Brandon Beane has various Carolina Panthers photos on his office walls, a framed Sports Illustrated cover from the team’s Super Bowl season and the Titleist he used to make a hole-in-one in Myrtle Beach.
There are no windows in Beane’s second-floor office. Just as well: Beane plans on keeping his head down the next two months and steering the Panthers’ through what already has been a tumultuous season.
Beane, who has worked for the Panthers in a variety of roles since 1998, has been thrust into his biggest one yet. Beane has been acting as the interim general manager since Marty Hurney’s firing last week.
Beane, the team’s director of football operations, had been Hurney’s right-hand man for several years.
“My goal would have been for us to win the Super Bowl and at some point Marty retire. But in life things rarely work out as planned,” Beane said Friday. “For all Marty’s done for me, this is not the way I would have liked the responsibility. But at the same time, you have to come in here and make the most of it.”
Beane, 36, said he’s been sleeping less in the two weeks since owner Jerry Richardson told him he would be the acting GM. Beane has gone from handling budgets and overseeing the equipment, video and team operations to watching film with coach Ron Rivera, talking with teams about possible trades and making decisions that will shape the Panthers’ immediate future.
“Right now I’m focused on helping (Rivera) and the rest of the team get through the next nine weeks,” Beane said. “That’s what Mr. Richardson asked me to do, and that’s what I’m focused on doing.”
Beane graduated from South Stanly High in Norwood, where he was the starting quarterback until tearing his ACL in the first quarter of the first game his senior year.
While rehabbing the knee, Beane coached the boys’ junior high basketball team. He went to UNC Wilmington planning to be a teacher and coach.
Instead, he did summer internships with the Charlotte Touchdown Club and the Panthers, starting as a training camp intern with the public relations department. That led to a full-time position as a football operations assistant, which required Beane to pick players up at the airport and set up travel arrangements, among other things.
Beane climbed the organizational ladder until Hurney made him the football operations director in 2008.
“This is what I always wanted to do,” Beane said. “But you can’t just jump into it.”
In Beane’s first week as acting GM, the Panthers placed linebacker Jon Beason and cornerback Chris Gamble on injured reserve. The second week was the trade deadline, and Beane spent much of it on his cell.
“I was on the phone a lot, but we never got an offer,” Beane said. “It was just working the phone, calling around, talking. Our intention was not to trade anybody.”
Beane met with running back DeAngelo Williams and wideout Steve Smith after both were mentioned in trade talks. At least one playoff-contending team was interested in Williams, who lost his starting job to Jonathan Stewart two weeks ago.
Even before his demotion, Williams’ role had been diminished in offensive coordinator Rob Chudzinski’s scheme. Considering the way Williams was used after signing a five-year, $43 million contract in 2011, there have been questions about whether there was a disconnect between the front office and coaching staff on the running game.
A year after re-signing Williams, the Panthers gave Stewart a $36.5 million extension.
But Beane pointed to last week’s loss at Chicago – where Stewart (17), Williams (11) and fullback Mike Tolbert (3) combined for 31 carries – as the kind of balance the Panthers want.
“When you’re getting the three backs 30-plus carries between the three of them, you’re going to win your fair share of games,” he said.
Beane said he has a good relationship with Rivera, who meets with Beane every day to discuss personnel decisions.
“He’s a very thorough young man, does a heck of a job,” Rivera said. “He’s very forthright and up front about things. There’s not a lot of hemming and hawing with him. He’s steady. He’s very steady.”
Beane said Richardson made him no promises about a job with whomever the next general manager is. Obviously, Beane can help his prospects – here or elsewhere – if the Panthers (1-6) win some games.
“We’re so close,” said Beane, referring to the Panthers’ five losses by six points or fewer. “You win one, then you win another, all of a sudden you’ve got the momentum going the other way.”
And the view from Beane’s window-less office greatly improves.