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Panthers’ Dave Gettleman hopes for long-term success

“I also worked in the meat markets loading and unloading trucks down in Southie,” said Panthers’ general manager Dave Gettleman. “I learned what work was all about.”Chuck Burton/AP

In a land of long drawls and a slow pace of life, Dave Gettleman and his Boston accent stand out like a sore thumb.

"Yeah, there's a few people that make fun of it," said the Carolina Panthers' 62-year-old first-year general manager.

What's amazing is that he hasn't called Boston home since the early 1970s, when he attended Springfield College before becoming a high school teacher and coach in Poughkeepsie, N.Y. Yet he can drop his r's with the best of them.

"The reason I haven't lost it is because when I went to New York to teach, the kids got a kick out of it," said Gettleman, who still has a sister in the area and tries to get to Cape Cod as much as he can. "So for all those years I exaggerated it."


It's certainly no stretch to say that growing up in Dorchester has made Gettleman the man he is today.

"My dad was in plumbing and heating," Gettleman said. "When I was a kid, we'd go down to Comm. Ave or Beacon Street in those big apartment houses and we'd put in these apartment-sized boilers and they'd have five plates to them that weighed about 250 pounds apiece.

"So you'd have to walk those things around and put them together. My father had a 4-foot Stillson [wrench] that he used to tighten everything. They didn't have hydraulics in those days. Couldn't go down to Sears and get a Black and Decker.

"I also worked in the meat markets loading and unloading trucks down in Southie. I learned what work was all about. The biggest thing from the meat markets in Boston I learned is that people are where they are, sometimes, because of circumstances, and your job doesn't define you."

With that background, no Panthers fan should expect Gettleman to go for the quick fix. He is going to methodically build with a team that has one winning record and playoff berth in the past seven seasons.


"I've always believed in that," Gettleman said. "You have to build a foundation, and everything is a process. The ones that get to the mountaintop are the ones that don't shortcut the process, and who understand all the things involved in the process.

"What you want is sustained success — that's what you're looking for. Any one team in any given year can go to the playoffs where everything just breaks right. But it's really about sustained success.

"If that's what you want, you must go through the process. You can't take shortcuts. You have to do the work and build it right."

Not surprisingly, Gettleman's own career has followed his vision.

Along the way, he met a Chiefs scout by the name of Bill Polian, who ended up giving him a scouting intern job after being named general manager of the Bills in 1986. Gettleman rose to scout before joining Mike Shanahan with the Broncos in 1994. In 1998, Gettleman was hired by Ernie Accorsi with the Giants and quickly rose to pro personnel director in 1999.

Methodical career. And all of those stops were with teams that had sustained success. Gettleman has been associated with 13 playoff teams, six that advanced to the Super Bowl, and three that won it all (1997 Broncos, 2007 and 2011 Giants).


"I've watched some of the best put teams together and win," Gettleman said. "Bill Polian, Bob Ferguson, Mike Shanahan, Ernie . . . I've seen some of the best.

"And, obviously, from afar, I tried to see what Bill Walsh was doing and how he was thinking, and, of course, Bill Belichick. You pay attention to all this stuff. What you do is you kind of put yourself in those positions mentally."

And now, finally, in his 27th year in the NFL, Gettleman is getting a chance to run his own show.

"It's exciting, it really is," he said. "Maybe it's because I'm a little crazy, but I feel very comfortable and excited about having this opportunity and I feel very comfortable doing it. And that's part and parcel because of the people that are here, and the resources that I have — people that I can reach out to, which I have done and will continue to do.

"But it's also a testament to the people that are already in the building. You don't win five out of your last six games like we did last year and not have quality people. It doesn't happen. This team didn't mail it in. That speaks a lot to the people in this building."

Gettleman's first few months on the job have been busy, as he tries to put things in order.

"It's starting to slow down now," Gettleman said. "I'm starting to get comfortable with the people and they're starting to get comfortable with me.


"A lot of it is really just getting everyone on the same page, understanding what we need to do and how we need to get there and understanding that it's about the Carolina Panthers and it's not about any one individual."

