Hurney back with Panthers for second GM stint

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

Hurney takes over for Dave Gettleman, who on Monday was fired by team owner Jerry Richardson despite helping Carolina reach the playoffs, including the Super Bowl following the 2015 season, in three of his four seasons.

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

“I never lost the connection with the organization,” Hurney said in a statement. “I’ve gained a lot of perspective and have looked at things in different ways. I think I can help this team in a lot of areas. I think I’ve grown. And I feel I’m better prepared to come in this time and do a better job than I did over the 12 years I was general manager last time.”

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 or 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.

The transition for Hurney should be simple. Hurney remained in Charlotte and purchased radio station ESPN 730 after his dismissal following more than 10 years as the general manager. 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 head coach Ron Rivera in 2011 and has remained close to Richardson.

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 fulltime general manager should his return work well.

Team officials said Hurney will help hire the next general manager.

Hurney joined the Panthers in 1998 after serving in the Chargers’ front office under then-general manager Bobby Beathard. He was named the general manger in 2002 and helped the Panthers reach the Super Bowl following 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 the Super Bowl 50.

Among the current players Hurney drafted are quarterback Cam Newton, middle linebacker Luke Kuechly, tight end Greg Olsen, 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.

Johnson was quick to support Hurney’s return when news surfaced that a reunion might happen.

Large contracts and four straight non-winning seasons following a 12-4 record in 2008 ultimately led to Hurney’s dismissal.

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 following the 2014 season.

That received harsh criticism from both players, who responded on social media with satisfaction after Gettleman was fired.

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

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 deal.

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-yard receiving.

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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