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Scott Fitterer offers varied experience, with a track record of success

Scott Fitterer at combine

CHARLOTTE – The Panthers have given Scott Fitterer the chance to use the eighth overall pick in the 2021 NFL Draft.

He might not know what to do with anything that high in the order.

But certainly, he's shown that he can help build a championship organization in a number of different ways over the years.

By agreeing to terms with the Seahawks' vice president of football operations for their general manager job Thursday, the Panthers identified an evaluator from a top program who has helped Seattle build a stable foundation.

And while the Seahawks have become as known lately for a penchant of trading down in the order as any particular players they've taken, Fitterer has been around for when they put together a champion, largely through the draft.

Their 2012 class was, simply put, the kind of group you build franchises on, as they acquired the cornerstones of the team that won Super Bowl XLVIII after the 2013 season.

They used their first-round pick on pass-rusher Bruce Irvin, who has been a solid pro throughout his career. The next two picks helped define them for nearly a decade.

Getting linebacker Bobby Wagner in the second round and quarterback Russell Wilson in the third provided the leaders on either side of the ball who have carried the Seahawks ever since.

Seattle had just signed quarterback Matt Flynn in free agency that offseason, and the three-year, $26 million contract indicated they planned for him to start (and play well).

But Wilson was a player who never took for granted that he was supposed to wait his turn, and the Seahawks obviously made the right move by making the 75th overall pick their starter immediately.

Since then, the Seahawks haven't picked higher than 27th in the draft. That's partly because of their willingness to trade back to accumulate assets, but it's also because they've been so good.

The Seahawks have made the playoffs eight of the last nine seasons, and their 9-7 record in 2017 was the low-water mark of that run. They're 98-45-1 in those last nine seasons.

That's the kind of sustained success the Panthers are looking for, having never enjoyed back-to-back winning seasons in 26 years, with an all-time record of 200-215-1.

Adding someone from a successful organization was clearly part of owner David Tepper's plan, as the other three finalists for the job were from the Chiefs, Titans (by way of the Patriots), and 49ers (by way of the Broncos and Patriots).

But the working together was also a key part of what Tepper envisioned, with the 47-year-old Fitterer and 45-year-old head coach Matt Rhule in position to add to a promising young core on defense.

If anything, Fitterer's time in Seattle should illustrate that he's not rigid or locked into his own silo of expertise.

Seattle GM John Schneider talks during the draft with head coach Pete Carroll and Fitterer.
Seattle GM John Schneider talks during the draft with head coach Pete Carroll and Fitterer.

In recent years, he operated in what amounted to a job-share arrangement, along with Trent Kirchner as co-assistant GMs under John Schneider. Kirchner's background was in pro scouting (including a stint with the Panthers), while Fitterer is Seattle's former college scouting director.

But in elevating them to a shared role beneath Schneider, each was given additional responsibilities, with Fitterer working on the pro side as well, and learning the kind of day-to-day essentials he'll need in a larger role.

In many offices, departments can become territorial, but those who know Seattle's building have described the relationships there as healthy, the kind that allows everyone to flourish, and have a hand in the success.

That's the kind of résumé Tepper was looking for, as he stressed the kind of "collaborative" approach he was looking for in his front office.

Now, Fitterer just has to get in the building. And start building.


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