But there's one guy in charge now, a guy embarking on his first solo team-building effort. A guy who has an opportunity he thought might never come.

"That's what's got me so excited right now: it was a long time coming and I feel like I'm ready," Gettleman said. "Maybe that's why I feel so comfortable."

Just be ready for that thick accent.


Players are a little late with their complaints

With the Panthers seeking more than $200 million in public funds to update Bank of America Stadium, it was certainly embarrassing when deadspin.com posted team financial statements that said the Panthers made a two-year profit from 2011-12 of $112 million.

The team later released a statement, saying, "The Deadspin story presents an incomplete picture of the Carolina Panthers profitability. The figures offer an isolated snapshot of the team's financial situation during an unusual time as the NFL lockout loomed.

"The team's actual operating cash flow, even before federal and state tax payments were made, was significantly less than the accounting income reported in the story. The most meaningful reflection of a company's profitability is cash flow, and the team's operating cash flow fluctuated between pre-tax figures of $26.7 million in fiscal year 2011 and $39.8 million in fiscal year 2012."

The documents were also embarrassing for the NFL, its owners, and the Players Association. Panthers owner Jerry Richardson had been one of the biggest hawks for a lockout because the owners did so poorly under the last CBA.


A few players who helped negotiate the new CBA went on Twitter.

"Wow, I can now confirm Jerry Richardson lied to my face, and every employee still in his locker room by extension," said former Bears linebacker Hunter Hillenmeyer.

Said Browns linebacker Scott Fujita: "I don't begrudge anyone for making money, but lying, colluding, cooking the books, and squeezing your employees via a work stoppage seems a little uncool."

Here's the thing: The players can't complain now; there are two parties in a negotiation, and an agreement can't be forged without both agreeing. The players crowed about the need for the owners to open their books, but in the end they caved on that. They had their chance.


McDaniels will only get better with time

I'll admit that I have had my share of criticism for Patriots offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels: how he'll occasionally overthink deception calls, how most of his personnel decisions with the Patriots haven't exactly produced secret weapons.

But those are micro-criticisms. The truth is, McDaniels is one of the best offensive coordinators in the league. He sees offense the way Bill Belichick sees the overall game — a few steps ahead of everybody else.

When he unveiled the game plan against the Cardinals in Week 2 that called for Julian Edelman to supplant Wes Welker as the No. 2 receiver, I thought it was the wrong call. Brandon Lloyd was certainly an upgrade on many who have come before, but if you're going to put Welker on the sideline, you'd better have a perimeter threat that defensive coordinators worry about. The Patriots lacked one, so the plan was a bit flawed.

But going forward, I'm on board if that's what McDaniels chooses to do.

The Patriots can go three directions with the passing offense:

  Retain Welker, add the outside X threat (probably in the draft), and move Welker to the outside Z position.

  Retain Welker and keep him in the slot to work a high-low game in the middle with Rob Gronkowski, make Aaron Hernandez the X, and sign (Danny Amendola and Edelman) or trade (Percy Harvin) for the Z.

  Move on from Welker, find a big-time X, fill the Z with a terrific athlete with the ball in his hands in a short area, and let Hernandez and Gronkowski rule the middle.

I think McDaniels's preference is to do a mixture of the first two, with the first as a base. After watching McDaniels operate last season, I'm on board with whatever he decides. Is he perfect? No. But at 36, he is still in the infancy of his career, and his rough edges will round out with more experience.


Patriots’ sales pitch may need a revision

The Patriots have to be a little bit anxious about this new three-day legal tampering period. Rarely do they get in on one of the big, high-priced talents that gets locked up on the first day of free agency. Adalius Thomas is a rare exception. They prefer to target specific mid-tier guys who may have flown under the radar and have a higher ceiling. The Patriots do their best work when they can bring a player in, flash Super Bowl rings, sit him in front of Bill Belichick, and sell him on how it's in his best interest to take a little bit less money to play with a championship contender. Then they do a great job at keeping the player in town until they agree to a deal. They can't do that during this three-day period. With so many holes on the roster — they have virtually no receivers, cornerbacks, or backup offensive linemen — the Patriots have to be concerned that many of their targets will just do a verbal money grab before getting the New England sell job. Could that make the Patriots overextend early in the process? They might have to, especially at cornerback. There should be plenty of decent cornerbacks available at a good price, but it will be about fit more than anything. The Patriots have to find the right guys.

