Ten months ago, Carolina Panthers‘ owner David Tepper shocked the professional football world by hiring former Indianapolis Colts’ coach Frank Reich to lead his team (thus initiating his second attempt at a franchise rebuild). Tepper’s controversial decision came despite the fact Panthers’ former defensive coordinator Steve Wilks posted an impressive 6-6 record as interim head coach following the firing of former head coach Matt Rhule on October 10, 2022.
Reich lasted eleven games – one fewer than his interim predecessor. He got the boot earlier this week after Tepper stormed out of the Panthers’ locker room reportedly screaming “f*ck” and shaking his head in disgust following a Sunday loss to the Tennessee Titans.
Reich was 1-10 during his brief tenure with the Panthers.
Wilks, meanwhile, is crushing it in San Francisco – where his defense is ranked No. 1 in limiting opponents’ scoring and No. 5 in limiting their yardage. The 49ers are also loving the addition of star tailback Christian McCaffrey – who was traded from the Panthers ten days after Rhule was fired.
As I noted in a post last month, McCaffrey did not want to leave the Panthers. He wanted to win in Carolina. He was a team captain – and he converted $7 million of his 2022 salary into a signing bonus so the team could save money against the cap and, ostensibly, become more competitive.
Tepper had other ideas …
In his new home by the bay, McCaffrey is leading the league with 939 rushing yards. He’s also got 389 receiving yards and a league-leading 16 total touchdowns.
In addition to jettisoning McCaffrey, Tepper also decided to mortgage the Panthers’ future on this year’s No. 1 overall draft pick, Bryce Young – the former Heisman Trophy-winning quarterback from Alabama. This decision came despite reports suggesting Reich wanted to take Ohio State signal-caller C.J. Stroud with the top pick instead.
Early returns on that decision are not good …
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Young has completed 61.7 percent of his passes for 1,877 yards with nine touchdowns and eight interceptions for an overall rating of 74.9 – second-worst among starting quarterbacks in the league. Stroud? He has been on fire for the Texans – completing 63.7 percent of his throws for 3,266 yards and nineteen touchdowns against only five picks. Stroud’s 100.8 rating is sixth-best in the league.
Tepper insisted this week that the decision to draft Young was unanimous.
“In the case of Bryce, I believe it was a unanimous decision by the coaches and scouts,” he said.
Wait … he believes?
“The bucks stops here and I take full responsibility for everything,” Tepper told reporters on Tuesday. “Everything that’s right and everything that’s wrong here ultimately is my fault.”
That much is accurate. And not much has gone right for the Panthers since Tepper purchased the team. Carolina is an atrocious 30-63 (.323) under his “leadership.” The franchise has no winning seasons and no playoff appearances under Tepper. By contrast, during the five years prior to Tepper assuming the reins the Panthers went 54-32-1 (.621) – reaching the playoffs four times and making it to Super Bowl 50.
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Tepper is also tied to an ongoing investigation into allegations related to the Panthers’ botched crony capitalist deal with the state of South Carolina. In 2019, the team agreed to move its corporate headquarters and practice facility to Rock Hill, South Carolina – a deal hailed as the signature economic development of S.C. governor Henry McMaster. The agreement collapsed, though, and in 2022 Tepper’s holding company filed for bankruptcy in Delaware.
Our media outlet opposed that deal from the beginning.
“This is a bad deal. Period,” I wrote in March of 2019. “South Carolina should pass on the Panthers … and tell Tepper that while he is welcome to locate in the Palmetto State, he is not going to get paid to bring (his team) here.”
South Carolina politicians should have listened …
ABOUT THE AUTHOR …
Will Folks is the founding editor of the news outlet you are currently reading. Prior to founding FITSNews, he served as press secretary to the governor of South Carolina. He lives in the Midlands region of the state with his wife and seven (soon to be eight) children.
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