CHARLOTTE — All the Panthers really did last weekend was change the entire way they do business on draft weekend.
That's all, just blowing up the business model, re-thinking the entire process, and building it again. That's it.
Now, it took months of planning, dozens of people, hundreds of Zoom calls, thousands of Marriott points, and unlimited cell phone plans to get it done.
But when it was time to implement the plan, it only took 48 hours.
So it wasn't overnight. But over the course of two nights, everything changed, and the Panthers went from the kind of team that did business one way, to a team that was fully invested in thinking differently about the annual player selection meeting.
The Panthers added 11 players they needed, including one special one at the top.
But their biggest takeaway was a new focus on value, and how to maximize it. It's not about any one player, it's about getting as many as possible. Though they tried to start trading down and stacking assets on the first night of the draft last Thursday, they weren't able to. Friday, during the second and third rounds, they made four trades which turned into multiple picks, including one in 2022.
That let the league know the Panthers were open for business.
"Saturday, there wasn't a pick we had that we didn't take calls on," director of player personnel Pat Stewart said, acknowledging the significant shift from making calls to taking them.
That kind of change doesn't happen with one phone call. It has to be structural.
IT STARTS AT THE TOP
In thinking about the strategy of draft picks as currency, and the trading of that currency, they're well-positioned. Owner David Tepper sort of made billions of dollars doing something like that.
Then you add head coach Matt Rhule, who has a track record of turning lesser things into much better things, and a philosophy begins to take shape.
Then you add new general manager Scott Fitterer, who comes from a place that's had success by working the phones, and it becomes a culture — that thing football people always talk about building, but not many ever do.
"He's pretty invested in the idea of trading back and adding picks," director of analytics Taylor Rajack said of Fitterer, who grew up in the Seahawks organization. "He thinks in those terms. That helped. It's definitely more natural for him, he understands the idea behind not falling in love with very specific players, and trusting the board.
"Do you trust all the work that's been done for months and months by everyone in the organization? Then you can make moves that add picks and value rather than any particular player."