Panthers GM Hurney fired after team’s 1-5 start

Marty Hurney was fired Monday as general manager of the Carolina

Panthers, who are off to a 1-5 start and have not made the playoffs

since 2008.

Brandon Beane, the team’s director of football operations, will

serve as interim general manager, a person familiar with the

situation told The Associated Press. The person spoke on the

condition of anonymity because the move has not been announced.

The Panthers have the worst record in the NFC in a season that

began with big expectations. The dismissal came a day after a 19-14

loss to Dallas.

Hurney, the GM since 2002, took responsibility for the team’s

failures.

”I am very fortunate to have been a part of one of the best

organizations in the NFL since 1998,” he said. ”As general

manager I will always regret not helping us win the Super Bowl or

having back-to-back winning seasons. I hope this change starts

accomplishing the direction to those goals. … I am responsible

for everybody in coaching, the players, the scouts and everybody in

football operations. After six weeks, we are 1-5 coming off a 6-10

season.”

Hurney was general manager when the Panthers went to the 2003

Super Bowl and the NFC championship games in the 2003 and 2005

seasons as well as winning the NFC South in 2008.

He was well liked and respected within the organization, but his

personnel decisions in the draft and in free agency were routinely

criticized by fans tired of the Panthers losing ways.

”Marty made every effort to bring success to the Panthers and

took the team to a Super Bowl and two NFC championship games,”

Panthers owner Jerry Richardson said. ”Unfortunately, we have not

enjoyed the success we hoped for in recent years. I have the

greatest respect and admiration for Marty and will always

appreciate the way he tirelessly served the organization.”

Carolina’s last playoff victory came in 2005 when it reached the

NFC Championship game before losing to the Seattle Seahawks. The

Panthers appeared to turn things around in 2008 when they won the

NFC South championship and earned a first-round bye before getting

upset 33-13 at home by the Arizona Cardinals. They haven’t been

back to the playoffs since.

Hurney’s philosophy has been to build through the draft and

re-sign proven players rather than going after high-priced free

agents. But the team wasted a number of high draft picks through

the years on players who became busts.

The personnel blunder fans that angered fans most was when

Hurney gave 34-year-old quarterback Jake Delhomme a five-year,

$42.5 million contract months after he turned the ball over six

times in the playoff loss to Arizona.

Delhomme started 2009 with a five-turnover game against

Philadelphia and was cut after the season. Delhomme cost the

Panthers $12 million under the salary cap in 2009 even though he

was no longer on the roster because the team had to absorb the

remainder of his signing bonus.

Eric Shelton, Dwayne Jarrett, Jimmy Clausen and Everette Brown

were all players who were drafted in the second round, but failed

to meet expectations. Brown, in particular, was a costly choice in

2009 because the Panthers gave up their first-round draft pick the

following year to the San Francisco 49ers to get him. Brown lasted

only two seasons in Carolina and is now out of the league.

There were other poor decisions, including giving up a

second-round pick in 2011 to the New England Patriots for the

rights to draft Armanti Edwards in the third round in 2010. Edwards

has not been a factor after trying to make the transition from

college quarterback at Appalachian State to receiver/returner in

the NFL.

Hurney also was criticized for giving big free-agent contracts

to keep the team’s core intact following a 2-14 season in 2010. He

gave defensive end Charles Johnson, who has never been to a Pro

Bowl, a contract worth $72 million and also handed out a five-year,

$43 million contract with $21 million in guaranteed money to

running back DeAngelo Williams. Williams hasn’t done much since and

serves as a part-time player.

This past offseason the Panthers gave fellow running back

Jonathan Stewart a deal worth more than $5 million per year. That

left the team with two high-priced running backs at a time when the

NFL has moved toward becoming a passing league.

Hurney also cut kicker John Kasay and handed Olindo Mare a

four-year, $12 million deal that included a $4 million signing

bonus. Mare lasted one season.

He did well with many of his first-round draft picks over the

years, landing players like Jordan Gross, Jon Beason, Jonathan

Stewart, Chris Gamble and Cam Newton, last year’s No. 1 overall

pick.