Marty Hurney

Latest On Panthers’ Plans, Ron Rivera

Some personnel executives around the league and on the NFL periphery believed David Tepper would make changes after last season, and Yahoo.com’s Charles Robinson notes GM candidates were viewing the Panthers as a job that would be open earlier this year. Tepper opted against firing Ron Rivera and second-stint GM Marty Hurney after last season but was discussing over the summer plans to revamp the organization, beefing up its analytics commitment, Robinson adds. Tepper confirmed Tuesday he plans to hire an assistant GM, and Robinson adds the second-year owner is expected to bring in multiple high-ranking execs to contribute to the operation. In the wake of Rivera’s ouster, Hurney’s future with the team is obviously uncertain. New scouts are expected to be brought aboard soon as well, though Mike Florio of Pro Football Talk notes no scouts or execs were fired along with Rivera on Tuesday.

Here is the latest out of Carolina, coming off the firing of a two-time coach of the year.

  • Having been run by defensive coaches throughout their 25-year history — from Dom Capers to George Seifert to John Fox to Rivera — the Panthers are expected to pursue an offensive-minded leader, David Newton of ESPN.com writes. Tepper may not be leaning toward hiring a college coach. Although he’s not dead-set against it, Newton adds the tougher transition for those coaches points to Tepper leaning in another direction. The Panthers are expected to pursue a younger coach who will support analytics more than Rivera did, per Newton. That’s certainly not dissimilar to how most of the HC-needy teams proceeded during this year’s hiring period.
  • Rivera broke the news to the coaching staff he had been fired, Albert Breer of SI.com tweets. Although Tepper praised Norv Turner and his son Scott, it’s certainly possible the organization moves on from the father-son tandem after their two-year run in Charlotte. Norv Turner will move from Carolina’s offensive coordinator to special assistant to the head coach, with Scott set for a four-game run as the team’s OC.
  • The most famous player Rivera coached expressed his support for the only NFL HC he’s known (Twitter link). Cam Newton, who will undergo surgery to repair his foot injury, is not certain to be back with the Panthers in 2020. One year remains on his contract.
  • Rivera revealed he wants to stay in coaching. The former Bears linebacker has been on an NFL sideline in each season since 1997.

Panthers Owner Discusses Coaching Change, Front Office, Future

Panthers owner David Tepper was forced to make a difficult decision today, firing long-term coach Ron Rivera. Since Tepper took over ownership of the organization in 2018, he’s had Rivera on the sideline. Now, the team will turn a page and start hunting for their next head coach.

Secondary coach Perry Fewell will serve as the Panthers head coach on an interim basis. The shakeup also will see offensive coordinator Norv Turner transition to special assistant to the head coach as quarterbacks coach Scott Turner moves to offensive coordinator. When it comes to the front office, GM Marty Hurney will keep his job, but Tepper revealed that he’ll be searching for an assistant general manager and/or a vice president of football operations.

Tepper sat down with Bill Voth of Panthers.com (Twitter link) this afternoon to discuss the coaching change, the owner’s outlook for the organization, and the team’s future shuffling of the front office. We’ve snagged all of the notable soundbites below:

On why he decided to fire Ron Rivera:

“[It was] a very hard move. Ron Rivera, besides being a good coach, is one of the finest men I’ve ever met in my life.

“Look, I came here two years ago. I wanted to show patience on the football side to see how it was going. On the business side, we made vast and sweeping changes. I didn’t want to make those vast and sweeping changes on the football side. I wanted to take time and patience to see how it could go.

“I just thought it was time, given the way things have gone the last two seasons, to put my stamp on the organization on the football side, as we’ve done on the business side of the organization. As much respect as I have for Ron, I think a change was appropriate to build things the way I want things to be built.”

On why the move was made now instead of after the season:

“There are competitive reasons why I wanted to make sure we were out there looking at all personnel possible for the future. I didn’t want to be having inquiries where Ron didn’t know what I was doing.

“I didn’t want to be doing things not upfront; thats not who I am. So I’d rather be straight-up and honest, and if I’m going to make a change, I’m going to make a change. And not to get a competitive disadvantage over other teams; if I need to talk to people, i want to talk to them, and I want to do it in a straight-forward, honest way.”

On why Fewell was chosen as the interim head coach:

“I have different coaches on the staff and I’m looking at the future now. And the future is: who may I have as potential candidates for different roles. Perry is a person who can command a room, can be a general, and I think that he is the right person to have that interim role… and to be auditioning for that role in the future.

