In January of 2013, after the Carolina Panthers had missed the playoffs for the fourth straight year, the organization decided it was time for a change. That month they decided to name Dave Gettleman their general manager and he certainly wasn't given the perfect situation.
That offseason, the Panthers were expected to be $15 million over the salary cap. This is not ideal for anybody who is trying to build a championship caliber team and Gettleman has been faced with making tough decisions each offseason. In the first two months on the job, he had to release cornerback Chris Gamble, who had been with the team for nine years. He was the franchise leader in interceptions at the time but by releasing him opened up over $10 million in cap space.
In 2014, the team decided to release their number one wide receiver, Smith, who holds franchise records in a number of receiving categories. ESPN's David Newton wrote that Gettleman said at that time in a statement, "When I took this position, I knew that difficult decisions would have to be made along the way. To move on from a storied veteran player is probably the most difficult of all, a decision not to be taken lightly. However, after much thought I feel very strongly it's the right one."
"As I've stated many times, all decisions I make will be in the long-term best interest of the Carolina Panthers," Gettleman said. "Decisions, either popular or unpopular, have to be made for the greater good and it is imperative to take an unemotional global view."
More times than not these moves are very unpopular and the results could be catastrophic for a general manager. He has the chance of alienating a fan base that supports this team. However, he has continued to provide the results on the field with three straight NFC South Division titles and built a team that reached Super Bowl 50.
When he took over this job, there has been a clear plan in place on how he wanted to build this team. He was going to build a winner through the draft and not free agency. Rather he found free agents that were bargains but filled holes in the roster. In the three NFL Drafts he has run as GM, there are only two players who are not on the team out of 18 players. What is even more impressive is that of this group, 10 of them are either starters or will be competing for a starting spot this offseason.
The success he has had in the Draft with smart free agent moves, has allowed Gettleman to turn the Panthers' cap situation from being $15 million over to $27 million under the cap. This quick turnaround has not only allowed him to extend key players like Cam Newton and Luke Kuechly last year but be in position to extend players like Josh Norman, Kawann Short and Star Lotulelei in the coming months.
The Carolina Panthers are in the midst of their most successful run as an organization. Thanks to the tough calls Dave Gettleman had to make, this looks like a run that won't be ending anytime soon.