(The Sports Xchange) - The Carolina Panthers fired general manager Dave Gettleman after four seasons, the team announced Monday.
The 66-year-old Gettleman had been GM of the Panthers since 2013.
The surprise move comes nine days before the Panthers open training camp on July 26 at Wofford College in Spartanburg, S.C.
"After much thought and a long evaluation of our football operations, I have decided to relieve Dave Gettleman of his duties as general manager," team owner Jerry Richardson said in a statement.
"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."
A source told the Charlotte Observer that the firing of Gettleman caught members of the staff, including most of the organization's scouting personnel still away on vacation, by surprise.
The Panthers finished last in the NFC South in 2016 with a 6-10 record after making the playoffs in each of Gettleman's first three seasons with the team, capping the 2015 season with an NFC championship before losing to the Denver Broncos in Super Bowl 50.
Gettleman was a no-nonsense leader and some of his moves were unpopular, including parting with wide receiver Steve Smith, one of the most popular players in franchise history, in 2014. Smith took a parting shot at Gettleman on Twitter.
Gettleman also rescinded the franchise tag to set free All-Pro cornerback Josh Norman last summer without compensation and previously parted with locker room favorites such as running back DeAngelo Williams. The outspoken free agent took immediate notice of the move on Monday.
The Panthers were 40-23-1 under Gettleman's leadership. Before joining Carolina, he spent nearly 30 years in NFL scouting departments.
Overall, Gettleman has been a part of seven Super Bowl teams, including three winners. He was with the Buffalo Bills in 1990 and 1991, Denver in 1997, and the New York Giants in 2000, 2007 and 2011 before adding another appearance with Carolina in 2015. The Broncos and the 2007 and 2011 Giants won Super Bowls.