Since their playoff loss to the New Orleans Saints in January, the Carolina Panthers have gone through an unorthodox number of changes in one offseason already. Within just days, new coordinators on all sides of the ball were announced with Norv Turner now calling the shots on offense, former defensive line coach Eric Washington getting the nod as defensive coordinator and the recent promotion of former linebacker Chase Blackburn to special teams coordinator. In addition, with founding owner Jerry Richardson stepping down and selling the team, it seems possible suitors continue to pop up each week to be the next owners of the Panthers. However, one thing that might get lost in this shuffle is that the Panthers have still yet to announce their plans for one of the most important positions of them all: a new general manager. So what’s currently happening with the Panthers GM search?
When Marty Hurney was named interim General Manager this summer, many Panthers fans expected the interim tag to quickly become more of a permanent one. While it has looked like that could be the case throughout the year, the Panthers have recently shown they are still actively looking for the right person for the role right up to Sunday’s Super Bowl. Let’s take a look at the candidates to date.
A familiar face to the Panthers, current Titans Director of Player Personnel Ryan Cowden spent 16 years with the team before heading to Tennessee. In Carolina, Cowden last held the title of assistant director of college scouting for two years. He also served as senior college scout for two years from 2012 to 2014 and was a national scout for the Panthers for the five previous seasons from 2008 to 2012. He originally joined the Carolina franchise as a scouting assistant in 2000 and was rumored to be in line for an interview, but sources now say that he was not brought in to speak with COO Tina Becker, who along with Head Coach Ron Rivera and others, is conducting the interviews.
Interim General Manager Marty Hurney still remains one of the favorites for the job with the majority of his decisions in 2017, including the at-the-time controversial trade of wide receiver Kelvin Benjamin, being favorable with both Panthers fans and coach Ron Rivera. Hurney can also be credited with drafting the nucleus of the Panthers including quarterback Cam Newton, middle linebacker Luke Kuechly and outside linebacker Thomas Davis; the decision to trade wide receiver Benjamin at the trade deadline that propelled Carolina on a 6-2 run to end the season may have elevated his job prospects even higher.
Jimmy Raye III
Jimmy Raye III, born in Fayetteville, N.C, is the current vice president of player personnel and assistant general manager of the Houston Texans. Multiple sources have reported the Panthers met with Raye III for an interview last Thursday; the graduate of San Diego State University has had previous executive positions with the San Diego Chargers and the Indianapolis Colts while his father served as offensive coordinator for seven different NFL teams including the San Francisco 49ers.
The most recent addition to the candidate list, Martin Mayhew is currently the San Francisco 49ers senior personnel executive. Mayhew was also the previous general manager of the Detroit Lions from 2008 to 2015; according to sources, Mayhew was brought in for a formal interview on Friday. The former cornerback spent seven years in the NFL with the Washington Redskins and Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
Lake Dawson spent the 2017 season as director of college scouting with the Buffalo Bills. Former Panthers Assistant General Manager Brandon Beane hired Dawson as one of his first executive moves as the new general manager in Buffalo. Dawson brings experience from his roles as vice president of football operations in Tennessee from 2011 to 2015 in addition to a scouting role with the Cleveland Browns; the Massachusetts-born former wide receiver played three seasons in the NFL with the Kansas City Chiefs.
While Hurney is considered the favorite, the other three well-qualified candidates interviewed last week satisfy the NFL’s Rooney Rule, which states that teams must interview minority candidates for head coaching and senior football operations positions. A decision is expected imminently as the Panthers move ahead with the offseason, even as the ownership situation remains fluid in Charlotte; the NFL schedule rolls on, with the first day to assign players the franchise tag being February 20 and the NFL Draft Combine beginning in Indianapolis on February 27. The Panthers must have a general manager to be able to efficiently scout and make roster moves as they head into what will be an extremely important offseason.