Skip to main content
Carolina Panthers

Transcript: David Tepper discusses tough decision


Below are excerpts from Panthers owner David Tepper's Q&A with the print media following the decision to part ways with head coach Ron Rivera.

On why now: "I think the Atlanta game to the Redskins game in general played a little bit into the decision. I've been pretty patient, came in and waited for a while. Like I said, I thought it was time. Why specifically now? I was informed of other teams doing different types of searches out there, and I'm not going to start a search and not tell Ron Rivera I'm starting a search, full stop. Too good a man, I have great respect for Ron. He's a great human being and I'm not going to disrespect anybody like that, especially a guy like Ron Rivera."

Clarifying the comment about other teams' searches: "What it means is that if I'm going out there starting talking to people, that means if my choices are going behind Ron's back and talking about people for his position at the end of the season, he asked why now, I could have waited to the end of the season. Why I can't wait till the end of the season? I don't want to be at a competitive disadvantage. If I wanted to go out and talk to other people and do it behind Ron's back, I won't do that. Full stop. You guys know me a little bit, I will never do that. I don't care if other people do it in this sport, that's not what I'm going to do, ever."

On decision making process: "I think that when I came in the building, I saw two sides. I saw a business side over there that was a complete and absolute wreck. It didn't have personnel, people were in silos, they were afraid to do things, and we've made vast changes. You see all the things we do over there. When we came in there, the business side was here, and I'll tell you it was a great advantage, because there was nowhere but up to me. The football side was here. It was kind of OK, at least in my eyes. It wasn't great, wasn't not. Here I could do a lot of things, make a lot of changes, personnel changes, compensation changes to root out some of those things. Make a culture where people will try new things, are not afraid to make mistakes, and if they make a mistake, fix a mistake. Not be afraid to get yelled at for a mistake but fix a mistake. I didn't do that here, OK. I let that side go, because it was kind of OK. I just don't know if I can bring that to here without rooting out some of the past culture that was here for twenty-something odd years. That's where I kind of made the determination. You can say some of that was how the team has performed, now, we've had other issues, we've talked about that. Obviously, it's very difficult, and there's been some heroic coaching things that have been done, too, on the other side with the quarterback issues we've had. But I think long term, we have to with time. To bring the organization to the next level, it's something that had to be done. Like I said, I'd rather have waited till the end of the year. I never want to let this team be at a competitive disadvantage if I can help myself. And I'm going to do it on my terms. I'm not going to do it because other people do things and they're not, I don't want to say they're unethical, I'm going to do things a certain way, OK? That's a standard I have. I'm not going to go below that standard."

On next coach's timetable for success: "When you say someone's not going to have five years to turn things around, do you think I can promise to anybody that things are going to be great in one year? Do you believe in the tooth fairy? Santa Claus? Which guy do you like? If you don't think I have to build something long term, if you don't think it takes time to build something great, if you think something great gets built in one second, then that's wrong. You shouldn't expect it, fans shouldn't expect it. I'm not talking about one year, I'm talking of a standard that will be built and sustained, OK? Built and sustained. If the fans are expecting something to be miraculous next year, listen, it could happen. Maybe, you know, it's that good, but you can't count on that. There has to be a degree of patience to build sustained excellence. I'm going to say that again, sustained excellence. You say five years? Listen, you want to wait five years for sustained excellence? You think people will wait five years for sustained excellence? For 20 years of winning seasons? They better, if they want that. You're not going to get things, immediate gratification. It may come, it may not come, will see how fast it can do. Listen, I'm not going to sit here and BS people. It's a building process. You heard about Rome, right?"

