It wasn't so much the firing of Carolina GM Marty Hurney that surprised some league executives as it was the timing of his dismissal. Why, they wonder, would you fire a general manager six games into a season?
OK, I know your answer: Because the team stinks. But GMs aren't like head coaches. They earn their money during the offseason when they run the draft, sign players and work the free-agent market -- essentially, when they shape their team by making key personnel decisions.
Once the season begins, however, it becomes a players' and coaches' league, with general managers sitting back to watch their blueprints come to life. Sure, they make roster moves and occasional trades, but that's usually at the behest of their head coaches.
Their most important work is all but over once the season begins.
Which is why Hurney's firing makes no sense. If the Panthers were going to do it, why not wait until the end of the year? I don't know what purpose a mid-season dismissal serves, but I do know it raised eyebrows across the NFL, where executives question what the Panthers hope to accomplish by acting now.
"There's got to be a deeper explanation," said one NFC general manager. "Only people in that building know what's going on, but it makes no sense to do this at this point of the season."
At 1-5, the Panthers are stuck at the bottom of the NFC South, and, while that's not good, we're not even halfway through the season. There's always the chance ... albeit a slim one ... that they recover and make an improbable second-half run to respectability. But that's not the point. This is: Why ax a general manager now when he's not involved in what's happening now? He hires the players for the head coach to coach, and the head coach is doing that now; not the GM.
If you're disatisfied with the results, fire the head coach, and let's make something perfectly clear: I am not suggesting the Panthers can Ron Rivera. What I am suggesting is that taking aim at the head coach during a disappointing season is a more conventional and logical approach than running off the team's GM.
You jettison him after the season, then let your new front-office executive find the coach he wants to work with ... which is why Rivera should be on red alert. He has a three-year contract, and his 7-15 record makes him vulnerable. But a new GM makes him more than that; it makes him a firing waiting to happen. Hurney hired Rivera, and Hurney is no longer there ... which means Rivera's security blanket is gone.
Maybe this was a message to Rivera to get this team to buckle down and fast, I don't know. What I do know is that firing a GM in midseason ... after six games, no less ... makes no sense.