Marty Hurney was fired on Monday as general manager (GM) of the Carolina Panthers, who are off to a 1-5 start and have not made the playoffs since 2008.
Brandon Beane, the team’s director of football operations, will handle day-to-day football matters until a new GM is hired, a person familiar with the situation told the Associated Press. The person spoke on the condition of anonymity because the move has not been announced.
The Panthers have the worst record in the National Football Conference (NFC) in a season that began with big expectations. The dismissal came a day after a 19-14 loss to Dallas.
Hurney, the GM since 2002, took responsibility for the team’s failures.
“I am very fortunate to have been a part of one of the best organizations in the NFL since 1998,” he said. “As general manager, I will always regret not helping us win the Super Bowl or having back-to-back winning seasons. I hope this change starts accomplishing the direction to those goals ... I am responsible for everybody in coaching, the players, the scouts and everybody in football operations. After six weeks, we are 1-5 coming off a 6-10 season.”
Hurney was general manager when the Panthers went to the 2003 Super Bowl and the NFC championship games in the 2003 and 2005 seasons, as well as winning the NFC South in 2008.
“Marty made every effort to bring success to the Panthers and took the team to a Super Bowl and two NFC championship games,” Panthers owner Jerry Richardson said. “Unfortunately, we have not enjoyed the success we hoped for in recent years. I have the greatest respect and admiration for Marty and will always appreciate the way he tirelessly served the organization.”
Hurney was well liked and respected within the organization, but his personnel decisions in the draft and in free agency were routinely criticized by fans tired of the Panthers’ losing ways.
Defensive end Charles Johnson, the team’s highest-paid player, said on Twitter: “Marty wasn’t the reason we are losing! ... Unbelievable!”
Carolina’s last playoff victory came in 2005, when they reached the NFC Championship game before losing to the Seattle Seahawks. The Panthers appeared to turn things around in 2008, when they won the NFC South championship and earned a first-round bye before getting upset 33-13 at home by the Arizona Cardinals. They have not been back to the playoffs since.
Hurney’s philosophy has been to build through the draft and re-sign proven players, rather than going after high-priced free agents. However, the team wasted a number of high draft picks through the years on players who became busts.
The personnel blunder that angered fans most was when Hurney gave 34-year-old quarterback Jake Delhomme a five-year, US$42.5 million contract only months after he turned the ball over six times in the playoff loss to Arizona.
Delhomme started 2009 with a five-turnover game against Philadelphia and was cut after the season. Delhomme cost the Panthers US$12 million under the salary cap in 2009, even though he was no longer on the roster, because the team had to absorb the remainder of his signing bonus.
Eric Shelton, Dwayne Jarrett, Jimmy Clausen and Everette Brown were all players who were drafted in the second round, but failed to meet expectations. Brown, in particular, was a costly choice in 2009, because the Panthers gave up their first-round draft pick the following year to the San Francisco 49ers to get him. Brown lasted only two seasons in Carolina and is now out of the league.
There were other poor decisions, including giving up a second-round pick last year to the New England Patriots for the rights to draft Armanti Edwards in the third round in 2010. Edwards has not been a factor after trying to make the transition from college quarterback at Appalachian State to receiver/returner in the NFL.
Hurney also was criticized for giving big free-agent contracts to keep the team’s core intact following a 2-14 season in 2010. He gave Johnson, who has never been to a Pro Bowl, a contract worth US$72 million and also handed out a five-year, US$43 million contract with US$21 million in guaranteed money to running back DeAngelo Williams. Williams has not done much since and serves as a part-time player.
This past off-season, the Panthers gave fellow running back Jonathan Stewart a deal worth more than US$5 million per year. That left the team with two high-priced running backs at a time when the NFL has moved toward becoming a passing league.
Hurney also cut kicker John Kasay and handed Olindo Mare a four-year, US$12 million deal that included a US$4 million signing bonus. Mare lasted one season.
He did well with many of his first-round draft picks over the years, landing players like Jordan Gross, Jon Beason, Jonathan Stewart, Chris Gamble and Cam Newton, last year’s No. 1 overall pick.