Carolina Panthers GM search: Team could look at top CFL executive

Jeff Vinnick

The Panthers aren't resigning themselves solely to candidates in the USA.

Interviews will start Monday as the Carolina Panthers look to hire their new general manager. A report today indicates that Jim Popp, one of the Canadian Football League's top executives will be among the list of candidates.

Entering his 16th year in the CFL, the 48-year-old general manager has helped establish the Montreal Alouettes as one of the top teams in the league. Filed to ESPN by Pat Yaskinskas, Jim Popp will be on the Panthers interview list this week, as the organization casts a wide net.

This is precisely why the Carolina Panthers chose to bring Ernie Accorsi on board. As the head of the NFL's executive union he has an innate understanding not only of potential applicants inside the NFL, but also a handle on who could be available in non-traditional ranks. Reports out of Indianapolis in January had the Colts strongly considering hiring Popp, before choosing Ryan Grigson.

The Elkin, NC native has ties to the region, and his resume since 1996 speaks for itself: Four Grey Cups (the CFL's equivalent of the Lombardi Trophy), 2011 Executive of the year, and teams under his control have made the playoffs in twenty straight seasons -- yes, twenty. Granted it's the Canadian Football League, which carries a different set of challenges -- but this wouldn't be a random hiring without any merit. In 2010 numerous NFL teams were attempting to interview Popp, but the Aloutettes quickly looked to block a potential move, signing him to a new long-term deal.

Since re-signing with Montreal in 2010 his team has gone 33-21, winning the Grey Cup in 2010, appearing in the Eastern Conference Final in 2011, and losing in the semi-finals in 2012. It would be an unconventional hire in some respects, but a Carolina native who has a player personnel background -- that's right up JR's alley.

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