Skip to main content

David Tepper hopes coaching change gets Panthers "over the hump"

David Tepper

CHARLOTTE — Panthers owner David Tepper has talked about taking the long view, wanting to create the conditions for sustainable success.

But at a certain point, he wanted to see more progress toward the goal.

After parting ways with head coach Matt Rhule on Monday, two seasons and five games into a seven-year contract, Tepper said that, ultimately, it was about the results on the field. The Panthers made strides in a number of areas under Rhule's watch, but at the end of the day, his 11-27 record was impossible to ignore.

"There are numerous reasons why you make a decision like that," Tepper said during a press conference Monday afternoon. "Ultimately, I felt this was the time, and now was the time. . . .

"A lot of time has passed here. We have the record we have; there are different reasons that go into that. I think there has been progress of some sort, but we're just not getting over the hump. And we've got to get over the hump."

Tepper made several references to the team translating progress in other areas into wins. He talked about the strength of the defense and the drastic improvement in the offensive line this offseason, in particular.

"Look, football is a funny business. Things take time," he said. "As a former fan, I don't want to hear that. I want to win today, and I don't care about anything else. And I understand that. I want to win, too. But I do think we made some progress, and we'll make future progress. . . .

"I think those are foundation pieces, I think we have a lot further to go, and I think we're eventually going to get over the hump."

Tepper said he saw a difference in the Panthers on Sunday than he hadn't in earlier games during a 22-point loss to the 49ers in front of a crowd that included many fans of the visiting team in red jerseys. But he also talked Monday about lessons he's learned along the way during his tenure as an owner.

For all the issues with the Panthers, the one constant has been a lack of stability at quarterback. The Panthers started five different ones during the Rhule era, with a new opening day starter each year and a number of moves considered each offseason that never came to fruition.

And as a result of trades made for quarterbacks Sam Darnold, Matt Corral, and Baker Mayfield (and other players), the Panthers have four draft picks in 2023 and five in 2024. Corral is the only quarterback under contract for 2023 next season, so adding there is a priority.

"Look, we have to be very careful about how we use our limited resources," Tepper said. "We have $200 plus million in salary cap room; we have so many draft choices. So we, including me to the extent I'm involved, have to be more diligent in how we do that."

But as things stand now, the Panthers are positioned for a high pick in next year's draft (if the season ended today, they'd pick first overall). Considering the economic advantage of having a drafted quarterback on a rookie-scale contract, Tepper was asked how he balanced the long-term benefit of not winning more games this year with his short-term expectations.

"There's no way that every day you can't go in with a winning attitude," Tepper said. "There's no other way to be. You have to try to win. All the time. You have to try to win for the players. You have to try to win for the fans.

"Yes, I understand what it is about draft picks and getting a quarterback. I understand the importance of quarterbacks in this league. But you have to try to win, always."

Tepper also alluded to creating a more even power structure between coaches and the front office ("I think a balance is more appropriate between a head coach and a GM."), and also was asked if he regretted giving Rhule a seven-year contract, which put him near the top of the market for coaches before he walked in the door.

"Listen, a lot of things in this game might make more sense to be more conforming in some ways," he said. "On the other hand, look, it's about taking chances and taking risks at times in life. Sometimes things work out; sometimes you want to make another choice. You learn.

"Through four years during this business, two years during COVID, I'm still learning, quite frankly. . . . I'm going to be humble enough to say that there's a big difference in being in the seat of a fan and being up here when you're trying to balance. You try to balance that and learn from your mistakes, and hopefully, we're smart enough to do that."

And if they are, he hopes to get his team to that place on the other side of the hump he kept mentioning.

Asked directly how he would describe that goal, he replied: "It's winning. Winning."

Related Content