A recent article I had written about Dave Gettleman's press conference at the NFL combine in Indianapolis focused on his remarks about veteran wide receiver Steve Smith. It's not so much what he said about the star receiver, but how he went about it. That is, not going to Smith first.
Steve Smith to reporter’s on Gettleman’s comments: “I wish the individuals would’ve had that conversation with me first, privately.”— Ian Rapoport (@RapSheet) February 26, 2014
Needless to say, he wasn't pleased.
Quite frankly, no one can blame him. It should be automatically assumed that Smith would have had some kind of idea of what the front office was doing in regards to its offseason evaluation process. What was unknown to many of us at the time, though, was the fact Smith got word about his uncertain future with the team from secondary sources.
For a player who has been a constant fixture with the Panthers for well over a decade, he deserved some kind of heads up about how Gettleman and head coach Ron Rivera were going about their review of the current roster. Smith is a passionate guy when it comes to this game, and many had assumed that when he signed his most recent contract with Carolina, it would guarantee his career would end where it started.
I am inclined to agree with ESPN's David Newton that Smith deserves more than the vagueness he has been getting from the team. The most telling part of his article were the comments Smith had made that depicted how he felt about the situation:
If I ... did that the reverse way, I think it would have been very unprofessional on my end and a distraction. I wish the individuals would have had that conversation with me first and privately.
He has a point. Both Gettleman and Rivera should have let him in on their plans pertaining to him. Now it wouldn't be surprising if Smith doesn't trust his team from here on out. It's unclear if he will suit up for the Panthers in 2014, but the thought of knowing he's expendable could be enough for him to request his release.
Could the Panthers cut Steve Smith? Dave Gettleman certainly left that possibility wide open. http://t.co/XaF9QTHzt5— Joe Person (@josephperson) February 22, 2014
Many folks are expecting Carolina to take an extra long look at offensive tackles in this year's draft. But given what Gettleman has said, the same may be true at wide receiver. If it is the intent of the front office to overhaul the offense, it stands to reason that Smith should have been brought into the fold sooner. Instead, the Carolina offseason has become one massive guessing game that involves free agents and current roster players alike.
Perhaps that is one of Gettleman's flaws as a general manager. To stay out of the limelight for much of the year and remain mum on contract negotiations is one thing, but to blindside a player like he did Smith could send the wrong kind of message to the rest of the team.
There could be a method to Gettleman's madness, though.
It wouldn't be surprising if he is ready to rebuild the entire offense starting with the offensive line and receiving corps. He already has his franchise quarterback in Cam Newton. It's logical the 2014 offseason could be about a rebirth of sorts, which could result in a purge of key players like Steve Smith.
No matter how the situation goes, in the end, Gettleman may have created a bit of a rift with the Carolina locker room. His motives may be in the interest of the team, but everyone in the league understands that it is a business, and if their futures are on the line, they should be privy to anything concerning them.
This will allow for a mutual trust and understanding in what is going on with the team's day-to-day operations.
Gettleman has shown promise as a talented general manager, but he could use some work in maintaining a sense of trust with his team. Alienating one of the most popular players in franchise history does not make for good business. He would help himself tremendously by being open and honest with his guys.
Hopefully, this will serve as a lesson learned on what not to do with a player like Smith. The best-case scenario that can come out of this is Smith leaving his meeting with Gettleman knowing where he stands instead of feeling like a free agent who is uncertain about his future.
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