By Zach Goins
January 14, 2021
The Panthers search for a new general manager has come to a close, as the team announced on Thursday night that Seahawks’ vice president of football operations Scott Fitterer has accepted the position.
Fitterer, 47, will bring a long history of sustained success to Carolina– something owner David Tepper undoubtedly hopes will rub off on the home team, as Tepper has pined for excellence since taking over the organization in 2018. After hiring a new head coach in Matt Rhule last offseason, the addition of Fitterer marks another piece of the puzzle for the Panthers.
He accepted 😉 pic.twitter.com/v50IPqbfLJ
— Carolina Panthers (@Panthers) January 15, 2021
“We went through a thorough process and it was a great final four,” Tepper said of the search. “We thought Scott was the best fit for the organization.”
Carolina had been on the hunt for a new GM since parting ways with Marty Hurney in mid-December after his second stint leading the team. Since then, the organization has left no stone unturned, hosting interviews with 15 different candidates. According to Panthers.com, Fitterer was a late addition, interviewing via video on Monday, the final day of the search, but the longtime Seahawk made quite the impression and earned an in-person interview with the three other finalists two days later. A day later, the job was his.
So, what do we know about the new general manager of the Panthers?
Climbing the ladder
Fitterer’s full-time NFL career began in 2001 with Seattle, and since then he’s made his way to the top of the Seahawks organization. Starting out as a college scout, Fitterer worked his way up the ranks before eventually becoming the team’s college scouting director in 2011, the co-director of player personnel in 2015, and ultimately, vice president of football operations.
That path to the top has provided him with a wealth of knowledge working on the collegiate side of the game– a skill that’s instrumental to the success of a general manager tasked with evaluating potential draft picks. Fitterer has been praised as an excellent talent evaluator, and he’s got the resume to prove it.
From the ground up
If you know anything about the Seahawks past decade, it’s that they’ve been consistently great– making the playoffs eight times, the Super Bowl twice, and winning the Lombardy Trophy once.
When you look at the key pieces of Seattle’s dynasty, they haven’t really made too many flashy free-agent acquisitions. Quarterback Russell Wilson, defensive back Richard Sherman, linebacker Bobby Wagner, safety Earl Thomas, and edge rusher Bruce Irvin– all legendary Seahawks, and all acquired under Fitterer’s watch through the draft. These pieces laid the foundation for the sustained success in Seattle, and now Fitterer will look to do the same in Carolina.
A collaborative approach
Back in December when the team first announced the departure of Hurney, and Tepper spoke about what he was looking for in the Panthers’ new general manager. Throughout the chat, two key phrases kept coming up: “collaboration” and “data-driven.”
“There has to be an alignment between the coach and the GM. The person has to be a collaborator of a certain sort, not afraid to make decisions,” Tepper said when describing his ideal candidate. “Collaboration doesn’t mean you don’t have arguments about who you’re picking.
Fitterer and Rhule will work hand-in-hand when it comes to making personnel decisions, but according to ESPN.com, sources familiar with the hiring say Rhule will have final say when it comes to narrowing down the 53-man roster.
“I want everything to be collaborative,” Rhule said last week. “I want to work with somebody that wants to get the players and establish the vision that we established that we believe in.”
Fitterer’s past roles have all been extremely collaborative– which is likely what made him stand out as the ideal candidate. In his role with the Seahawks, he worked closely with general manager John Schneider in every step of the draft process, and previously collaborated with fellow co-director of player personnel Trent Kirchner.
“It’s definitely not a stagnant process,” Fitterer told Seahawks.com of his scouting techniques ahead of the 2016 NFL Combine. “We’re always growing, always pushing and trying to find new ways. Our philosophy will stay the same in terms of the type of players we want, but we’re always looking for a different way. What’s better, how can we do differently? How can we find these unique traits in players? It’s not just the same thing every year; we’re always growing.”
The challenges ahead
When Fitterer arrives in Carolina, he’ll have his work cut out for him. Tepper’s quest for sustained success is no secret, and after a 5-11 season, the Panthers aren’t necessarily close.
Questions still loom under center, and finding an answer has become decidedly more difficult with the NFL’s reduced salary cap due to the plunge in revenues thanks to the pandemic. The new $175 million cap leaves Carolina with just over $6 million in cap space.
Quarterback won’t be the only place Fitterer will have to find answers, as key negotiations with impending free agent right tackle Taylor Moton are coming up, as well as questions around wide receiver Curtis Samuel’s future in Carolina. Couple those with the need to shore up the depth on defense, and it’s clear Fitterer will have to hit the ground running.