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Panthers GM Marty Hurney defends record, thinks fourth-and-1 decision was 'right call'

By Ryan Wilson | CBSSports.com
Rivera punted on fourth-and-1 and the Panthers lost. Hurney thought it was the right call. (US Presswire)

Somehow, Panthers general manager Marty Hurney still has a job. We've wondered on countless occasions (usually on the Pick-6 Podcast) how he's managed to pull it off and we don't say this flippantly. Seriously, how does someone responsible for drafting (among others) Dwayne Jarrett ('07, 2nd round), Everette Brown ('09, 2nd round AND a '10 first rounder), Jimmy Clausen ('10 2nd round) and Armanti Edwards ('10 3rd round) remain gainfully employed?

Grantland.com's Bill Barnwell relived the horror in painstaking detail following the Panthers' Week 3 loss to the Giants. (Former Panthers beat reporter Darin Gantt, now with ProFootballTalk.com, said the piece lacked "context in spots, but it's what you get when you fart in church.")

Wherever you stand on Hurney's record, this much is irrefutable: he became the general manager in 2002, and although the Panthers have made the playoffs three times (including a Super Bowl appearance in '03), they've never had back-to-back winning seasons and haven't broken .500 since 2008.

Understandably, fans are frustrated. But take heart: so is Hurney.

“We're 1 and 3 right now," he said during a recent radio appearance, according to CBS Charlotte. Everybody is going to get criticized. Last Sunday was our best collective effort of the season."

Last Sunday, the Panthers lost to the Falcons when coach Ron Rivera opted to punt on fourth-and-1 late in the game. Things went horribly awry: Atlanta quarterback Matt Ryan promptly drove his team 77 yards and Matt Bryant calmly converted the game-winning field goal as time expired.

There was rending of garments and gnashing of teeth following Rivera's decision, particularly since Panthers quarterback Cam Newton -- all 6 feet 5, 245 pounds of him -- can get a first down by tripping forward. And as Carolina wide receiver Brandon LaFell pointed out, there's also Mike Tolbert and Jonathan Stewart. Surely somebody could've gotten one yard.

But in-game coaching decisions aren't Hurney's fault. Of course, it doesn't help when he says things like this: "If they don't score, it's the right call. But when it doesn't work … then you question the call. But I think it was the right call."

That makes two people. Because it was clearly the opposite of that.

Football Outsiders editor-in-chief Aaron Schatz spent many words explaining why punting in that situation was a truly awful idea and then pointed to this analysis by ESPN's Stats & Information nerds that suggested "the Panthers' chances of winning the game dropped by 26.1 percentage points when they decided to punt the ball, going from 83.5 to 57.4 percent."

Hurney, for what it's worth, is devastated by losses.

"I'm in this thing to win, and if we don't win, I don't deserve to be here then," he said. "I'm not doing this for money. I'm doing this to win football games."

For more NFL news, rumors and analysis, follow @EyeOnNFL on Twitter, like us on Facebook, and subscribe to the Pick-6 Podcast on iTunes. You can follow Ryan Wilson on Twitter here: @ryanwilson_07.

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