Marty Hurney

Panthers Owner David Tepper Considering Major Changes

When David Tepper purchased the Panthers for over $2.2 billion earlier this year, he indicated that he was comfortable with the team’s coaching and management situation and was not looking to make major changes. However, Jason La Canfora of CBS Sports writes that Tepper is growing increasingly uneasy with the status quo and has told those close to him that he may need to make those changes after all.

The Panthers got out to a hot start in 2018 but have lost three in a row and now find themselves on the fringes of the NFC playoff picture. Tepper is reportedly concerned about the dearth of modern analytics in the team’s operations, and the team’s regression on defense and a few questionable in-game decisions by head coach Ron Rivera have added to Tepper’s worries.

Rivera has served as Carolina’s head coach since 2011, and he has generally been quite successful, having compiled a 70-52-1 record and an NFC Championship. His job security has come into question a couple of times over the course of his tenure, but it was expected that Tepper, a former minority owner of the Steelers, would want to bring the Steeler Way to Carolina. In other words, he was expected to champion the ideals of continuity and stability, particularly with respect to someone like Rivera, who has established a mostly strong track record with the club.

GM Marty Hurney, who is in his second stint leading Carolina’s front office, was hired as the interim GM in 2017 and had the interim label removed earlier this year. If Rivera’s status is up in the air at this point, Hurney’s probably is as well.

Of course, the Panthers are still more than capable of qualifying for the playoffs and making a deep run, which would probably make all of this a moot point. Jourdan Rodrigue of the Charlotte Observer tweets that Tepper has been consistently communicative with the team’s front office and coaching staff about where they stand, though Rodrigue concedes that much will depend on how the Panthers perform down the stretch.

If Tepper does decide to part ways with Rivera, he may have his pick of the top head-coaching candidates. The roster already has plenty of talent, and Tepper himself is seen as bright, engaged, and progressive. The team’s GM position would be similarly attractive for those reasons.

La Canfora says that Tepper’s confidants have urged him to remain patient, but it sounds as if Rivera and Hurney could be on their way out if Carolina does not make the postseason.

NFC South Notes: Panthers, Saints, Bucs

David Tepper‘s $2.275 billion Panthers purchase price was not the high bid during this process. Albert Breer of SI.com reports Ben Navarro‘s bid came in closer to Jerry Richardson‘s desired $2.6 billion price. But NFL owners had long preferred Tepper, a part-owner of the Steelers, to Navarro. Richardson wanted the team to go to a Carolinian, and Navarro is a Charleston, S.C., native. However, Tepper was able to make his bid mostly in cash, whereas Navarro had to bring in partners some in the league’s power structure found unsatisfactory. The NFL “didn’t trust his money,” Breer writes, paving the way for Tepper. A credit card company mogul, Navarro encountered scrutiny from other owners, to the point he had to hire a PR firm to navigate obstacles during this high-profile pursuit. Additionally, fellow bidder Michael Rubin assembled a group of potential buyers that turned off some owners, Breer reports.

Here’s the latest from the NFC South, which involves the highest-profile player in the NBA’s Pacific Division.

  • Rubin attempted to bring in Steph Curry, a Charlotte native, but the NBA nixed that, Breer reports. A Curry/Rubin venture would have violated an NBA bylaw that prevents players from forming business partnerships with owners from other teams. The Golden State Warriors’ two-time MVP would have been working with a part-owner of the Philadelphia 76ers in Rubin, and even though they would have been partners in another sport, that evidently wouldn’t have mattered.
  • Tepper will try to run the Panthers like the Steelers; he’s unlikely to change Carolina’s football operations at this point. In preparation for this entrance into the franchise-ownership game, Tepper consulted Steelers GM Kevin Colbert and VP of football and business administration Omar Khan about Panthers GM Marty Hurney and HC Ron Rivera. And Breer reports the Pittsburgh execs were staunch supporters of both Carolina decision-makers.
  • The Saints will convert UDFA tight end Nate Wozniak to tackle, Josh Katzenstein of NOLA.com reports. A University of Minnesota product who caught just 28 passes in four seasons, the 6-foot-10 Wozniak weighed only 268 pounds at his pro day. He’s coming in north of 280 now and is aiming to get to 300, per Katzenstein, who adds other teams pursued Wozniak in hopes of converting him to tackle.
  • A Buccaneers staffer since 2014, Brian McLaughlin will ascend to the role of a national scout. Jenna Laine of ESPN.com notes McLaughlin will be part of National Football Scouting, of which 15 NFL teams are affiliated, and piece together early prospect rankings that help set up organizational scouting reports.

