On Tuesday, Carolina Panthers owner David Tepper met with the media to discuss his decision to fire his team's head coach in the middle of the NFL season. This is the third (!!!) such press conference Tepper has held since he purchased the franchise in 2018. For those keeping track at home, that means he's fired three head coaches in five years, all before they had the chance to finish out the year. That is not a great track record of decision-making for an owner. To say the least.
This firing may have been the worst of them all because Tepper hired Frank Reich 10 months ago. It took that long for Tepper to decide his decision was terrible and to pivot entirely. The Panthers, sitting at 1-10 with Bryce Young looking closer to a bust than the next great young quarterback, were certainly bad enough to justify such a decision in a vacuum. But coming a year after Tepper fired Matt Rhule mid-season for also looking bad after paying him an unnecessarily large amount of money, which came a few years after firing Ron Rivera mid-season when it could've been done the previous offseason... Well, all together, it suggests a pattern of behavior from Tepper that should concern fans who hope for long-term stability and competitiveness. And also anybody employed under Tepper.
The press conference he gave today did absolutely nothing to assuage any concerns about Tepper's impatience and misplaced belief that he knows what he's doing. To his (ever-so-slight) credit, Tepper didn't deflect or try to blame Reich. But he also didn't really recognize he had a problem here. Instead he insisted he's notorious for his patience outside of football.
Gonna have to press X to doubt on that one. Of course a billionaire does not become a billionaire without a modicum of patience, but one has to earn a reputation of "extreme patience" with consistent acts showing off that trait. Tepper's tenure in Carolina has shown anything but and it's hard to buy his claim that the football has been so bad he's been forced to break out of his lifelong habits.
That wasn't the worst quote of the day, though. There was one line that exposed Tepper for who he is-- an arrogant rich guy who believes himself capable of no wrong. He boasted to reporters that despite his recent string of pink slips he actually has employees outside of football who have worked for him for a long time, then said "No one ever leaves me."
I'm sure it's true that he has people who have stuck by him that long. But saying "No one ever leaves me" is definitely wrong, and telling reporters you have long-tenured employees doesn't prove anything. We already know Tepper pays well, which is a good enough reason to stick around for any worker. This quote screams that Tepper lacks self-awareness and his cup of arrogance is overflowing.
The next head coach of this team doesn't want to hear Tepper insisting that people love him at his other job. He needs to hear that Tepper is learning from these mistakes, that firing people willy-nilly isn't a recipe for success, that maybe he has contributed to the problems that plague the organization and is willing to learn from that. Instead...
Look, there wasn't going to be a stunning moment of admission from Tepper about how he's entirely at fault. Men like him would never do that. But what he did instead-- accepting that there's a problem but not really accepting responsibility for it and telling everyone he's great at his other job-- doesn't help at all. It doesn't change the view that Tepper is a bad boss to work for.
Unfortunately for Panthers fans it's looking like more of the same going forward. Meaningful change is not around the corner.