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Panthers fire GM Dave Gettleman, could Seahawks exec Trent Kirchner be his replacement?

NFL: Carolina Panthers-Training Camp Jeremy Brevard-USA TODAY Sports

Just when you thought John Dorsey getting axed by the Chiefs would be the only surprise late-offseason General Manager firing, the Carolina Panthers have booted Dave Gettleman from his GM position, with training camp less than two weeks away.

“After much thought and a long evaluation of our football operations, I have decided to relieve Dave Gettleman of his duties as general manager,” Panthers owner Jerry Richardson said in a press release. “I want to thank Dave for the role he played in our success over the past four seasons. While the timing of this decision is not ideal, a change is needed.”

Carolina did make the Super Bowl just two seasons ago, but took the biggest tumble of any 15-1 team in NFL history by falling all the way to 6-10 in 2016. Gettleman replaced Marty Hurney as Panthers GM in 2013, and immediately turned a team that had collapsed after 2008 into a 12-4 NFC South winner, although the 49ers bounced them at home 23-10. They repeated as NFC South champs with a limp 7-8-1 record in 2014, winning a hard-to-watch wild card game over a Cardinals team starting Ryan Lindley at quarterback, before getting eliminated by the Seahawks in the divisional round. His final regular season record is 40-23-1, with a postseason mark of 3-3. This news comes just two months after Buffalo fired Doug Whaley following the NFL Draft, and replaced him with Panthers assistant GM Brandon Beane.

What appears to be the main catalyst for Gettleman’s departure? Well rescinding the franchise tag and letting one of the best corners in the game head elsewhere apparently didn’t sit well with Richardson.

With Norman gone, the Panthers relied heavily on throwing rookies Daryl Worley and James Bradberry into the fire. Even fellow rookie Zach Sanchez had a little bit of playing time during the early part of the season. Drew Brees and Matt Ryan combined for literally 968 passing yards and 8 touchdowns to just 2 interceptions in Carolina’s respective road losses to New Orleans and Atlanta.

Not that this is a tremendous sample size or anything, but a few ex-Panthers had some telling reactions to the firing.

As far as hiring Gettleman’s replacement, we don’t know which candidates are being considered, but it’s quite possible we see at least one Seahawks executive on Carolina’s radar. Co-Directors of Player Personnel Scott Fitterer and Trent Kirchner have frequently popped up as names to look out for, with both men being interviewed for multiple GM vacancies both this offseason and in previous years, but within the context of the Panthers, Kirchner figures to be the more likely target. Kirchner has very deep ties to Carolina, having been the team’s pro scout from 2002-2010 before Seattle brought him on board. Fitterer was recently interviewed by the Chiefs, who ultimately went in-house and hired Brett Veach. Both men were also in talks with the Colts, and while Indianapolis didn’t hire either of them, they did grab Ed Dodds as Vice President of Player Personnel.

Of course, as Seahawks fans, we’re rooting for Carolina to look elsewhere during their search.