Ire for David Tepper grows among Carolina Panthers fans after firing Frank Reich, dismissal history
With the organization struggling to reposition itself and regain respect around the league as the, once, gritty powerhouse, Panthers fans are starting to question whether David Tepper and his decisions to move on quickly from previous coaches is the catalyst for the collapse.
After the team suffered its tenth loss of the season with no significant improvements to the offense, Carolina Panthers owner David Tepper decided to part ways with, then, head coach Frank Reich. Ahead of the release, Tepper was observed to be angry and heard using explitive language outside the team's locker room after the Titan's matchup in Nashville according to a report by The Athletic. On Monday, the team announced they had parted ways with Frank Reich. Today, Tepper spoke to the media to clarify the latest direction of the organization but also to set the record straight about him being categorized as impatient. "I do have patience. My reputation away from this game is one of having extreme patience," Tepper said.
"That patience comes with good performance and things that you want to see progress being made in different aspects."
As part of that clarification, Tepper also talked about his influence on draft decisions and his confidence in the direction the organization took, collectively, to bring Bryce Young to Carolina. "Everything that's right and everything that's wrong here is ultimately my fault."
Tepper bought the team in 2018 and has fired three head coaches during those respective regular seasons since that time - something that has sparked heavy criticism among Panthers fans. That list includes Ron Rivera, currently the head coach of the Washington Commanders, Matt Rhule and the latest coach to depart - Frank Reich. Tepper also decided not to retain interim head coach Steve Wilks after he nearly led the team to the playoffs following the disaster that Matt Rhule left behind. So it appears that Tepper's tendency is to move on too quickly from scenarios that traditionally have taken more time to work themselves out.
And while there may be coaches making the decisions on game day, there has been a lot of speculation on whether they can actually have reasonable control over the decisions that determine how their futures will play out. Some of those concerns revolve around player selection, in particular, the selection of Bryce Young with the first pick of the 2023 NFL Draft - a perspective Tepper did not agree with. "As far as those decisions whether it was Frank Reich or Bryce Young those decisions were made and, in the case of Bryce Young, it was almost ...I believe it was a unanimous decision and the coaches and the scouts had very strong opinions," Tepper said.
Increasingly, the signs are pointing to Tepper as the reason things are currently out od sorts. Not just because it all starts and ends with him. It has more to do with the position he's taken with regard to timeliness. While more than 90 coaches have been fired during the season since the NFL formed in 1970, nearly 0.18, with 32 of them being fired during their first season. But Frank Reich's end is one of the fastest to occur in league history according to a report by The Athletic.
The financial mogul turned NFL owner is not alone. Approximately thirty percent of the NFL's owner's have been labled as toxic over the years since the league merged. Much of the scrutiny surrounds their ability to make effective hiring decisions as well as player extensions. One of the most notorious is Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones. Jones has been highly criticized for his interference with the coaches he's hired.
Tepper is currently trending toward Jones' levels of public dissatisfaction with the Charlotte fan base despite firing Reich - a decision the fans made clear they wanted. It is, however, affecting more than public opinion. Volumes of tickets are still available for upcoming games at levels not seen as low even during last year's struggles on the field. And there are currently not a lot of answers in the most problematic area - the offense. It is not plausible to consider redefining the entire playbook in the middle of the NFL season. So, anything on the field , short of drawing up trick plays in the dirt, is likely to look very similar to what we've already seen from this offense. but whatever that solution looks like, it needs to be soley in the hands of the interim head coach.
The only real hope is to look at changing the personnel assignments in the offense, particularly for the Tight Ends group, to give Bryce Young some bigger targets. The other is the RPO infusion. But without the assignment changes, there's probably not a lot that will differ regarding execution.
With six games remaining, Chris Tabor, previously the organization's special teams coordinator, will now take over as interim head coach with no promises of future employment with the team. But Tabor takes over an offense that is severely injured after the 17-10 loss to the Titans where Chandler Zavala, Cade Mays and Laviska Shenault all left the game with injuries. Zavala and Mays did not return. Their availabilty going forward is still being evaluated.
Since entering the NFL, Tabor's experience has been centered around special teams but says his primary focus is the present situation with the team.
It will be interesting to see how Tabor attempts to fix the issues left by his predecessor.
Thomas Brown will re-assume his duties as the primary play caller as the Panthers prep for their second of three straight road games. This week, the team travels to Tampa to face the Buccaneers led by former Panthers quarterback Baker Mayfield - currently 4-7 this season.
The action starts at 4:00 p.m. EST at Raymond James Stadium.