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Footnote or significant development? GM Marty Hurney fired by Panthers

NFL: AUG 08 Preseason - Panthers at Bears Photo by Robin Alam/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

It was announced this morning that the Carolina Panthers’ owner David Tepper has fired the franchise’s General Manager, Marty Hurney.

Here’s a bit of detail from an article on the team’s website, Panthers.com, announcing the move:

Panthers owner David Tepper said that after recent conversations with Hurney about the structure of the team’s football operations, it became clear they had some different ideas. Tepper was careful to say he respected Hurney’s traditional approach but hopes to blend more of a data-driven process into the football operation.

“I think sometimes you just need a restart, a refresh,” Tepper said. “We did it last year on the coaching side. Maybe you could say it should have been done before on the GM side. Maybe it should have been. I’m sure people may say that, or otherwise, on both sides.

“I think it’s just time, on both sides, to do that. It just seems like the right time to move forward.”

The move comes just about 13 months after Tepper fired Washington’s current head coach, Ron Rivera, citing a desire to move the franchise in a new direction. GM Hurney’s contract ran through June of 2021, but the disappointing 4-10 record and a desire for the most synergistic relationship possible with rookie head coach Matt Rhule seem to have played a big part in the move. Tepper said Rhule would also be a participant in the GM search.

“You look at successful organizations, and there’s a certain alignment between the head coach and the GM,” Tepper said. “To think that you can do that without some sort of alignment is nuts. So to not have a head coach with some input into that is stupid. I don’t want to be stupid, OK?”

Hurney’s relationship with the Panthers has been a bit on-again-off-again. He joined the Panthers in 1998 as director of football administration and became GM in 2002. He was removed during the 2012 season, but returned to the role in an interim basis in 2017 before reclaiming the post full-time after that season.

This could well be a mere footnote for Washington fans as the Football Team prepares to play the Carolina Panthers this Sunday in a game that has the potential to lock up an NFC East division title for the burgundy & gold.

That said, it could mean much more.

Recently, there have been media reports that the Washington Football Team is considering adding a General Manager. Just about a week ago, Sports Illustrated’s Albert Breer wrote:

Washington is very pleased with the work of Ron Rivera, to the point where if the Football Team does hire a GM, and I think they probably will, I’m told that search would be led by Rivera. If it happens, I’d expect ex-Lions GM Martin Mayhew (who shares an agent with Rivera) to be in the running, as well as former Panthers personnel men Ryan Cowden (Tennessee’s VP of player personnel) and Joe Schoen (Buffalo’s assistant GM).

Many Washington fans would hope that any move to put a GM in place would start and end with the current Vice President of Player Personnel, Kyle Smith; however, Smith was promoted to that position less than a year ago, and some have speculated that a second promotion this soon is unlikely.

In fact, Breer tweeted last week, in the wake of his published article, that Washington could seek to bring in an older, more experienced GM to work in concert with the 36-year-old Kyle Smith, and that such a hire wouldn’t necessarily spell the end of Smith’s tenure in DC. Today, Breer is openly suggesting that Washington and Ron Rivera could have specific interest in recruiting the 63-year-old Hurney, who is a Wheaton, Maryland native, and who attended Good Counsel High School and Catholic University in Washington, D.C.

Hurney has also been part of the Washington franchise previously; in fact, worked as a writer for the Washington Times prior to joining the Redskins public relations department when Jack Kent Cooke still owned the team. He moved to San Diego with Bobby Beathard before winding up in Carolina, where he worked for a number of years with Ron Rivera.

There has been speculation about a potential Rivera-Hurney reunion ever since the coach was hired by Dan Snyder, driven in part by Rivera’s public comments and in part by his propensity, common in the NFL and other businesses, to surround himself with people he has worked with before and whom he trusts.

Note this twitter report from PFN from early January:

Now that Hurney is a “free agent”, is it possible that the eddy of speculation and Breer’s timely report could signal a reunion between the former Panther’s GM and former Panther’s coach? Rivera has talked consistently about a collaborative approach with the personnel group, and, given all that has happened since Rivera’s hiring was announced, there would be no confusion about who is in charge, and Hurney would be a professional football executive with whom Rivera has a comfortable existing relationship filled with mutual respect.

A Rivera-Hurney reunion could even be a potentially positive signal for supporters of Kyle Smith, given Smith’s and Hurney’s relative ages. If the hiring of Hurney, if it happened at all, were to be handled the right way, there could be a clear succession plan in place to move seamlessly from Hurney to Smith when the former reaches retirement.

Again, all of this is mere speculation at this point; the ink isn’t dry on Hurney’s termination letter, and we have very little beyond Albert Breer’s report to suggest that Washington will, in fact, be looking to add a GM this off-season, but this all takes place against a background of low-level speculation over the past ten or eleven months that is consistent with a Rivera-Hurney reunion in Washington.

It seems to tie up in a nice neat bundle, but it may turn out to be nothing more than a not-so-interesting footnote to the Week 16 game between Carolina and Washington.

Poll

Which of the following is closest to the way you would feel about Marty Hurney being hired by Washington?

This poll is closed

  • 7%
    An experienced footbal professional with a good relationship with Ron Rivera? Sounds great!
    (29 votes)
  • 39%
    If this means a collaboration between Hurney and Kyle Smith, I’m okay with it.
    (160 votes)
  • 45%
    I’d prefer they simply promote Kyle Smith or stick with the status quo.
    (185 votes)
  • 8%
    Another Carolina crony of Rivera’s?! No thanks.
    (35 votes)
409 votes total Vote Now