Nov 28, 2023 - News

Carolina Panthers owner David Tepper promises things will get “better”

Carolina Panthers owner David Tepper addresses the media. Photo: Ashley Mahoney/Axios

A day after firing the team’s latest head coach, Carolina Panthers owner David Tepper addressed the media for thirteen and a half minutes.

Tepper’s latest public appearance left the media and fans with more questions than answers.

Why it matters: After Panthers founder Jerry Richardson put the team up for sale in 2017, Carolina sought new ownership that could uplift the franchise from arguably its lowest place yet at the time.

  • When Tepper bought the team in 2018, he ushered in a sense of optimism — enthusiasm about a self-made businessman who grew up poor in Pittsburgh, hope for a Super Bowl win, and excitement about all the joy the new ownership group could bring to Charlotte.
  • Five years later, that optimism’s been replaced with frustration — some fans would even describe the feeling as hopeless — with the organization and its hedge fund billionaire owner.

Of note: Tepper is 30-63 as Panthers owner. He’s still looking for his first winning season.

State of play: The Panthers (1-10) fired head coach Frank Reich Monday morning. Chris Tabor was promoted from special teams coordinator to interim head coach. Tabor told the media he has not been given any assurance that his time as interim will translate to a promotion to permanent head coach.

Details: In addressing the media Tuesday morning, Tepper skirted questions about his message to fans, and why Tepper Sports & Entertainment has seen a constant churn of coaches and executives.

  • Tepper took eight before leaving the room for Tabor’s portion of the press conference.
  • The entire press conference for both lasted 24 minutes. Several reporters weren’t called on, including Scott Fowler, the columnist for the newspaper of record.

Between the lines: When Tepper bought the team, he promised a winning product and to bring more events to Bank of America Stadium.

  • He’s been partially successful. He’s added Major League Soccer, high school football and concerts, notably bringing artists like Beyoncé to town.
  • But making the stadium for more of a destination than just football came at a cost. To the chagrin of players, the once lush grass has been replaced with artificial turf to accommodate additional events.

The big picture: Tepper’s relationship with fans and the media has also soured. His 25-minute press conference when he fired head coach Matt Rhule last fall turned, as Fowler called it, “testy.”

The bottom line: Panthers fans are still trying to figure Tepper out. A former Steelers minority owner, Tepper portrays himself as someone who lives and dies with every play. He gives to charity, but fans tell Axios they’d expect the same from any NFL owner.

  • He’s the guy who blends into a crowd at Romare Bearden Park for a World Cup watch party his team put on for the community, but also backs out on a development deal that would have been life-altering for a town.

What’s next: Fans crave consistency on and off the field, not eight head coaches across two organizations in five years.

  • Tepper says he’d love to have a coach here for 20-30 years. He added that that in other aspects of his life, people who work for him stick around that long.
  • “We will make it better,” Tepper says. “I’m not promising that’s going to happen tomorrow, but it may.”
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