"What I want to do is have an organization that puts people in the best position for success and puts the organization in the best position for success. Marty Hurney happens to be an excellent evaluator of college talent. You can look at the stats, that's what it is. When I talk about this assistant GM, there's other things. I believe in these football organizations there should be two different people. Somebody on the outside, somebody on the inside to get that level of excellence. So, I'm going to keep somebody who I think is very good at putting the best position for success, and also a very good general manager, if you will. When I came in here, and I'm going to go back and put it into the business side, I hired Tom Glick. You know what else I hired soon after that because it became apparent? I hired a COO named Mark Hart. That's what I did there. Why won't I do that on that side? Why wouldn't I do things to have the best management structure that I think is possible? Why is something that was done a long time the best management structure? Why do you think that is? Why don't I implement something that may be better? I'm looking for the best in class, and whether that best in class is out there or not yet, that's what I'm searching for, and when you asked your question about next year, it may take me a little bit of time to figure out what is the best in class. But I know one thing, you want to put people in the best positions to be successful, on the business side, on the football side, and on the field. The best players in the best positions to be successful, period."

Would you be looking for offensive coordinator type or defensive coordinator type? "In the modern NFL, I think there is a preference for offensive coordinators. I think there are reasons for that. That does not mean that if you find somebody fantastic on the defensive side, I won't consider it. If he has old-school discipline and modern and innovative processes. The question is if you can have a defensive guy that has that too. He may think the offensive coaches have that more, and then it's how that gets implemented. The NFL has made rules to lean to the offense. That's why you're having more people go that way. I think you have a lot of people on that side accepting the more modern processes. That doesn't mean that an offensive guy that doesn't meet that. Call him it's a job description if you want to. It's important to understand what that is. I have great respect for old-school toughness and discipline. Given my background, I lived in an analytical world. A stats world. It's about innovative processes. Process management. A guy can do old school process management too, but innovative process management. Modern and innovative techniques. Whether it's down in the training room, and not just having them on a piece of paper but implementing some of those things. You want to have the coach and the football operations, GM and assistant GM, have some of those skills."

On the decision to move Scott Turner into the offensive coordinator role: "In the mode we're in, we're going to be looking at different talent. We want to try to figure out the talent that we have within, if there's a possibility there. I have great respect for Norv and his knowledge, and that's why he's still here, because that would be the follow-up question so I'll answer that first. Scott Turner has a young head. I've had many conversations with Scott. I think there's a possibility that he could put some of those things into action. I won't go looking for things in the games this first week so you can just cool your jets a little bit. But we've got three games after that so we've got a good look. We'll see what happens."

On working within the Rooney rule on the coaching search: "The Rooney rule, that's interesting. Who's my interim head coach? That's an interesting thing, because a different way that you could ask the question is if I took consideration of that. And the truth is, I did not. You know why? Because Perry Fewell was the best person for that job. Because he's a person. I'm going to take consideration of that, and I'm going to look for the best person I can. Me putting Perry Fewell in that spot, straight out? Obviously I have no inclination not to do that. But rest assured, Perry Fewell is not that in that spot because he's African-American. He's in that spot because he's the best man in this organization for the job. Period."

On if he's spoken to Fewell, and what he expects to see from him over the next four games: "I have spoken to Perry. We had a conversation. What I said to him is just what I said to you guys. "Put people in the best position to win." I also said to Perry, "Let's not get too complicated." KISS. You know, keep it simple. For right now. You can complicate it a little bit, but let's make sure that we have the fundamentals down and we have that room in order. Perry is a general. He's a commander. That's why Perry is in that position."

On the conversation with Ron: "That was an emotional conversation for me. I like Ron Rivera. I consider him a friend. It was an honest conversation, pretty much what I told y'all in this room. I wanted to tell him, this is what is going on. I want to make this change. I would hope to wait until the end of the year. I don't want to go and start doing searches beforehand, but I can't be put at a competitive disadvantage. I have great regard for Ron Rivera. He's one of the finest guys in this game. Period. Yes he is. That's not bullshit, that's the way it is. You guys know him a little bit.

On why Ron Rivera wasn't an answer for sustained success: "I told you earlier that there is a history in the building. I think that we needed something fresh in the building on that side to just change that side. That's what I really think. You have a long history, you guys were here. I know what we did on that side (business side) to change it. Sometimes you just have to bring in fresh blood to change it, the culture, because it can't be done otherwise."

On Rivera's receptiveness to some of the new processes in the last two years: "Ron understood that I would like some of these things done. He accepted it to a certain extent. He knows where it is, but he also has 35 years in the game of doing things a certain way. That would take a lot of time. But there was a certain receptiveness for sure. It's more about trying to bring fresh blood to change a culture."

