SPARTANBURG -- Offensive guard Geoff Hangartner was part of the status quo for the Carolina Panthers, which was part of the reason his release Thursday was startling.
“We didn’t see it coming at all,” said Amini Silatolu, who had thought he and Hangartner would likely be the Panthers’ starting guards in 2013. “He was the last person I thought that would get released.”
The Observer certainly didn’t see it coming, either. We published a feature story about Hangartner a few hours before he got fired.
Hangartner had started 28 games over the past two Panther seasons and could play both center and guard. He was a well-liked man with the endearing locker room nickname of “Piggy.”
On Thursday, Piggy’s teammates kept using the same sort of words to describe his sudden release, and most of them started with “S”: Sadness. Shock. Surprise.
I’ll add another: Shaken up. You could almost see the rest of the players looking over their own shoulder pads after this one. That ancient saw about the NFL standing for “Not For Long” was in evidence again in Spartanburg Thursday.
But should we really be that startled? Hangartner did not play well last season (splitting time at guard and center). He is 31 years old. Garry Williams was already getting a significant number of first-team snaps at right guard in training camp and looks headed toward the starting lineup.
The timing is unusual, yes. But ultimately this is the sort of move that NFL teams duplicate by the dozen toward the end of August when the 53-man rosters are chosen.
Should Panther fans be outraged? No. I don’t think this was a money issue. I think it was a talent issue.
New Panther general manager Dave Gettleman obviously didn’t think much of Hangartner’s ability, and that ultimately led to Hangartner getting the ominous text to go see head coach Ron Rivera first thing Thursday. Left tackle Jordan Gross thought his friend might be getting traded to Denver, but it was nothing that good.
And all that’s OK. The status quo for the Panthers hasn’t been good enough for five years now. I hope Hangartner lands on his feet elsewhere, but this is not a move Panther fans need to get incensed about.
I won’t pretend to be able to judge the merits of an offensive guard based on watching training-camp practices. But these are the kinds of moves Gettleman was brought in to make – to look at the team with fresh eyes and determine where the weak links are. It’s what he is paid to do, and the new GM deserves the benefit of the doubt on this one.