INDIANAPOLIS – For 90 minutes Wednesday morning, the NFL Scouting Combine was a who's who of who's recently left Carolina. All that was missing was the cake and "Panthers 2018 Reunion" T-shirts.
Former defensive assistants-turned-head coaches Sean McDermott and Steve Wilks said nice things about Ron Rivera and his latest rising defensive coordinator, Eric Washington. Bills general manager Brandon Beane continuously cited what he learned while climbing the ladder in Charlotte. And Giants general manager Dave Gettleman cautiously took a walk down memory lane.
"Anytime something like that happens, we all have to understand we're all complicit," Gettleman said when asked about his sudden firing from the Panthers last summer.
"So I have to step back and be honest – and I have a great wife that will make me do that. Joanne doesn't pull any punches. You have to understand that when there's a difference of opinion between people ... If you have a difference of opinion, somewhere in the middle is where it should be. It's (Jerry Richardson's) franchise, he made a decision, and here I am."
But in the time between packing his things at Bank of America Stadium and landing on his feet in New York, the 67-year-old Gettleman found plenty of enjoyment in not working.
"I took advantage of the time. I had a great fall," he said. "I traveled. Went to Germany with Joanne for a week. Went up north a couple different times. Walked, read, talked to people."
He also shed more than 30 pounds.
"Radical concept - eat less, exercise more. I'm writing a book - bestseller," Gettleman said in his thick Boston accent and with a typical dose of sarcasm.
While answering questions for about 30 minutes, Gettleman played the hits. He mentioned hog mollies, Howard Johnson hotels and "brain damage."
"Everybody looked at me like I had brain damage when we took Vernon Butler (in the first round of the 2016 draft)," Gettleman recalled when asked about balancing a roster with 37-year-old Eli Manning and his potential replacement if the Giants take a quarterback with their No. 2 overall pick.
"Well, you've got K.K. (Short), you've got Star (Lotulelei)," Gettleman continued. "Are you going to be able to keep both of them? You make a decision, and if you can't keep Star, Vernon's sitting right there ready to go. It's not like, 'Crap, we've got to draft a defensive tackle!' It's been done.
"Part of drafting Shaq (Thompson) – (Thomas Davis isn't) playing forever. Part of drafting Taylor Moton – same box, with the two guards."
So, yes, before Gettleman's abrupt exit, he was planning for 2018 and beyond, a future he knew could be without guys like Lotulelei and guard Andrew Norwell. Now Gettleman's immediate concerns include an aging two-time Super Bowl-winning quarterback, an offensive line desperately in need of a rebuild and the sky-high contract wishes of superstar wideout Odell Beckham Jr.
Perhaps Gettleman will manage those with more tact than he did with a number of touchy topics in Carolina. But how much can a cat like him truly change his stripes?
"Not a lot," Gettleman admitted. "You know me. I'm about as transparent as they come.
"Do I look back and see things a little differently? Sure. You'd have to be a knucklehead not to. Are there things I'm doing a little differently? Yeah. But it's not like I've made seismic, philosophical changes. I'm old. I can't do that stuff. It hurts."
Take a look back at current Panthers players in action at the NFL Scouting Combine.