There is no right way to let go of a legendary player and Carolina Pantherís general manager, Dave Gettleman found out just how hard it could be.
No matter what else he does during his tenure in Carolina, Gettleman will carry the tag as the GM responsible for handing the teamís longest tenured player, Steve Smith, his walking papers March 13.
After playing 13 years with the Panthers, Smith, is the team-leading receiver. He has fought teammates as well opponents. Heís been a disruptive force to opponents as well as to his team, but Panthers fans love him.
He gave to the Panthers even when he couldíve demanded to go elsewhere and play for a winning team.† He didnít. Smith stuck with the team and helped the Panthers reemerge as a winner. Earning a spot in the playoffs last season for the first time since 2008, the Panthers finished 12-5 as NFC South champs.
To say Pantherís fans are upset is an understatement. They are calling for Gettlemanís firing. I donít envy the position he is in, but I get it. Smith has been the face of the franchise for a long time and Gettleman is trying to change that. By releasing Smith he has infuriated the very fanbase that hasnít had a long history of superstars. Before Luke Kuechley and Cam Newton, Smith was Carolinaís lone superstar.
Do I like the way the Smith release was handled? Absolutely not. Gettleman hesitated and gave the impression that he didnít care about one of the franchises most storied players. He shouldíve been in contact with Smith from from day one when he was considering parting ways. This should not have been played out in front of the media.
Panthersí fans grew up with Smith. Theyíve been through all of his ups and downs. He has matured into the leader of the Panthers. He deserved all the courtesies afforded to someone who is a part of the community. This is the first superstar to leave the team.
I get why Gettleman released Smith, but he failed miserably at handling it. Iíve told many Panther fans, be patient. Coming into this offseason, there were 21 free agents and the Panthers had $7 million dollars under salary cap after franchising all pro defensive end Greg Hardy. Gettleman is restricted in what he can do in free agency.
I know everyone is upset over Smith, but remember, before Gettleman got to Carolina, the Panthers hadnít sniffed the playoffs.† He took an underachieving franchise and turned them around. So, Gettleman gets some leeway from me and in time, he should get some from bitter Panthersí fans too.
Big picture isnít easy to execute.