Carolina Panthers owner Jerry Richardson fired general manager Marty Hurney on Monday following a disappointing 1-5 start to the 2012 season.
Hurney, who held the general manager position since 2002, saw everything unravel quickly and unexpectedly over the past two-and-a-half seasons.
From 2002-2009, the John Fox-led Panthers made the playoffs three times (2003, 2005, 2008), advanced to two NFC Championship games (2003, 2005) and one Super Bowl (2003).
However, in 2010, Hurney came under scrutiny when the team finished 2-14 with then-rookie Jimmy Clausen under center. John Fox left for Denver at the end of the season, but Hurney, to the surprise of many, was retained for the 2011 season.
Enter Cam Newton and Ron Rivera.
Hurney's seat cooled a little bit after Cam Newton's phenomenal rookie season, even though the Panthers finished with a modest 6-10 record.
However, the Panthers had much higher expectations this season. "Rebuilding mode" and "moral victory" were no longer valid excuses for a less-than-stellar record. So, losing five of the first six games simply doesn't cut it.
And Hurney knows it.
"I understand this decision by Mr. Richardson and will always have an extremely close relationship with him," Hurney said in a statement. "I consider him the best owner in the NFL. 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's draft history has also been scrutinized over the years.
Hurney has done well with his first-round picks (who hasn't?), drafting the likes of Julius Peppers, Jordan Gross, Chris Gamble, Thomas Davis, DeAngelo Williams, Jon Beason, Jonathan Stewart and Cam Newton since becoming GM in 2012. The Panthers did not have first-round picks in 2009 or 2010.
In subsequent rounds, however, Hurney's draft choices have been unimpressive (to say it kindly).
Only four of his second-round picks – Ryan Kalil (2007), Sherrod Martin (2009), Jimmy Clausen (2010) and Amini Silatolu (2012) – still remain with the team. Kalil is the only name in that group that has enjoyed any substantial success as an NFL player. Martin was benched this year and Clausen, well, I don't even have to elaborate. The jury is still out on Silatolu.
Here are the most infamous Hurney draft picks from the first three rounds: Bruce Nelson (second round, 2003), Keary Colbert (second round, 2004), Eric Shelton (second round, 2005), Dwayne Jarrett (second round, 2007), Jeff Otah (first round, 2008), Everette Brown (second round, 2009), Armanti Edwards (third round, 2010), Terrell McClain (third round, 2011).
But, in the interest of fairness, let's give Hurney credit where credit is due. He did strike gold with a few picks over the years: Travelle Wharton (third round, 2004), James Anderson (third round, 2006), Charles Johnson (third round, 2007), Captain Munnerlyn (seventh round, 2009), Brandon LaFell (third round, 2010), Greg Hardy (sixth round, 2010).
Hurney also was the mastermind behind the huge signing spree last summer, signing running back DeAngelo Williams to a five-year, $43 million deal and defensive end Charles Johnson to a six-year, $72 million deal.
Hurney also gave running back Jonathan Stewart a five-year, $36.5 million extension earlier this year.
Gamble and Beason Placed on IR
In what appears to be a waving-the-white-flag move, the Panthers placed two defensive starters, cornerback Chris Gamble and linebacker Jon Beason, on season-ending injured reserve this week,
Gamble, 29, will have surgery on his shoulder. The ninth-year pro first injured it against Atlanta in Week 4, which caused him to sit out against Seattle the following week. Gamble attempted to give it a go following the bye week, but aggravated the injury attempting to jam a receiver during practice last week.
With Gamble sidelined, Captain Munnerlyn will move into a permanent starting role. When the Panthers are in the nickel package, Josh Thomas will play the corner while Munnerlyn will slide back to his natural nickelback position.
Beason, 27, was placed on IR Wednesday with a left knee injury that will need surgery.
With Beason out indefinitely, rookie Luke Kuechly will start at middle linebacker for the rest of the season.
To fill the two empty roster spots, the Panthers signed cornerback James Dockery (from Cleveland) and linebacker Brandon Hogue (from Detroit) off waivers. Both will add depth at their respective positions and contribute on special teams.
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