The Carolina Panthers sacked general manager Dave Gettleman on Monday in a surprise move just nine days before training camp for the new season gets under way.
The Panthers slumped from being Super Bowl finalists in 2015-2016 to finishing last in the NFC South last season with a 6-10 record.
Gettleman, 66, had been the general manager of the outfit since 2013.
"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."
The Charlotte Observer said Gettleman's dismissal had come as a surprise to employees, including the team's scouting organisation.
Gettleman forged a reputation as an uncompromising manager but several of his moves angered Panthers fans, notably letting wide receiver Steve Smith leave in 2014. The decision to release Josh Norman last year also raised eyebrows.
Smith couldn't resist a jab at the axed Gettleman in a posting on Twitter on Monday: "It's okay Dave, I know how you feel..."
Former running back DeAngelo Williams, who was also let go by Gettleman and is now a free agent, added: "I want to publicly say @Panthers is off my list of teams I won't play for due to the firing of that snake Dave gettleman!"
The Panthers were 40-23-1 under Gettleman, who had spent nearly 30 years in the NFL scouting before joining Carolina.
© 2017 AFP