CHARLOTTE — As he approached the podium Tuesday at his introductory press conference, new Panthers general manager Dave Gettleman wore the New York Giants latest Super Bowl ring on his right hand.
Stepping to the microphone, Gettleman looked around at the reporters and TV cameras and said, Wow.
After 25 years in the NFL, Gettleman finally had the spotlight to himself.
The longtime scout and pro personnel director has been a part of three Super Bowl-winning teams. During his meetings with Panthers owner Jerry Richardson and coach Ron Rivera last week in Charlotte, Gettleman informed both men he thinks he can win a fourth.
I told Mr. Richardson in the interview. I told Ron when we had breakfast Thursday morning, Gettleman said. I said, If we do this right, you and I are holding up the trophy with Mr. Richardson.
Richardson said Gettlemans experience and his 14 years with the Giants an organization Richardson has long respected sold him on Gettleman.
I think his experience will benefit not only the organization, but hell be terrific for Ron at this time in his career, Richardson said.
Gettleman, 61, was at a career crossroads last summer. Despite his success as a scout and personnel director, and his six Super Bowl trips, Gettleman said he did not get a sniff for any of the four GM openings last offseason.
He approached the Giants about taking a step back. Gettleman went from running the department to the newly created position of senior pro personnel analyst, and re-focused his professional and personal goals.
As you get older, you think about those things. What is your legacy? I never wanted to become someone who went to work to collect a paycheck, Gettleman said. I just needed to change my focus, get a broader vision. And really what it meant was I wasnt doing the day-to-day running the department things. I was able to look at the league, take a look at how it was going and changing.
But when Richardson hired former Giants GM Ernie Accorsi a longtime friend and former colleague of Gettleman to consult on the search, Gettleman thought he might finally get his chance.
Im not an idiot, Gettleman said, drawing laughter at a press conference attended by Joanne, his wife of 28 years, and their three children.
Gettleman, who declined to discuss his contract details, said he believes his age was a deterrent in getting interview opportunities for previous GM jobs.
Its about the person doing the hiring. I just needed someone who was looking for an older, more mature guy. Thats really what it came down to, Gettleman said. Our culture is the next whiz-bang is the next great thing. Thats just where were at right now as a culture. It was one of those deals where, Oh, hes an old dinosaur. Hes probably cranky.
Gettleman said he agreed with former Panthers GM Marty Hurneys philosophy of building through the draft. He also believes there are good bargains to be found in free agency, citing a pair of Giants starters: Tight end Martellus Bennett and offensive tackle Sean Locklear both signed one-year deals last offseason.
Gettleman declined to address the Panthers salary cap situation they are a projected $16 million over next years cap saying he needed more time to evaluate the roster.
As for inheriting a coach he didnt hire, Gettleman said its the same situation Giants GM Jerry Reese faced with Tom Coughlin in 2007 after Reese replaced Accorsi. Coughlin was under fire after an 8-8 season and an early playoff exit in 2006.
With Coughlin as coach, Reese and the Giants won the Super Bowl the next season.
Gettleman said hes not planning any wholesale changes with the coaching staff or front office. As a scout with Buffalo in 1986 during his first NFL season, Gettleman watched Marv Levy take over for Hank Bullough near midseason and fire three of Bulloughs assistants.
I promised myself from that point on if I ever got to be the king, you have to be very careful. You dont want to throw the baby out with the bath water, Gettleman said. Right now moving forward, my plan is to work with the current Panther family and get this thing right.
I told Ron, I dont have a list of head coaches in my back pocket. I have no interest in that. I told the pro guys already and I will tell the college guys, I dont have a list of personnel people in my pocket.
Gettleman said there are no pretenses with him. As he began to describe his direct approach, Gettleman got choked up talking about his wifes mother.
Im pretty simple, my wife will vouch for that. I believe in faith, family and football. Those are my priorities, he said. Im called a grinder and I think thats a compliment in our industry. Pretty much my mother-in-law, may she rest in peace, said, with Dave Gettleman what you see is what you get.