After a lengthy search, Carolina Panthers owner David Tepper has finally made his first major front-office hire.
Carolina hired Seattle Seahawks VP of football operations Scott Fitterer as its new general manager, the team announced Thursday night.
"We went through a thorough process and it was a great final four. We thought Scott was the best fit for the organization," Tepper said in a statement.
NFL Network Insider Ian Rapoport and NFL Network's Tom Pelissero reported earlier in the day that Fitterer was the expected hire, and the Panthers announced they had offered him the position shortly thereafter.
Fitterer was one of 15 candidates to interview for Carolina's general manager position, left vacant since Dec. 21 when the Panthers fired veteran GM Marty Hurney, and one of four finalists, along with Tennessee's Monti Ossenfort, San Francisco's Adam Peters and Kansas City's Ryan Poles. Fitterer, a late addition to Carolina's interview process, made a quick and positive impression on Tepper and Co., Rapoport reported.
Fitterer did not interview with any other teams this hiring cycle, though his name has been bandied about in recent years as a suitable GM candidate. The new Panthers GM had been with Seattle since 2001 and worked along respected GM John Schneider since 2010. Schneider, who signed an extension this week through the 2027 draft is going nowhere. The same cannot be said for Fitterer.
In Carolina, Fitterer will be paired with a second-year coach in Matt Rhule, who was in an arranged partnership with Hurney in 2020. The Panthers, coming off their second straight 5-11 season and third consecutive sub-.500 campaign, will be picking eighth in the upcoming 2021 draft.
Chief among the Panthers' needs, and therefore atop Fitterer's priorities, is locating a franchise quarterback. Carolina replaced former MVP Cam Newton with Teddy Bridgewater and P.J. Walker in 2020. With Bridgewater not necessarily the answer under center, the Panthers are expected to locate their QB of the future either in the draft or free agency this offseason. Carolina should also look to improve its mediocre defense and bolster its offensive line and weaponry.
From a broader perspective, Fitterer will be expected to be a culture-builder alongside the energetic Rhule, who has a long leash in Carolina, thanks to a seven-year deal signed last season that runs through the 2026 season. The two will be tied at the hip for the foreseeable future, at least half a decade Tepper likely hopes.
When he fired Hurney right before Christmas, Tepper said he wanted "a restart, a refresh" at general manager and desired an organizational structure and relationship between coach and GM that wasn't, in his words, "stupid."
In Fitterer, Tepper has his restart. Time will tell about his latter demand.