“As far as the other choice we’ll probably make is to make Scott Turner a play-call offensive coordinator. In that respect, same thing: I want to see what Scott can do. Again, in an audition sort of way, see how he does it. He has some new ideas, and we’ll see how they get implemented.”

On the decision to move Norv Turner from offensive coordinator to special assistant to the head coach:

“Norv Turner is obviously still a tremendously knowledgable coach who I respect a lot. Norv has been around and is very knowledgable. Scott is potentially a future offensive coordinator of some sort. Why not see what he has to offer here.”

On what he’ll be looking for in a new head coach:

“What I want, just for the organization in general, is a mesh of old and new. Old football discipline. Modern processes, modern analytics, statistics, and the rest of that. But I respect old discipline, too. Listen, I was with a team in Pittsburgh that was the epitome of old-school discipline, so I want to see that brought in, I want to see that mesh. And what I want to have more than anything…I want to put the best people in the best positions to be successful. And I want those coaches to put our players on the field in the best positions to be successful, period.

“This whole process – they don’t build Rome in a day. People think if I make a magic change today, it’s going to make the organization better tomorrow… it is not. This is going to be a process.”

On how an assistant GM can help the front office:

“Marty Hurney is one of the best recognizers of college talent in the nation. I don’t want to lose that. And he’s also not a bad manager. There’s also new processes that I want to bring in. I think the modern football organization needs a couple people there [in the front office].”

On what today’s move means for the future of the organization:

“As far as a process is concerned, it’s the first step in a process. I’m making sure we have a standard of excellence on all sides of this business.”

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

NFC Rumors: Kaepernick, 49ers, Panthers

The only team connected to Colin Kaepernick since his 49ers run ended, the Seahawks had a representative in Atlanta for the free agent quarterback’s workout Saturday. However, they were one of the many teams who opted not to trek from the Falcons’ Flowery Branch, Ga., facility to Riverdale. Roughly an hour separates these Atlanta-area locales, and 18 teams on hand for the would-be showcase at the NFL facility did not travel to the high school where the workout ended up occurring.

Disappointed,” Pete Carroll said of the Seahawks missing the workout, via Curtis Crabtree of Sports Radio 950 KJR (via Pro Football Talk). “We had planned to be at that workout. It got changed around, and we couldn’t hang with it. Unfortunately, we sent somebody, but we couldn’t stay with the changes that happened. We missed it. We were real curious. I was real curious to see how the workout went. Just competing as always, you know.”

While Carroll said he has seen some of the workout, no team has yet expressed interest in the 32-year-old passer. Kaepernick’s agent is not optimistic a deal will materialize. The Seahawks met with Kaepernick in 2017 but cancelled a 2018 summit.

Here is the latest from the NFC West:

  • In a state-of-the-union-style address, Panthers owner David Tepper asked that no Ron Rivera– or Marty Hurney-related questions be asked. The second-year owner said multiple times this week he will not accept mediocrity, via Joseph Person of The Athletic (subscription required). Carolina made the playoffs four times from 2013-17 but is 12-14 since. Tepper overhauled the Panthers’ business operations since taking over and considered making major football-ops changes after last season. Rivera is signed through the 2020 season. With Hurney also rehired as GMbefore Tepper took over, it is safe to assume both decision-makers’ jobs will be on the line over the season’s final six weeks.
  • Tepper did discuss Cam Newton‘s status, indicating the quarterback’s foot injury would be factored into the overall evaluation of the team and that no decision will be made on Newton until he is healthy again. With that potentially being months away, teams interested in trading for the former MVP may have to adjust their offseason blueprints. Tepper added that ideally Newton would be back and lead the Panthers to another Super Bowl but did not guarantee the 30-year-old passer would return.
  • The 49ers‘ retooled roster has restored the franchise as an NFC contender after five years off the radar. The team should not be expected to be a major player in 2020 free agency, per Matt Barrows of The Athletic (subscription required). However, the one exception would be at receiver, Barrows adds. Kyle Shanahan opted against adding a big-ticket receiver in 2018 or ’19, after 2017’s failed Pierre Garcon move. But the team traded for Emmanuel Sanders this year to address a key need. Sanders is a free agent at season’s end. The 2020 UFA receiver class as of now includes Amari Cooper, A.J. Green, Robby Anderson and Josh Gordon. But with Cooper and Green candidates to stay in their respective cities, this receiver class could be thin.
  • On the subject of NFC receiver situations, Cowboys wideout Noah Brown will not play this season. Stashed on Dallas’ PUP list after a June knee surgery, Brown recently underwent another procedure, Todd Archer of ESPN.com notes. The 2017 seventh-round pick played in 21 Cowboys games between 2017-18. He is expected to be ready for the team’s offseason program.

