SAN JOSE, Calif. -- Panthers general manager Dave Gettleman remembers his own detractors almost as well as he remembers Cam Newton and Ron Rivera's.
In three years as general manager, he made the wise decision to not pull the plug on either of them, and at NFL's Opening Night on Monday, he provided insight into why.
"It's an accumulation of experiences," Gettleman, who will soon turn 65, said. "Let me tell you something -- call me crazy, but would this have happened if I got my first GM job when I was 40 years old? I don't know. I don't know that. It's like I said to someone -- I'm drawing on almost 30 years of experience in the league."
Gettleman was a key part of a few very good organizations, most recently the New York Giants over their two title runs in 2007 and 2011. He was a disciple of the legendary Giants general manager Ernie Accorsi, and he told reporters Monday that he modeled his defensive line philosophy around those teams. Owners who have had the chance, and passed on the chance to hire Gettleman over the years, have certainly regretted it.
But it's interesting to hear Gettleman talk about how being overlooked informed his experiences. He could have easily fired Rivera and dismissed Newton. Instead, he chose to let them make the same mistakes he learned from over the years.
"It's hard. It's hard. But you know, Ron -- my first year there -- Ron had a hell of a year. He went 12-4," Gettleman said. "I had a veteran sportswriter come and see me and he started banging on Cam. And I said wait a minute, how long have you been in the industry? And he said 20-plus years. And I said how many articles did you write your first two years that you're proud of? It's no different. And I said look, 'he's gotta get better at what he does and I've got to get better at what I do.' It's the way it is."
Gettleman said that he took Rivera on a "blind date" on his first day as general manager and they talked man to man. From that meeting he understood that Rivera was good enough to keep progressing as a coach. Gettleman is fortunate enough to know what that means, and why patience is a virtue.