New Panthers Owner Unlikely To Alter Football Ops

Minority Steelers owner David Tepper was expected to formally purchase the Panthers today, and while he’ll assume control of the franchise in the near future, Tepper isn’t planning to overhaul Carolina’s front office or coaching staff, according to Mike Florio of Pro Football Talk.

General manager Marty Hurney and head coach Ron Rivera are each under contract through the 2020 campaign, and given that Adam Schefter of ESPN.com reported earlier today Tepper wants to bring the “Steeler Way” to Carolina, it’s no surprise he’s unwilling to make major changes upon takeover. Indeed, “continuity, stability, [and] progressive thinking on player contract extensions” are said to be Tepper’s initial goals, so keeping incumbent staff in place seems like an obvious strategy.

Rivera, of course, has enjoyed immense success as the Panthers’ head coach, but Hurney’s status as general manager seemed a bit more tenuous. Hurney, now in his second stint leading Carolina’s front office, only recently had the interim label removed from his title, and it was unclear whether new ownership would seek to retain him.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Panthers Won’t Trade Future First Rounder

In his first run as the Panthers’ GM, Marty Hurney made a habit of trading future first-round picks in order to move up the board. In this year’ s draft, he vows that there won’t be a repeat. 

[RELATED: Panthers Sign Greg Olsen To Extension]

I can tell you right now that you can consider next year’s first-round pick safe,” Hurney told David Mayo of The Associated Press. “… We will probably be getting calls, so if you can just tweet that out.

In 2008, Hurney traded away the team’s 2009 first-round choice to select offensive tackle Jeff Otah with the No. 19 pick. Then, in 2009, he traded the team’s 2010 first-round selection to get defensive end Everette Brown in the second round. Neither move paid dividends for Carolina, which might explain the change in his philosophy.

You step back and look at some of the things you have done,” Hurney said. “You look at what you did and what you can do better. You also look at what you did well.”

The Panthers own four picks in the first three rounds this year: the No. 24 overall pick, their original second round pick (No. 55 overall), a third round pick from the Bills acquired in the Kelvin Benjamin trade (No. 85), and their original third round pick (No. 88).

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

NFC Notes: Falcons, Seahawks, Panthers

Andre Roberts wants to return to the Falcons next season, but the returner is expecting to become a free agent in the middle of March.

“I believe I will be a free agent this year,” Roberts told D. Orlando Ledbetter of The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. “Just like last year and the year before that. I’m understanding of it.

“I would love to be back in Atlanta. I’m sure my agent will talk to the upper management in Atlanta and see where they are at. That will all come down when it’s due time.”

The 30-year-old finished the campaign having averaged 7.4 yards on 27 punt returns and 22.6 yards on a league-leading 38 kickoff returns. He also played 31 snaps on offense, adding a single reception for 12 yards.

Let’s take a look at some more notes from around the NFC…

  • Bruce Irvin‘s contract will count $8.25MM against the cap next season, but the Raiders wouldn’t be stuck with any dead money if they moved on from the veteran linebacker. If the Raiders were to cut Irvin, ESPN.com’s Brady Henderson believes a reunion with the Seahawks would make plenty of sense. Michael Wilhoite and Terence Garvin are both free agents and Cliff Avril is dealing with a serious neck injury, so Seattle could certainly be in the market for reinforcement at linebacker. After being selected in the first round of the 2012 draft, Irvin played the first four seasons of his career in Seattle.
  • Jerry Richardson is making his final mark on the Panthers by retaining general manager Marty HurneyJoseph Person of the Charlotte Observer notes that a new ownership group could be willing to buy out the executive’s contract, but the recent move assures that Hurney at least gets paid. While terms of the deal were not disclosed, Joseph believes the general manager was signed for several seasons.
  • The Seahawks recently announced changes to their coaching staff (via Seahawks.com’s John Boyle). The majority of the additions had previously been reported, but we did learn that the team had hired offensive assistant Steve Shimko. The coach previously served as the offensive coordinator at Garden City Community College in Kansas, and he previously worked with offensive coordinator Brian Schottenheimer at the University of Georgia.

