How long can Carolina Panthers GM Scott Fitterer escape blame?
By Dean Jones
How much longer can Carolina Panthers general manager Scott Fitterer escape blame following the team’s dismal start to the 2022 season?
There is plenty of blame to go around where the Carolina Panthers are concerned right now. Matt Rhule got it from all angles after failing to oversee the necessary improvements in 2022 and was fired on Monday, with team owner David Tepper also enduring some severe criticism for his overall handling of affairs since purchasing the franchise from Jerry Richardson.
Baker Mayfield’s honeymoon period is seemingly over before it began and morale within the fanbase is at an all-time low. However, one man seems to have surprisingly escaped the firing line so far.
Carolina’s general manager came into the fold to replace Marty Hurney during the 2021 offseason and left a relatively positive impact in a short space of time. His progressive, aggressive way of thinking was a breath of fresh air and left many believing that Tepper hired the right man to get this team trending on an upward curve at last.
Carolina Panthers’ bold moves under Scott Fitterer aren’t paying off
The bold moves generated headlines. But the distinct lack of progression where it counts has brought some of the team’s personnel moves into question.
Fitterer has gained a reputation for wheeling and dealing. However, one could argue that very few moves made during his tenure have gone according to plan.
Whether it’s trading for C.J. Henderson, letting Haason Reddick and Stephon Gilmore walk, acquiring Darryl Johnson from the Buffalo Bills, or spending a second-round pick on Terrace Marshall Jr. when there were glaring needs elsewhere, it’s not a good look. Fitterer isn’t alone in the decision-making process, but it’s his job to find the right balance to emerge Carolina from the doldrums and into relevancy.
And then there’s the quarterback position.
Trading for Sam Darnold – giving up second, fourth, and sixth-round selections to the New York Jets – was done on his watch. The Panthers also inexplicably triggered his fifth-year option without playing a competitive down or taking part in a practice.
Carolina did get Baker Mayfield on the cheap after holding out for a good deal. This complicated matters from a transition standpoint and made their decision to trade up and snag Matt Corral even more bemusing.
Corral was seen as a development project with some upside. That didn’t come across in the preseason and a serious foot injury dented any chance the Ole Miss product had of staking a claim as the campaign went on.
If the Panthers keep losing with Rhule no longer being around and getting their shot at a top prospect such as C.J. Stroud, then there’s a good chance Corral never sees the field barring injury. And all this comes at the expense of a valuable third-round selection based on the team’s current trajectory.
That’s without mentioning Carolina’s precarious salary-cap situation in 2023 which has them more than $17 million in the red currently.
Of course, coaching was a substantial issue, but Fitterer was not part of the hiring process. He also deserves credit for finding some late-round draft gems and rebuilding the offensive line into one of the league’s most improved units.
Perhaps things will be different if Fitterer is allowed to pick his own coach. The Panthers went down the unconventional route of hiring Rhule first and the general manager later, which is not normally a recipe for success in the NFL, and eventually saw the former Baylor man removed from the equation.
Patience has its limits. Fans are directing their anger elsewhere for now, but there will come a time when Fitterer should be held more accountable for the mess that’s currently unfolding.