If the NFL ever wanted a reality show based on the day-to-day dealings of a team’s general manager and one of his players, the drama between Dave Gettleman and Steve Smith would fit the bill very nicely.
Things started to heat up last month during Jordan Gross’ retirement press conference as questions turned away from lineman and towards the future of the team’s all-time leading receiver in every category known to man.
Smith, who had the reputation of being a hot head early in his career, did his best to maintain his cool demeanor and told reporters, “This is Jordan’s day. We’re not discussing me.”
That was a better and more professional response than the one Gettleman blurted out during the NFL Combine in Indianapolis just days before. When Gettleman was asked about his star receiver’s status with the club, the Carolina GM all but had Smith escorted out of Bank of America Stadium.
“We’re going through the whole process. Steve’s had a great career. He really has. None of us are here forever,” Gettleman said. “But that’s not to say — he’s part of the evaluation process. That’s just the way it is.”
Smith met with Gettleman last week to discuss his future with the Panthers and from the way things are moving forward this week, the pair obviously didn’t see eye-to-eye.
Smith’s biggest problem is that he still sees himself as a big-time receiver and expects to receive big-time money. Smith will turn 35 in May and despite all of his efforts in the weight room, he is beginning to show his age. His longest reception last season was 44 yards and his 11.6 yards per catch average was the third lowest in his career.
When Gettleman sees statistics like that come across his desk, no one should question him thinking that he should find a younger, cheaper substitute. That is the way things are done in today’s NFL.
Gettleman’s problem is that Carolina fans don’t want to see Smith don any other uniform because they have watched their beloved players leave before.
Muhsin Muhammad, who would hear BOA erupt with chants of “Moose” when he made a catch, was released following the an outstanding 2004 season and signed with the Chicago Bears. After three seasons in Chicago, Muhammad returned to finish his career as a Panthers.
Muhammad wasn’t the only Panther favorite to head to the Windy City as Julius Peppers exited the Queen City after the 2010 season. Unlike in Muhammad’s case, Peppers elected to leave as a free agent after telling the team he wanted new challenges.
Smith is now on the verge of becoming the third player the Panthers have drafted, groomed into a star, become a fan favorite and then discarded like yesterday’s newspaper.
Smith was spared Tuesday when other top players received their walking papers, but this doesn’t mean he will still be a Panther next season. Smith has a poison pill in his contract that calls for the team to pay him $3 million if he is released.
Gettleman may elect to hold Smith “hostage” until June 1, when it is more salary-cap friendly to release him. Then again, there is still a chance he will be Cam Newton’s main target next season.
If that is the case, then the Gettleman-Smith relationship would be more toxic than the Michael Douglas and Kathleen Turner marriage in “War of the Roses.”
— Sports editor Shawn Stinson may be reached at 910-997-3111, ext. 14 or on Twitter @scgolfer.