Panthers Appoint Marty Hurney As GM

Marty Hurney is the Panthers’ GM. Again. Marty Hurney

On Wednesday, the Panthers announced that they have removed the interim tag from Hurney’s title. He’ll move forward as the team’s top decision maker, which was the expected outcome this offseason.

Hurney’s first run as the Panthers’ GM came from 2002-12. When the Panthers made the surprising move to fire Dave Gettleman in the summer, they re-hired Hurney in an interim capacity. At the time, the team said that part of Hurney’s job would be to “help the team identify its next general manager.” Apparently, Hurney discovered the team’s new GM while shaving.

We are very fortunate to have Marty as our general manager after he did an exceptional job in the interim role this past season.” Panthers COO Tina Becker said. “Marty’s guidance and vision helped build the foundation for this team, and his work this season was instrumental in returning the team to the playoffs. We believe he will continue to craft a roster that will win games and contend for a championship.”

Hurney has not managed a draft since 2012, but as the team’s press release notes, that draft brought linebacker Luke Kuechly (No. 9 overall) and cornerback Josh Norman (fifth round) to Carolina. Hurney is also responsible for the drafting of notables such as quarterback Cam Newton, defensive end Julius Peppers, offensive tackle Jordan Gross, cornerback Chris Gamble, linebackers Thomas Davis, and Jon Beason, and running backs DeAngelo Williams and Jonathan Stewart.

Before giving the job to Hurney, the Panthers interviewed Bills scout Lake Dawson twice while 49ers executive Martin Mayhew and Texans exec Jimmy Raye III at least once. By interviewing a minority candidate (in this case, multiple minority candidates), the Panthers satisfied the Rooney Rule.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Hurney Still Favorite For Panthers GM Job

Marty Hurney has been cleared of wrongdoing by the league office and he’s once again in the catbird seat to move forward as the team’s GM. Hurney remains the favorite for the Panthers’ permanent GM post and things could be finalized soon, Ian Rapoport of NFL.com (on Twitter) hears. Marty Hurney

[RELATED: Panthers’ Marty Hurney Reinstated]

From the get-go, there were whispers that the GM job was never really available, despite the Panthers interviewing three other candidates for the job. The Panthers satisfied the Rooney Rule already, so there should be no roadblocks in the way if they do decide on Hurney. Bills scout Lake Dawson was interviewed twice while 49ers exec Martin Mayhew and Texans player personnel VP Jimmy Raye III each met with team brass at least once.

Hurney’s first stint as the Panthers’ GM came from 2002-12. In that span, he oversaw three playoff teams, including which saw a Super Bowl berth. The Panthers went just 80-85 during that span, but he maintained his connections within the organization and kept close watch on the team as he worked for ESPN Radio in Charlotte. Panthers stars Cam Newton, Luke Kuechly, Thomas Davis, and Greg Olsen were all brought in during Hurney’s first term.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Panthers Reinstate Marty Hurney

Marty Hurney is back with the Panthers. On Friday, the Panthers announced that they have reinstated the interim GM after the completion of a league investigation into harassment allegations. Marty Hurney (vertical)

Its been a very long two weeks for Marty and his family,” Hurney’s attorney, Kathleen Lucchesi, said in a statement (Twitter link via ESPN.com’s David Newton). “In this digital age, it’s nearly impossible to overcome suspicion, defend yourself, and clear your name once the court of public opinion gets a hold of a false narrative. The public scrutiny can be devastating and unrelenting. In this case, it was also unnecessary. Words cannot express how thankful Marty is for the love and unwavering support of his family. He is grateful to the NFL for conducting a thorough investigation. He is also grateful for the continued confidence and support of the Panthers organization. Marty is looking forward to getting back to the work of building a strong and successful Panthers team for the 2018 season.”

