the media,” Hurney said of extensions for both players. “We have to do things, the right decisions.”

One of Hurney’s best trades came in 2011, when he gave the Chicago Bears a third-round pick for Olsen, who has since become a three-time Pro Bowl selection.

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