There have been some surprises in the NFL this year, but few come close to what's gone on with the Carolina Panthers ... and we're not talking about the team.
We're talking about the organization.
First, the team president resigned. That was back in February. Then assistant GM Brandon Beane left for Buffalo. Then came the grand finale, with the club firing GM Dave Gettleman a week before training camp ... and hiring the guy it cashiered nearly five years ago to make room for Gettleman, former GM Marty Hurney.
"Sort of surreal," Hurney admitted on the latest Talk of Fame Network broadcast. "These things don't happen in this league."
Except they just did. And they happened to a general manager who not only put Carolina in its first Super Bowl but laid the ground floor for the club that 12 years later reached Super Bowl 50, with 10 of the Panthers' 22 starters products of the Hurney regime.
But Hurney had been out of the game four-and-a-half years and left football for a career in the radio business, buying and running a station in Charlotte. By his own admission, he never thought he'd return to the NFL, but, here he is -- the "interim" GM of the Panthers -- in a job that, he admitted, he is "excited" to try again.
"I can't explain it," he said on the latest Talk of Fame Network broadcast, "but you walk through that door for the first time, and you're re-energized. I always thought for the last couple of years ... listen, if I ever got back I would be a better general manager than I was then because I have a lot of perspective from being out. You step out for four or five years, you look at the mistakes you made and you think about what you would've done differently.
"And I'll tell you the most important thing: You also realize the good decisions that you made, and when you go through a long career -- and I had a great run as general manager -- and then you go through seasons and you're not winning, I think you start doubting yourself sometimes. I do bring a perspective and look at the mistakes that I made. But you also say, 'Listen, there are a lot of good things you did so just correct some of those mistakes and really approach it in a different manner.'
"You know me. I used to get very worked up and emotional, and I think that one of the things I have to do now is be more analytical and stay calm and realize that every day you just make the right decisions. The best general managers in this league are calm, and they're analytical. Nobody bats .1000, but you just have to make what you think are the right decisions at the time."
As we said, Hurney is listed as the team's "interim GM," and there's an understanding the title probably means he stays with the team through this season. But it's open-ended, so it could mean he stays until owner Jerry Richardson finds someone else, or it could mean he stays as long as Richardson is satisfied with the results.
Which means it could be a lot longer than one season.
"The way I look at it," Hurney said, "(is that) every job is interim. Right? You have to win. I'm at the point where I came in here to help get through the season and help identify candidates for the next general manager spot ... and even develop them if that occurs. But you don't know. I'm just taking it day to day and doing whatever I can to help this team try to win some football games this year."
It won't be easy. The Panthers are in a fiercely competitive division that includes the reigning NFC champs, their star quarterback is coming off shoulder surgery and Tampa Bay suddenly looks like a team ready to flex its muscles. So Hurney knows what he's getting into ... and he can't wait.
"I never lost my emotional investment to this organization," he said. "There is a part of you that wants to come back and prove to yourself -- nobody else -- just prove to yourself that you have learned and you can do a better job. There's a challenge to this business. It does drive you, but one thing I've learned is it can't consume you. You have to be able to step back and make the big-picture decisions, and sometimes that's not easy."