New Panther general manager Dave Gettleman is not from around here. He’s 61 years old. He basically demoted himself in his last job with the New York Giants.
And you know what? He still makes a heck of a first impression.
Gettleman certainly “won” the press conference at Bank of America Stadium, coming across as charming, smart and gruff. He advanced through the NFL scouting ranks and feels most comfortable watching film in a darkened room and evaluating players, but his sense of humor and directness makes him seem like a guy that players would enjoy talking to and front-office people would like working for.
“I’m pretty simple, my wife will vouch for that,” said Gettleman, who was accompanied at the press conference by his wife and their three children. “I believe in faith, family and football. Those are my priorities. I’m called a grinder and I think that’s a compliment in our industry.”
Gettleman choked up Tuesday talking about his late mother-in-law, he made a joke about his own bad breath and he answered every question honestly. He seemed honest and was definitely entertaining. He wasn’t David Letterman or anything, but there was far more laughter in that press conference than usual, and most of it came from Gettleman poking fun at himself.
First impressions can be a little off, of course. John Fox once snowed me over in our very first extended interview. He was hilarious. He was thoughtful. He was great. And then for most of the next nine years, he purposely became the most boring coach in football and answered nearly every question with a cliche.
Gettleman says that “what you see is what you get” with him, though, and I sure hope that’s true. He’s getting an opportunity for his dream job at age 61, which not a lot of us can say. I hope it works out for him. He’s the kind of guy you want to root for.
When asked why he hadn’t had an opportunity for a GM job before, Gettleman said in recent years he believed his age had worked against him. “I just needed someone who was looking for an older, more mature guy,” Gettleman said. “That’s really what it came down to. Our culture is the next whiz-bang is the next great thing, That’s just where we’re at right now as a culture. It was one of those deals where, ‘Oh, he’s an old dinosaur. He’s probably cranky.’ So the bottom line is, it’s all about the person doing the hiring. It’s all about the fit.”
On this day, the fit seemed fine. Even when Gettleman said the Panthers played “hahd” for Ron Rivera in the last half of the season, you knew what he meant. But where we’ll really find out about Gettleman is when he grinds through a couple of drafts and free-agency periods. He’s got to dig the Panthers out of a $16-million salary cap hole, and then he’s got to supply Rivera with some more players – and he’s going to have to find some of them at bargain prices.
“Roster building is a fluid, liquid situation,” Gettleman said. “And you have to understand if you aren’t improving the bottom end of your roster, you’re not improving.” He also said he wanted the Panthers to “raise their own” players much like former GM Marty Hurney did, drafting well and then keeping the best.
He also said he was fine working with Rivera. Said the new GM: “I told Ron, ‘I don't have a list of head coaches in my back pocket.’ I have no interest in that.”
What he is interested in is his legacy, both personally and professionally. Gettleman referenced the word “legacy” several times Tuesday, saying at his age he owed it to himself to think about that. He wants that legacy to include a winner in Charlotte. He told Rivera Thursday when they had breakfast together: “If we do this right, you and I are holding up the trophy with Mr. Richardson.”
It was a nice quote. Now he has to start making it happen.