Nickel package

1. Offseason plans for NFL teams are always written in pencil. The safety market — with veterans such as Ed Reed (Ravens), Charles Woodson (Packers), Kenny Phillips (Giants), and Adrian Wilson (Cardinals) being on the street — is a perfect example. The Patriots feel fine about Devin McCourty and either Tavon Wilson or Steve Gregory at safety. But if there's better value at safety than cornerback, McCourty's versatility allows the Patriots to change things up.

2. Of course, with veteran cornerbacks such as Dunta Robinson (Falcons), Chris Gamble (Panthers), Aaron Ross (Jaguars), Rashean Mathis (Jaguars), and Nnamdi Asomugha (Eagles) either available or expected to become available, the Patriots might think that's a better route and keep the status quo at safety.

3. All of those players are on the street for a reason, mostly because of age, and they have lost speed. But the Patriots are very good at figuring out what strengths veteran players have left, and how those would fit into what they do. And as perennial contenders, the Patriots will be very appealing to veterans who have made their money but want to go out as winners.

4. It must be awfully tempting for Belichick to trade for Percy Harvin, the terrific talent of the Vikings. Not sure, however, how the Patriots could swing, both financially and in the locker room, the contract Harvin wants. Yahoo! Sports reported that Harvin wants a deal that approaches that of the Lions' Calvin Johnson (eight years, $132 million). That's insane. Johnson is a model player with not much of an injury history. Harvin is a diva who has played 16 games once in his four-year career.

5. Yahoo! Sports also reported that Harvin threatened to walk out on the Vikings after Aaron Hernandez , Harvin's former University of Florida teammate, received his contract extension from the Patriots in August. Of course, Hernandez had outperformed his contract as a fourth-round pick. Harvin was a first-round pick.

Short yardage

Young Patriots fans and aspiring football players ages 7-14 (boys and girls) will be happy to know that Wes Welker and Rob Gronkowski will hold youth camps in the area this summer. Welker's will take place May 18-19 at Wayland High. Gronkowski will be on hand June 1-2 at Bishop Fenwick in Peabody. Got to procamps.com for more information . . . Congrats to former Patriots guard Joe Andruzzi and player agent Sean Stellato (a standout athlete at Salem High School and Marist), who were inducted into the Massachusetts chapter of the National Italian-American Sports Hall of Fame Saturday night at the Venezia Waterfront restaurant . . . Receiver David Nelson, whose 6-5 frame, smarts, and University of Florida background could make him a target of the Patriots, told the Buffalo News that he thinks the Bills decided not to bring him back because of injury. "It's upsetting," Nelson said. "It's already hard enough to sit out a year and not be able to be with your teammates on the field. Then to find out they're not going to bring you back because — and this is my opinion — because of the uncertainty of the knee and doubts if I can be a good player is the hardest part for me." Nelson, who tore a knee ligament in the season opener, said he's now running routes. He caught 61 passes for 658 yards and five touchdowns two seasons ago . . . New offensive coordinator Marty Mornhinweg was asked by the Jets website what attracted him to the team. "That's a great question," he said. "I love challenges and I think this is a great challenge. We have the ability to develop young, raw type of talented athletes and that's why I love doing what I do.'' Mark Sanchez awaits . . . Interesting leverage game taking place in Denver. On March 16, the $12 million 2013 salary for defensive end Elvis Dumervil becomes guaranteed. The Broncos want Dumervil to restructure or, better yet, take a pay cut. Shortly after that revelation, a report surfaced the Broncos could be interested in free agent Dwight Freeney, Peyton Manning's former Colts teammate. Tough spot for Dumervil, who in 2010 received a $61.5 million contract and has 63.5 career sacks.

Greg A. Bedard can be reached at gbedard@ globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @gregabedard. Material from interviews, wire services, other beat writers, and league and team sources was used in this report.