It’s somewhat easy to quantify the job security, and to some extent, the level of how good an NFL head coach is doing his job. It comes down to wins and losses for the most part.
Carolina Panthers head coach Ron Rivera is a perfect case study.
Relatively safe after winning four of his last six games of the 2011 season and coaching first-year quarterback Cam Newton to a number of rookie records and a Rookie of the Year trophy, Rivera entered the 2012 with a lot of hype, and hope.
But the Panthers lost eight of their first 10 games. Rivera, arguably, mismanaged his running back corps, was outcoached on the field on multiple occasions during that rough patch of the season and found himself on the coaching hot seat.
Fate changes quickly in the coaching world, however. After winning five of his last six games in 2012, Rivera saved his job. He turned things around in Carolina. Newton turned things around.
Gauging how well a general manager in the NFL is doing isn’t nearly as cut and dried, and it definitely takes a lot longer than a season or two.
That’s the dilemma new Panthers general manager Dave Gettleman faces. The Panthers’ fanbase—which includes at the top of its list team owner Jerry Richardson—is ready to see success. They want to see wins, and lots of them.
The problem is that Carolina’s roster isn’t chock-full of talent, at least not enough to expect the win column to reach double digits every season. How is Gettleman, who was hired by the Panthers Wednesday, going to fix that?
Even though Gettleman is known as a player evaluator, and an intense, hard-working one at that, according to Associated Press writer Steve Reed, Gettleman’s first order of business has to be trimming the fat on Carolina’s roster.
Polian said Gettleman would lock himself in the office for hours studying tape, sometimes trying to find obscure players.— Steve Reed (@SteveReedAP) January 9, 2013
The Panthers are going to be anywhere from $15 to $16 million over the salary cap when the NFL calendar turns from 2012 to 2013. As much as Gettleman would like to lock himself in his office and search for future Panthers to turn around the course of the franchise, he’s going to have to hand out a few pink slips first.
Obvious choices for restructured contracts, trade or outright release are linebacker Jon Beason, cornerback Chris Gamble and running back DeAngelo Williams.
Beason and Gamble both spent the majority of the 2012 season on injured reserve, and Beason hasn’t played a full season since 2010. Williams spent a lot of 2012 in Rivera’s doghouse and only gained 737 yards.
Together their 2013 cap hit is $28.65 million; they have $88.4 million remaining on their contracts. That’s a lot of money for two guys who are turning out to be injury-prone and one who may not be living up to the expectations of his contract.
Because the Panthers are about to hit dire straits financially, this has to be Gettleman’s primary focal point from Day 1. It won’t be a fun job, but before he can get the part of his job where he excels, scouting and player acquisition, he’s going to have to get the team’s checkbook in order first.
Once he has some money to spend, then Gettleman can look to continue building on the Panthers' recent success in the draft. Newton was a total win in the first round of the 2010 draft. So was linebacker Luke Kuechly as the team’s first pick in 2011.
Where will Gettleman go with Carolina’s No. 14 pick in 2012? A lot of that will be determined by how much money he can free up to fix the holes in Carolina’s current roster.
Can Gettleman shuffle enough money to have the ability to go out and find a No. 2 receiver prior to the draft? Can he find help on the offensive line? How much does he have to do prior to next April to draft the best player available instead of solely for team need?
Those questions will be answer in the coming months. How much good Gettleman does with the decisions he makes, well that’ll take some time to figure out.
Unless otherwise noted, all quotes and statements were obtained first-hand.