On what he's learned from his hiring history: "Here's what I do well. I know how stupid I am. I know when I make a mistake. I make a mistake, I correct the mistake. That's what we have to do. You know what you have to do to be good at football? Not be afraid to make mistakes. When you make a mistake, fix the mistake. What are some coaches do? Maybe in New England or some place like that in that part of the country? They have people, maybe not necessarily the best evaluators of talent, that see a mistake and fix the mistake. Get the best people in. Put them in the best position to be successful. And when you don't think they can be, fix it.

On how do you evaluate whether the characteristics he's looking for are there in the next coach: "I told you the general attributes. There will be people on that search committee that are looking for those attributes. Some of those attributes I just told you, somebody who will try new things and if they don't work. Fix it and make it better. That's it. You want to be successful? I don't care what you do. Admit when you do things wrong. Fix what you do and keep doing the things you do right. It's not that hard. What's hard is for people to admit that they've made a mistake."

On Cam's health and how that impacts the search: "I don't know, because I haven't talked to that new coach yet. But listen, if I'm a coach, what will I look at? You may say that a coach is going to look for the best quarterback around, so that's where you're going with that question. Well, look, I mean, hopefully Cam's healthy. I frankly don't know, and neither does Cam right now. By the way, the last time I looked, there's three quarterbacks on this team. Kyle Allen, who you've seen a lot of, still young. Wil Grier, who hasn't been in yet, who we're developing in a very traditional way, who may be very good at some point, and Cam Newton. So, there's a lot of possibilities here for somebody to look at if they want to come here, and we're not weighed down by $36 million a year mistakes right now."

On fans' sadness over Rivera's exit: "I'm sad. And yeah, I would like to see those qualities in the next head coach if they can be there, along with the other things which I value. If you want to ask me a separate question, I don't want a bad person in there, but I'm hiring the person to win football games. Long term sustained winning first. I want somebody who's good in the community, obviously. You guys know how much I believe in that stuff. I'm out there a lot in the community with charity stuff. You know the things that we do with this team, so I would really like that. And I think any coach in the modern NFL knows there has to be a certain amount of that, quite frankly. But for the fans out there that love the Riveras, I'm there too."

On looking outside/collegiately for next head coach: "I'm open to different possibilities. I do understand the difficulty of the transition though. That doesn't mean I'm closing it off, but you've got to understand, anybody who's been around football understands the difficulty of that transition from the college game to here and different demands here."

Do you envision the new VP of football operations to be more on the pro scouting side? "Yeah, I think that person would have to have some pro scouting chops. But that's not the only thing that goes on over there. There's a lot of other things to running your football operation, and it's making sure all those things are done right. Listen, I touched on some of the use of modern statistics and the weight and training room - how to integrate that sort of stuff in there. As far as rest and those sort of things - we do some of that, but we can make that stuff better. It's just general operations in a lot of different ways. That person would also be the main interface with the business side because that's an important thing to have that person that has enough responsibility that if Marty's on the road, it becomes a hard thing that somebody might have to bother Coach here. Just think about that. That's not so good, is that? Cause you do have issues that you do have to make sure run smoothly."

Did you know when you first got here that you'd need to add these new positions on the football side? "My view, there's no mystery: good management practices are good management practices. You know what I'm saying? Good processes are good processes. We run a business over here. We have things that go on every day. ... Any kind of deficiency that's in that operation, I'm going to try to weed out. If I need another person, I'll put another person there. I just want to make sure that we have the best organization possible. ... It's not a one-time evaluation; it's a constant evaluation. Just because you think you have one thing, again, as I said to you, my great strength is I know how stupid I am. I'm going to try to do new things to make it the best organization possible, and if they're not right, we'll try something else. That's not going to be done in a second. If you think it's going to be done that fast, it's not. To get the right coaches - to get the right head coach, I want to make sure we have a really good process to do that because I don't want to go through a revolving door of coaches. That's not anything I'm familiar with and one of the reasons I waited here. I was patient, but there's a point you realize you have to try to elevate a whole organization, and without shaking the tree, you can't get any apples."