With the NFL investigating interim General Manager Marty Hurney under the league’s personal conduct policy, the Carolina Panthers have placed Hurney on paid leave effective Monday after his ex-wife, Jeannie Hurney, filed for a protective order against him on Friday. District Judge Ronald Chapman declined to issue an immediate restraining order, citing that there was no evidence Hurney had commited domesitc violence against his ex-wife; the couple has been divorced since January of 2014 after 26 years of marriage. With Hurney on leave, the Panthers search for a permanent general manager, thought to be a done deal after interviews with Hurney and three outside candidates last week, has been tossed firmly back into the air.
Multiple sources have confirmed that Hurney was in the final stages of being offered the general manager position, with a tentative agreement thought to have been in place over the weekend before Hurney informed the team on Sunday that his ex-wife had filed for the protective order; that complaint from Ms. Hurney has since been withdrawn according to the Charlotte Observer, and questions about whether a February 16th court hearing concerning the protective order will still occur exist, as well as how in-depth an NFL investigation will be if the complaint has been withdrawn.
Buffalo Bills Assistant Director of College Scouting Lake Dawson, interviewed last week, was widely considered to be a candidate for the assistant general manager position should Hurney have received the GM job. With the Panthers now facing Hurney’s personal conduct investigation in addition to the ongoing investigation against owner Jerry Richardson led by attorney Mary Jo White (reported to be in Charlotte this week) after a bombshell Sports Illustrated report in December of last year lobbed multiple allegations of misconduct in the workplace, the questions are beginning to pile up for the Panthers organization.
- Will the Panthers move away from their preferred GM candidate to avoid another NFL investigation?
- If the Panthers choose another GM, did they really do their due diligence on the other candidates? Or were they just satisfying the Rooney Rule to ultimately hire Hurney?
- With the date to assign a franchise tag looming in less than two weeks and two players in the running for the designation, not to mention the combine at the end of the month, does a second-choice hire put the Panthers behind the eight ball when it comes to preparation for the draft and free agency?
- If they cut ties with Hurney and the investigation is fruitless as the complaint from his ex-wife is dropped, did the Panthers make a mistake? Would that potentially give Hurney an opportunity to sue for wrongful termination?
- Do they ride it out with Hurney, risking the investigation dragging on for weeks? Not to mention the possibility of the NFL finding evidence that shows Hurney violated the personal conduct policy?
However this situation evolves, it has shifted from a simple hiring of the 62-year-old Hurney as full-time GM, which appeared to be a foregone conclusion as recently as Friday, to a decision marred by questions that will have ramifications both from a public relations and on-the-field perspective.