This time, Marty Hurney won't let emotions take over in running Panthers

Polian shocked Hurney returned to Panthers (1:16)

Bill Polian breaks down Carolina's decision to bring in Marty Hurney to replace David Gettleman as general manager. (1:16)

CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- Marty Hurney seemed almost embarrassed on Wednesday when reporters were asked to identify themselves before questions so he could get to know their names as the interim general manager of the Carolina Panthers.

He already knew most of those in the room.

He already knows most of the people in Bank of America Stadium, having worked for the organization from 1998 until he was fired as general manager six games into the 2012 season.

He already knows most of the key players on the current roster, having drafted defensive end Julius Peppers, quarterback Cam Newton, middle linebacker Luke Kuechly and outside linebacker Thomas Davis.

And all of the above know Hurney.

But Hurney, 61, has changed since walking out the door following a 1-5 start five years ago. He understands many of the mistakes he made -- among the biggest, giving players bigger contracts than they deserved -- were emotional decisions.

He vows not to do that the second time around.

"Making sure the analytical part of my brain takes over the emotional part of my brain," Hurney said.

Here's the twist.

That's exactly how Dave Gettleman, the man who succeeded Hurney and got the Panthers to the Super Bowl two years ago, made decisions from the time he arrived in January 2013 until he was fired Monday.

He treated it like a business.

Twist again.

Gettleman wasn't always a people person. He didn't always fit in with the family culture that owner Jerry Richardson worked so hard to establish since 1995.

Hurney's strength, and he admitted it, is he's a people person.

So, while it might be time to move on from why Gettleman was fired, you have to understand why Hurney was hired. You have to understand why, as coach Ron Rivera said, Hurney is the right person at the right time.

"Any time you're leading or managing, you have to have that ability to communicate with people," Hurney said. "Not only talk to people but listen to people. So, I do think that's a strength and I'm hoping that's one of the reasons I'm here."

It's definitely one of the reasons, if not the reason, why Gettleman is gone.

Only two things have changed significantly from the time Gettleman's job security seemed safe during offseason workouts and now. Assistant general manager Brandon Beane was hired to be Buffalo's general manager in May. Team captains Davis and Greg Olsen asked for contract extensions.

Beane was the person that soothed the waters when there were disagreements between Gettleman and players, between Gettleman and Rivera.

And no two players represent the culture Richardson wants more than Davis and Olsen.

Richardson himself might have touched on the reason why Hurney was standing in front of so many familiar faces with his statement after the hire.

"He worked with us for 15 years and understands the culture we have here," Richardson said.

The culture is one of family.

While Gettleman embraced the family component to a degree, he took more of a business approach. That was clear when he released all-time leading receiver Steve Smith and all-time leading rusher DeAngelo Williams.

That was clear when he rescinded the franchise tag of Josh Norman and allowed him to go to Washington.

That was clear over the past month when it came time to look at extensions for Davis and Olsen.

But Gettleman doesn't embrace the way Richardson thinks like Hurney does.

"We have the same thought process," Hurney said of Richardson. "We have the same philosophies and principles. It's just like if you have a really good friend you had in college, and you don't see him for 10 years and see him again, it's like you saw him yesterday."

It was that way for Hurney when he and Richardson talked Tuesday night for the first time since he left in 2012.

Rivera wouldn't get into why Richardson made the change, but he also noted Hurney "understands our culture downstairs."

Downstairs is the locker room. The general manager and head coach have large offices upstairs.

But Rivera began working a lot out of a small office near the locker room during a tumultuous start to the 2014 season to get a closer relationship with the players.

The team rallied to make the playoffs for the second straight year, then went 15-1 and reached the Super Bowl a year later.

"He understands most of these players," Rivera said of Hurney. "It's a good opportunity for us to go forward."

Hurney's first task Wednesday was meeting with Rivera to get to know the roster better. Asked about signing Davis and Olsen to extensions, he said the first he heard of that was in the media.

He then mentioned Pro Bowl guard Trai Turner entering the last year of his contract.

Then he mentioned making the right decisions.

"It's communication," Hurney said. "You explain what's best for the team and the organization. Knowing a lot of those good players that are here, they understand that."

Communication. Culture.

Notice a theme?

These were things not always considered a strength for Gettleman, particularly around negotiations. These are Hurney's strengths.

But as Hurney admitted, he has learned that you can't always make decisions based on loyalty. He learned that observing Gettleman and others from afar the past 4½ years.

He has learned you can't mortgage the salary cap of the future to keep veterans the way he did, leaving the Panthers $16 million over the cap.

Hurney even praised Gettleman for doing a "great" job.

So, perhaps in Hurney the Panthers also have the best part of Gettleman -- his business-line approach.

"When I look back and I look back at some of the mistakes, it might have been that loyalty, the emotional part of my brain -- and that's when I've gotten in trouble with my life," Hurney said.

"So, the analytical part has to be there."

But being a good people person has to be there as well, at least in this world off Mint and Morehead Streets. Hurney has that, too.

And while his title says interim, there's no reason to think it couldn't be switched to full-time once the season ends. Hurney never outright said he wasn't interested in that, only that his title was interim and he was focused on this season.

Or, perhaps Hurney will be bumped to president after the year and hire a general manager he believes fits the culture. The organization didn't fill the role after Danny Morrison left earlier this year.

One thing is clear: Hurney didn't need many introductions on this surreal day. It was almost as though he never left as he talked about the excitement of his new/old role.

"That's why I'm here," Hurney said. "[Mr. Richardson] trusts I'll make the right decisions for this organization, not only short term but long term. I can only do it one way, full bore."