Coaching Notes: Kaczor, Redskins, Panthers, Goodwin

The Redskins announced yesterday that they’ve hired Nate Kaczor as their new special teams coordinator. The long-time coach had interviewed with the organization earlier this week.

“We are excited to have Nate join our staff. We have had the opportunity to face his special teams play during his time at Tampa Bay and respected competing against him,” said head coach Jay Gruden. “He is a competitor and we have noticed and admired the intensity his units have played with through the course of his time as a special teams coordinator and assistant coach in the NFL.”

Kaczor had spent the past three seasons in the same role with the Buccaneers, and he previously served as the Titans’ special teams coordinator. He also had a stint as an assistant with the Jaguars. Prior to his tenure in the NFL, Kaczor spent 17 years in the NCAA, with jobs at Idaho and Nebraska-Kearney.

Let’s check out some more coaching notes from around the NFL…

  • Panthers owner David Tepper told reports that he didn’t want to “make rash decision[s]” on the status of head coach Ron Rivera and general manager Marty Hurney (via Joe Person of The Athletic on Twitter). Ultimately, the owner judge the duo throughout the entire 2018 season (not just the stretch run), and this led to him retaining the pair for the 2019 season.
  • Buccaneers assistant head coach Harold Goodwin wasn’t happy that Steve Wilks lost his job with the Cardinals, noting that his friend never got a chance to succeed. “That hurt a little bit,” Goodwin told ESPN’s Jenna Laine. “He’s a friend of mine. We worked together back in the day with the Bears. It’s hard to build something from the ground up with one year. It’s like, ‘Hey, I want you to start this Fortune 500 company, but you’ve got one year.’ That’s impossible. And that’s what he was tasked with.”
  • Goodwin also grumbled about the lack of minority hires around the NFL, noting that teams really don’t take the Rooney Rule seriously. “Every time I went in to interview, ‘You don’t call plays.’ Well, I did call plays in the preseason,” Goodwin said. “Are we looking for play-callers or are we looking for leaders? Leaders of men, who can help build an organization from the ground up on the football side…The next excuse was, ‘Well, we don’t like your staff.’ A lot of my staff is still coaching. Some guys are coordinators in the NFL now that have had a lot of success that were on my list.”
  • We learned yesterday that the Cardinals added another name to their offensive coordinator search, as former Browns head coach Hue Jackson is scheduled to interview for the gig.

Latest On Ron Rivera, Marty Hurney, Panthers’ Vets

Last week, we heard that Panthers head coach Ron Rivera would likely remain with the team in 2019, and Jason La Canfora of CBS Sports and Ian Rapoport of NFL.com confirm as much. Both reporters believe there could be changes made to Rivera’s coaching staff, however, and Rapoport expects such changes would be made primarily on the defensive side of the ball. Having Rivera take over defensive play-calling duties earlier this season has already paid dividends, but Rapoport suggests that the team could look to reunite with former DC Steve Wilks if Wilks is fired by the Cardinals (as is expected).

In any event, JLC says that Rivera and new owner David Tepper will have a candid conversation after the season, and if Rivera balks at Tepper’s demand for changes to the composition of Rivera’s staff, then the situation could deteriorate. But for the moment, it appears as if Rivera will be back for his ninth year at the helm, though he will have at least a few different subordinates. Rapoport says that GM Marty Hurney is likely safe as well. David Newton of ESPN.com spoke to Tepper today, but Tepper declined to comment on Rivera’s status.

Meanwhile, as Joe Person of The Athletic writes, the Panthers are expected to bid adieu to at least a couple franchise icons. Julius Peppers is expected to retire, and Thomas Davis has indicated he would like to be back with the club, but his contract is up at the end of the year and there is no guarantee he will be back. Of course, Ryan Kalil announced back in January that this season would be his last, and he has not given any indication that he has changed his mind. While Greg Olsen expects to return in 2019, and though the team is exploring a new deal with safety Eric Reid, there will be significant turnover to a roster that has been one of the league’s oldest over the past several seasons. Person offers his take on what the Panthers should do with their top ten players on expiring contracts.

It has become clear to most everyone, including Person and Newton, that Devin Funchess will not be back with the club in 2019. Funchess is inactive for today’s finale, and his playing time had already decreased significantly in the second half of the season.

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.