Marty Hurney is not only Carolina’s general manager. He’s Carolina’s general manager for the second time around.
Fired in 2012 after 10 years on the job, he stayed away from football for five years before Carolina re-hired him last summer as its interim GM in the wake of the Dave Gettleman dismissal. Then, this February, the Panthers made him their permanent general manager, and it’s easy to see why.
He’s the guy who learned under Hall-of-Famer Bobby Beathard and who, as GM with the Panthers, drafted Cam Newton … and Luke Kuechly … and Thomas Davis … and Jonathan Stewart, Jordan Gross and DeAngleo Williams … and, now, D. J. Moore. So he can speak with authority on the NFL draft, and what we wanted to know from Hurney on the latest Talk of Fame Network broadcast is what is the one draft mistake a GM cannot afford to make.
“I think falling in love with one guy,” he said, “and I’ve done that. I think one of the things that I learned a little bit was … just be patient, trust your board and let the board work to you. We did that, and I think it paid off for us.
“It’s really easy to get antsy and want to move up, especially in the earlier rounds, but what really makes teams … and what good scouting departments do … is they find those late-round choices that add depth to your special teams and come in and compete for four years and fill roles. I think that if you fall in love with one guy and you trade up and you trade a lot of picks … I just think being patient is so important.
“That would be my answer now. It might not have been my answer eight years ago, but that’s one of things that, I think, being away from (the game) … and stepping away from it and looking at it … that’s one of the things I thought I learned.”
At the 24th spot in this year’s draft, the Panthers waited on a wide receiver, and, lo and behold, the two best at that position — Alabama’s Calvin Ridley and Maryland’s D.J. Moore — fell to them. Ridley was the popular choice, but the Panthers are not a democratic operation. They trust their draft board, and they had Moore rated slightly ahead.
So they chose him. Why? We asked Hurney.
“First of all,” he said, “I didn’t really expect both of them to be there at 24. What we like about D.J. Moore is, one, I think he’s elite with the ball in his hands after the catch. And I think this is a run-after-the-catch league.
“He’s 210 pounds. He goes up and makes the contested catches. He’s got great body control. And he played on a team with four different quarterbacks this year, and he was really the go-to guy. Defenses would try to take him away, and he still made plays.
“Calvin Ridley is an excellent player and can get separation, has outstanding speed and is really an all-around excellent receiver. I think both of these guys are going to be excellent receivers in this league.
“It was a tough decision, but we decided to go with D.J. because his skill set is a little different than we have on our team right now. We talked a lot about an inner mix of skill sets at each position group, and I think he gives us some of the traits that are a little bit different than some of the other guys that we have.”