It was said to be a foregone conclusion that Hurney would be appointed to the Panthers’ permanent GM post, but things were thrown into flux when his ex-wife raised allegations against him. Even though his former partner, Jeanne, withdrew the claims in court, the NFL still did its due diligence. Meanwhile, the Panthers placed Hurney on paid leave and suspended the GM search.

Now that Hurney has been cleared of wrongdoing by the NFL, the Panthers may move quickly to make him the full-time GM hire. However, Bills scout Lake Dawson received two interviews for the job and he is reportedly a legitimate candidate for the post. The team also met with 49ers exec Martin Mayhew and Texans player personnel VP Jimmy Raye III.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

NFC South Notes: Saints, Brees, Panthers

If Drew Brees decides to play hardball, he could take control of his contract negotiations with the Saints, Jeff Duncan of the Times-Picayune writes. But, so far, Brees has been a good solider, saying repeatedly that he wants to retire in New Orleans and indicating that he will not test the free agent market.

In theory, things can change between now and March 14. If the Saints try to lowball the 39-year-old, Brees could threaten to test the open waters to try and regain leverage. Despite his age, Brees would almost certainly garner offers of more than $30MM per year, putting him ahead of Jimmy Garoppolo and just behind the expected annual average value of Kirk Cousins‘ next contract.

Duncan figures that the floor for talks has to be $20MM per year, the average of the current deals for Tom Brady and Matt Ryan. If the ceiling for elite quarterbacks is ~$30MM, then the beat writer guesses that a two or three-year deal with a $25MM AAV and out clauses after each season makes sense for both sides.

While we wait to see how that plays out, here’s more from the NFC South:

  • Former UFC owner Frank Fertitta is heading one of the groups looking to purchase the Panthers, Jason La Canfora of CBS Sports (on Twitter) hears. If Fertitta’s group winds up buying the team, he’ll have to divest his interest in Station Casinos. Fertitta was a major shareholder in Zuffa LLC, which recently sold the UFC for upwards of $4 billion.
  • Despite rumblings that interim GM Marty Hurney is a shoe-in for the Panthers‘ permanent GM post, Fritz Pollard chairman John Wooten says he’s willing to allow the team’s interview process to play out before raising concerns with the NFL, as Joseph Person of the Charlotte Observer writes. The Panthers interviewed multiple minority candidates for the position and it has been reported that Bills assistant college scouting director Lake Dawson is a strong candidate. “They have interviewed three viable candidates. I know that they had one come back again for a second interview. So that’s where they are,” Wooten said. “I think our position is we will let the process as it relates to the investigation run its course, and see what goes from there.” The Panthers are currently in a holding pattern as Hurney is under league investigation for harassment accusations raised by his ex-wife.
  • This week, PFR’s Dallas Robinson broke down the Buccaneers‘ top three offseason needs.

Panthers Conduct Second Interview With Lake Dawson

Marty Hurney met with NFL investigator Lisa Friel on Friday as part of a league investigation into a since-withdrawn domestic violence claim made by Hurney’s ex-wife. This has affected the Panthers’ GM interview process, with Hurney — who served as interim GM last season — previously viewed as the favorite to be named full-time GM.

However, the Panthers may now be leaning toward hiring an external candidate, Jason La Canfora of CBS Sports reports (on Twitter).

One of the outside candidates that went through the initial interview process, Lake Dawson, was summoned back to Charlotte for a second meeting, Joseph Person of the Charlotte Observer reports.

Dawson was one of three outside candidates interviewed for this post, joining 49ers exec Martin Mayhew and Texans player personnel VP Jimmy Raye III.

Currently the Bills’ assistant college scouting director, Dawson also interviewed for the Panthers’ GM position when it was previously open in 2013. Dave Gettleman won that race, but Dawson is firmly in the mix this time. Ron Rivera has been part of this search process as well, but the eighth-year HC wasn’t in the meeting when Dawson returned to North Carolina.

Hurney is currently on paid leave as the NFL conducts its investigation, and Person reports nothing is imminent on making this hire. Although Jerry Richardson intends to sell the Panthers, Person reports does not want to make a rash decision regarding Hurney, whom he once fired to clear the way for Gettleman.