There is a reason most NFL teams go shopping for general managers in January, and it's not simply a case of Doing Things the Way They've Always Been Done.
The "busy season" for an NFL general manager ranges from February through June, the time of year when rosters are built via free agency and the draft. It's also the period when many scouting contracts expire, allowing the new hire to tweak, add and subtract as necessary before the start of training camp. When summer practice begins, most general managers slip into the background and begin the less visible work of managing college scouting in preparation for the following spring's draft.
So when a team steps outside this structure, as the Carolina Panthers did Monday in firing Dave Gettleman, it minimizes any short-term impact the move might otherwise bring. Gettleman's successor can't have much impact on the Panthers' 2017 fortunes. Neither will Brett Veach, whom the Kansas City Chiefs elevated earlier this month to replace the fired John Dorsey. These moves must be considered with an extra-long-range lens in mind.
At best, the new general managers in Kansas City and Carolina will get a six-month head start on next offseason. They'll also have more time to develop a long-range plan for the franchise than if they were hired in January. But in both cases, the front-office work for the 2017 season is all but complete.
This is not to say that teams should limit themselves to the traditional January window in all instances. Summer is a time of relative serenity in the NFL. If a strong-minded owner has soured so deeply on a front-office leader at this time of year, there is a good chance those feelings aren't going to change as the emotions of the regular season approach and consume. There is no rule requiring the team to wait another six months before making the inevitable move.
Reasonable people can disagree on whether Gettleman deserved to be fired, much less at a time when his imprint is indelibly stamped on a team that opens training camp in less than two weeks. It's also fair to scrutinize Panthers owner Jerry Richardson or the Chiefs' Clark Hunt, both of whom authorized a man to build his team and then fired him before the results could begin to be measured.
NFL decision-making is dominated so thoroughly by habitual thinking that it's natural to be shocked by a midsummer general manager firing. But these moves are sensible if considered in an appropriate and (very) long-term context.
Neither the Panthers nor the Chiefs will benefit in a tangible way this season after replacing their GMs over the summer. They will, however, avoid a festering of disagreement that already was percolating.