CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- Scott Fitterer looked the part of general manager, dressed in the dark blue suit he bought 12 days ago in Charlotte because the clothes he brought from Seattle for his interview with the Carolina Panthers were tight after nearly a year in a pandemic.
He sounded like a GM, not discussing specific players or plans until he gets to meet, and learn more about, everybody in the organization.
What kind of general manager Seattle’s former vice president of football operations will be for Carolina remains to be seen.
Here’s what we learned from Friday’s made-for-Zoom introductory news conference:
Noncommittal on quarterback Teddy Bridgewater: Fitterer began by saying he wouldn’t talk about specific players. He mentioned only two, linebacker/safety Jeremy Chinn and running back Christian McCaffrey. He mentioned Chinn because they have a mutual friend/agent. McCaffrey came up at the end when Fitterer said he wanted to talk to “Christian and other leaders on the team.’’ Bridgewater never got a mention despite several questions referring to him. Make of that what you want.
However, when asked for his definition of a franchise quarterback, second on Fitterer’s short list of criteria was “someone who can win when the game is on the line in the fourth quarter.’’ Bridgewater was 0-8 this past season when he had a chance on his final possession to win or tie the game.
Deshaun Watson interest: The Panthers have been linked in multiple reports to interest in trading for the disgruntled Houston Texans quarterback if he becomes available. Fitterer didn’t mention Watson by name. When reminded that Seattle lived by the mantra that it wanted to be in on every big deal in the NFL, even if it didn’t realistically have a shot, Fitterer said, “We will be in on every deal.’’ This was a big part of Seattle’s culture, because it helped the organization learn about others. It also allowed officials to reduce second-guessing.
Roster philosophy: Fitterer made it clear it starts with the quarterback. A former college quarterback himself, Fitterer helped Seattle find a pretty good one in Russell Wilson. Again, read into his silence on Bridgewater as you please. After quarterback, Fitterer plans to build inside out with offensive and defensive linemen.
Draft philosophy: Fitterer called having the No. 8 pick in this year’s draft a “new adventure,’’ and with good reason. The last time he had a pick higher than 27th was 2012, when the Seahawks picked 15th. He has made a living hitting on second- to middle-round picks. Wilson was a third-rounder in 2012. Fitterer found in Seattle that the top-tier players usually stopped between 16 and 18, and that in general there wasn’t a huge difference in players between 25 and 40. Seattle often traded down to acquire more picks. One instance was last year, when it gave Carolina the 64th pick (second round) for picks No. 69 and 148. The Panthers used that on Chinn, who became a strong candidate for NFL Defensive Rookie of the Year. Fitterer said the eighth pick was great because it gave him flexibility to trade up or down. So don’t get comfortable at No. 8.
Who's in charge? You’ve read here for a while that coach Matt Rhule will have the final say over the roster. Rhule reinforced that by saying, “In terms of on the contract, a lot of those things probably rest with me.’’ He also said that that’s a formality and that he welcomes a GM who will argue with him. He ultimately wants this to be a collaborative effort the way it was in Seattle.