Cutting Steve Smith Isn't a Big Deal

These fans certainly don’t think so.  

Reactions to Panther GM Dave Gettleman and head coach Ron Rivera’s recent comments concerning Smith’s future in Carolina have ranged from dismay and disbelief to rage.  Whether it has been downright refusal or vicious backlash, fans clearly view Smith as sacred in Carolina--hallowed ground Rivera and Gettleman haven’t earned the right to trounce!

So how could the potential of cutting Steve Smith not be a big deal?  Easy, it’s not going to happen, nor did Gettleman or Rivera suggest it would.

Steve Smith
This may be one of the most poorly reported stories I have seen this year. Verging on irresponsible link baiting, big media organizations, such as NBC Sports, NFL Network, and CBS Sports, are taking advantage of standard organizational talking points concerning Carolina’s future at the combine and contorting them into a condemnation of Steve Smith’s future in Charlotte.   What’s made it worse is the that local media has also adopted the “Carpetbagger Controversy” (my term)!

The story got legs on Tuesday when Charlotte radio host,  Keith Larson  unquestioningly endorsed the media hubbub by vaguely asking Smith:

“What is your reaction to the comments of, or the way, that Dave Gettleman, and maybe a little bit Ron Rivera, but especially Dave Gettleman, Panther GM, have been speaking about you and your future as a Panther?”

At this point of the interview, if you hadn’t heard “the comments,” you are about as in the dark about the nature of Gettleman’s statements as you are now reading this article.

Larson encouraged Smith to react to the hubbub, rather than Gettleman’s full comments.  Smith said it “took me by surprise…I don’t really know what to think about it.”  

“I’m going to be honest with you, it’ bugged the hell out of me,” Larson responded, before partially quoting Dave Gettleman’s combine press conference.  He further prodded, “Steve, that is just disrespectful.”  

So, fans are pissed. Larson thinks Gettleman has been disrespectful. Charlotte media claims “it may be the end of the road for one of the franchise’s all-time greats, and Smith thinks “that the team is moving on.”  

How can it not be a big deal?  Gettleman must have suggested strongly that Smith’s future was on the line. The Panthers must be in such a terrible cap situation that cutting one of their best players, and franchise great, may right the ship, right?  Nope, cap positioning has only improved in recent reports and cutting Smith would only save the organization 2-4 million dollars.

How the hell could any of this be happening? Keep calm, there’s really not much suggesting that it is!

Carpetbagger Controversy Born: (What was really said)

In a combine press conference, Gettleman responded to standard organizational roster and combine questions. Gettleman briefly commented on Jordan Gross’s future (this was prior to his retirement announcement), Greg Hardy, Captain Munnerlyn, and his “best player available” draft philosophy.  Wrapping up the presser, one reporter asked “Does the organization still view Steve Smith as a true #1 receiver, and what is the evaluation of Brandon Lafell?”  

It really looked to be a standard Dave Gettleman press conference, handling questions with the typical company lines: “cap challenged,” “our organizational goal is to have sustained success,” and “there isn't a lot going on.”  What appeared to be the typical close to the vest Gettleman address turned into the “Carpetbagger Controversy.”

Media coverage of the “Carpetbagger Controversy” escalated at the combine when Ron Rivera commented on Smith’s future role in the offense in relation to the draft, stating:

"We're going through our process, and Steve is a part of what we're doing going forward," Rivera said. "How big of an impact he's going to have for us, that's going to be determined as we go through the draft process and through free agency. We'll see.

"It's all about the evaluations. We have to look through everything. There's a lot of scenarios that we're putting together as a football team. But Steve's part of who we are, and we'll go from there."

One thing lost in the media coverage was the context of these comments.  Both Gettleman and Rivera’s responses were to questions about their views of Steve Smith as a true #1 receiver and his future offensive role. Additionally, these comments were all in the context of the draft and Carolina’s potential for drafting Smith’s future replacement.  There was really no indication, in either the questions or responses, that Carolina is seriously considering parting ways with Smith.  It would be reaching to even take away that Carolina is even bent on finding Smith’ replacement in the draft.

The Fallout:

Yellow journalism has caused the “Carpetbagger Controversy” to escalate quickly in Carolina.  It’s epidemic.  

Panic has ensued, infiltrating all realms of social media.  Panther Nation has unleashed their fury on Twitter, Facebook, Reddit, and Youtube.  The problem with all of this is that too many people have been affected by this sensationalism.  Hell, even Steve Smith has given it too much credibility.  

It isn’t outrageous to consider Smith a sort of sensitive guy.  In the beginning it manifested itself character/personality issues.  He admittedly had some regrettable moments early in his career.  As he matured, this sensitivity evolved into passion and energy on the field. It’s what has made him great. He is intense. Whether the hand-fighting and trash talking on the field, blowing dudes up with blocks, punching Ken Lucas in the face, post-game sound bites, or the tough love he occasionally gives fans, stuff gets to Smith.  The frenzy of coverage has understandably shaped Smith’s perception of the matter.  It’s near impossible to not.

Truth of the Matter:

The “Carpetbagger Controversy” has reached near nuclear levels.  Larson, who played an instrumental role in this coverage, was shocked to hear that the Carolina organization hadn’t reached out to Smith about the matter yet.  Gettleman stated at the combine that the Panthers “were being quiet” about the roster, just like every other team preparing for free agency and the draft.  The Yankee will likely remain quiet on this issue still because it is a non-issue.  Making a formal statement marginalizing scandal, Gettleman may believe, only add unfounded credibility to the coverage.  

One thing is clear, Panther Nation loves some Steve Smith.  There has been an outpour of loyalty from Panther fans.  This loyalty has been ferocious at times.  I not overly excited by the “Carpetbagger Controversy,” but I am excited to see Smith’s on the field intensity and importance to the organization shape the character of Panther Nation.  It would impossible for the greatest Carolina Panther to not.

Cat Chronicles