Photo credit: AP Photo/Michael Conroy

With their first training camp practice just nine days away, the Carolina Panthers just fired general manager Dave Gettleman. The news dropped via the team’s Twitter account, which linked to this statement from owner Jerry Richardson:

“After much thought and a long evaluation of our football operations, I have decided to relieve Dave Gettleman of his duties as general manager,” Richardson said. “I want to thank Dave for the role he played in our success over the past four seasons. While the timing of this decision is not ideal, a change is needed.”

Given the timing, there’s a lot to read into that “much thought and a long evaluation of our football operations.” The Panthers were a playoff team for the first three of Gettleman’s four seasons as GM, culminating with an appearance in Super Bowl 50. They slipped to 6-10 a year ago, but it’s downright bizarre to drop the axe this late in the offseason, especially after one of Gettleman’s top lieutenants, Brandon Beane, already left to become the GM of the Bills.

Even most reporters were blindsided by the news, though NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport was quick to toss out some informed speculation:

Former Panthers cornerback Josh Norman, whom Gettleman controversially allowed to leave via free agency last summer—after Gettleman rescinded Norman’s franchise tag—had this to say: