CHARLOTTE – Dave Gettleman didn't know Panthers head coach Ron Rivera before joining the organization as general manager, but Gettleman does know first-hand how a similar situation played out.
A few days before Gettleman was hired last week, Panthers Owner/Founder Jerry Richardson decided to retain Rivera for next season rather than leaving the decision to his new general manager.
Gettleman saw how a similar course of action turned out when he was director of pro personnel for the New York Giants in 2007. When general manager Ernie Accorsi retired and Jerry Reese took over the post, the team decided to retain Tom Coughlin as head coach.
"Now if you remember, Tom was under incredible heat," Gettleman said. "We had gone to the playoffs in '05 – when you guys came up there and just kicked our fanny – and then in '06 we go 8-8 and struggled to get into the playoffs."
The next season, Coughlin and the Giants won the Super Bowl.
"This is the same situation," Gettleman said. "My responsibility is to make everybody better."
Rivera was under heat when the Panthers relieved longtime general manager Marty Hurney of his duties following a 1-5 start last season. The team continued to struggle and fell out of playoff contention at 2-8 but responded with a 5-1 finish to end up 7-9, a one-game improvement over Rivera's first season.
Six days after a season-ending victory at New Orleans and four days before Gettleman was hired, Rivera was granted another season by Richardson.
"Mr. Richardson was very forthright and direct, and we had a great meeting. Obviously, it turned out the way I was hoping," Rivera said.
Rivera added that he was confident about getting another chance "because of the way we finished and the way the guys played down the stretch. I think the guys really did a great job for us. They played hard."
That's certainly something that Gettleman took note of and one of the reasons he's confident about his pairing with Rivera.
"The only background I had with Ron was watching him on TV like most other people," Gettleman said. "But it's a great statement to Ron and the coaching staff that the team played as hard as it did for him at the end of the year. Winning five out of the last six, that's a heck of a statement."
Richardson, in introducing Gettleman at a press conference Tuesday, said, "I think his experience will benefit not only the organization, but it will also be terrific for Ron during this time in his career."
Gettleman and Rivera's first order of business is filling out the coaching staff, headlined by the search for an offensive coordinator after Rob Chudzinski took the head coaching job with the Cleveland Browns.
Rivera said the Panthers want to hire someone who can mesh well with how the offense has utilized quarterback Cam Newton's unique skill set the last two seasons.
"We're looking for someone that presents us with a balanced offense and to protect the quarterback," he said. "We're not completely done with the search, but we are in the process of getting into it, and we'd like to come to a conclusion as quickly as possible."
At the same time, Gettleman and Rivera are making preparations for Senior Bowl practice next week, the unofficial kickoff of "draft season" in the NFL. They should be able to spend plenty of time together there, though Rivera already has a first impression that's similarly positive to Gettleman's impression of him.
"When he and I have met, he's been very honest, very upfront and very direct," Rivera said of Gettleman. "I really do appreciate that. He's been great."