The Carolina Panthers have fired general manager Scott Fitterer after three seasons and an NFL-worst 2-15 record in 2023. Team owner David Tepper made the decision on Monday morning following the conclusion of another disappointing season.
Fitterer Struggled to Build a Winner
Fitterer was hired in 2021 with the task of turning around a Panthers team that had struggled to maintain success since their Super Bowl appearance in 2015. However, the team regressed heavily during his tenure, posting three straight losing seasons and finishing with the worst record in the NFL this past season.
Some key moves made by Fitterer during his time as GM:
- Trading multiple draft picks for QB Sam Darnold in 2021, who struggled mightily as the team’s starter
- Drafting QB Matt Corral in the 3rd round in 2022 despite still having Darnold. Corral got injured in preseason and never saw the field
- Trading a 2023 1st round pick for QB Baker Mayfield, who was benched after six ineffective starts
- Drafting Ikem Ekwonu 6th overall in 2022 but failing to address major holes at QB and LB
In the end, Fitterer’s inability to solve the team’s revolving door at quarterback and build a competitive roster led to his dismissal after three years on the job.
|Baker Mayfield, Sam Darnold, PJ Walker
|Bryce Young, Sam Darnold
What Comes Next for Carolina?
The Panthers now enter another vital offseason needing to find a new head coach and general manager to lead them out of the basement. With the #1 overall pick in April’s draft, Carolina will have its choice of a new potential franchise quarterback. Alabama’s Bryce Young, Ohio State’s CJ Stroud or Kentucky’s Will Levis could all be in play for the top pick.
Carolina could also use the #1 pick as a trade chip to stockpile more draft capital for their full rebuild. With Christian McCaffrey traded earlier this season, the roster lacks premium talent outside of a few key pieces like DE Brian Burns.
Additionally, the Panthers have over $17 million in effective cap space heading into 2023 free agency according to Over The Cap. So the new GM should have money to make upgrades if they spend wisely.
Tepper Under Pressure After Another Change
With Fitterer out, David Tepper has now fired three head coaches and two GMs in just five seasons as owner. His repeated shuffling of the front office and coaching staffs has kept the team in a perpetual state of rebuilding.
Tepper made his fortune as a hedge fund manager prior to purchasing the Panthers in 2018. But thus far, he has struggled to apply his business principles effectively to build a consistent winner in Carolina.
The next general manager Tepper hires will be his third in six years since taking over the team. And the fans’ patience is understandably growing thin after suffering through four-straight losing seasons. The pressure on ownership to get this next hiring cycle right could not be higher.
Potential GM Candidates Emerge
With the Panthers’ GM job now open, several names have already been floated as potential replacements:
Dan Morgan – Former Panthers LB and current Buffalo Bills assistant GM. Helped build a Bills roster that has gone to five straight playoffs.
Adam Peters – San Francisco 49ers Assistant GM and VP of Player Personnel. Widely respected talent evaluator.
Ed Dodds – Current Raiders GM worked his way up from scout. Was in Indy during their successful Peyton Manning era.
Jeff Ireland – New Orleans Saints Assistant GM has relevant experience from his three seasons as Miami Dolphins GM.
Ran Carthon – Director of Player Personnel for 49ers and former NFL RB. Was nearly hired as GM last cycle before Tepper pivoted to Fitterer.
Morgan, Peters and Carthon would satisfy the NFL’s Rooney Rule that Tepper interview minority candidates for the job. But whoever takes over will have their work cut out for them inheriting a team in a clear rebuild mode with the NFL’s worst record in 2022.
Young Players Provide Optimism
While the results at the NFL level have been poor, Fitterer does leave behind some promising building blocks. 2022 first round pick Ikem Ekwonu looks like a future star at left tackle, establishing himself as one of the league’s best run blockers as a rookie. Defensive end Brian Burns continued his ascension, posting 11 sacks en route to his first Pro Bowl nod.
The quarterback position remains the biggest long-term question mark, but 2023 rookie Bryce Young showed promising flashes despite the supporting cast issues and pass protection struggles around him. He and Burns will form an intriguing nucleus for the next GM’s roster construction efforts.
Fitterer helped add some foundational players through the draft, trading for additional picks and generally focusing on bolstering both lines. While the team’s overall talent level and depth remains lacking, a few more solid draft classes could put them back on the right track.
But that will now be the responsibility of Fitterer’s replacement as Carolina seeks to end this regime of instability and losing in hopes of replicating that 2015 Super Bowl magic. For David Tepper, the pressure continues to mount as past decisions haunt the present. If the next GM doesn’t pan out, his own job security will rightfully come into question.
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