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'No place to hide' for Panthers or general manager Scott Fitterer
Aggressive approach to roster-building is goal
 
Published Friday, January 22, 2021 7:00 pm
by Ashley Mahoney

PHOTO | CAROLINA PANTHERS
New Carolina Panthers general manager Scott Fitterer plans to take an aggressive approach to restocking the bottom the roster. "We are going to do a lot of transactions, look at a lot of people, bring a lot of people in the building," he said.

David Tepper finally has his people in place, but expect to continue to see changes for the Carolina Panthers.

When Tepper bought the Panthers for a record-high $2.3 billion in 2018, he inherited Ron Rivera as head coach and general manager Marty Hurney. Both have been fired. He replaced Rivera with first-time NFL head coach Matt Rhule in 2020 and first-time general manager Scott Fitterer this month.

“These are the guys that I chose now, so there’s no place to hide. I never hide anyways, but for sure, there’s no place now,” Tepper said Friday at Fetterer's introduction press conference.

The Panthers have not finished a season above .500 since Tepper purchased the team from Jerry Richardson. They began the process of rebuilding starting with last April’s draft, and while that rookie class showed potential, particularly first round defensive tackle Derrick Brown and linebacker/safety Jeremey Chinn.

Offensively, they struggled to close out games, going 3-8 in contests decided by one score. Fitterer joins a team with 18 free agents, including offensive tackle Taylor Moton and wide receiver Curtis Samuel (77 receptions for 851 yards and three touchdowns).  

Fitterer, who spent 20 years with Seattle—most recently as vice president of football operations – is in Charlotte to move aggressively. The Panthers, who went 5-11 in 2020, finished third in the NFC South.

“We are going to do a lot of transactions, look at a lot of people, bring a lot of people in the building,” he said. “Churn the roster on the back end and just really take a look at a lot of different people to see what’s out there, what fits our team and how we can build this going forward. Nothing is going to be status quo. It is all about building moving forward.”


Moving forward may mean someone new at quarterback. In his first season with the Panthers, Teddy Bridgewater passed for 3,733 yards, 15 touchdowns and 11 interceptions along with 53 carries for 279 yards and five touchdowns. Fitterer’s definition of a franchise quarterback includes being able to win when the game was on the line, something the Panthers struggled to do. He is also looking for leadership qualities.

“When they walk in the building, they know that’s the person in charge and those are the most important things,” Fitterer said.

Carolina is picking higher in April’s draft – eighth – than Fitter is accustomed to with the Seahawks, one of the NFC’s most consistent franchises for most of his tenure. His approach to the draft is calculated when it comes to where a team is slated to pick. Drafting after 16-18 means a franchise is likely to miss out on players who could make an immediate impact. With that in mind, the focus shifts to acquiring picks.

“We don’t see a big difference between [picking at] 25 and 40 at that point,” Fitterer said. “We can move back and acquire picks and still get the same caliber of player who fits our team. This year is going to be a little bit different.”

When it comes to assembling the roster, Tepper said that falls to Fitterer, but that Rhule will determine who is on the game-day roster.

“Once we talked, once we hit it off, we had a lot of the same philosophies,” Fitterer said. “We’re developmental based. I believe in that, and I really look forward to working with him.”

Said Rhule: “I think he’s going to be outstanding. He obviously comes with a proven track record.”

 

 

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