Hours after making the most significant decision so far in his 19 months as owner of the Carolina Panthers, David Tepper met the press. The owner explained Tuesday why he fired longtime coach Ron Rivera in the midst of a 5-7 season, citing a desire to make his mark on the organization he bought last year.
“I came here two years ago. I wanted to show patience on the football side to see how it was going. On the business side we made vast and sweeping changes, and I didn’t want to make those vast and sweeping changes on the football side. I wanted to take time and patience to see what could go and how it could go,” Tepper said in a video interview released by the team. “I just thought it was time given the way things have gone the last two seasons to put my stamp on this organization on the football side as we’ve done on the business side of the organization. As much respect as I have for Ron, I think a change was appropriate to build things they way I want things to be built.”
Tepper bought the Panthers organization in May 2018 for $2.2 billion. Since then, the product on the field has been below expectations. Carolina mustered a 12-16 record over the last two years under Rivera, a far cry from the coach’s 64-47-1 mark from his previous seven seasons.
On Tuesday, two days following a Panthers loss at home to the lowly Washington Redskins, Tepper announced Rivera’s firing. With four games remaining in the season, the timing of the longtime coach’s dismissal has come under scrutiny. Tepper said relieving Rivera of his duties was mutually beneficial.
“Quite frankly, our season is not over but as far as making the playoffs, I can make the change now or I can make it later,” Tepper added. “There’s competitive reasons why I wanted to make sure we were out there looking at all personnel possible for the future. I don’t want to in any way, shape or form, didn’t want to be having inquiries where Ron didn’t know what I was doing. I don’t want to be doing things not up front it’s just not who I am.
“So I’d rather be straight up and honest. And if I’m going to make a change, I’m going to make a change. And not to get a competitive disadvantage over other teams if I need to talk to people I want to talk to them in a straight forward and honest way.”
Tepper said he is likely to retain the services of general manager Marty Hurney, who began his second stint leading the Panthers‘ football operations in 2017. The owner was complimentary of Hurney on Tuesday, calling the GM “an excellent evaluator of college talent” but did not specify what role Hurney will play in the next administration, whether as general manager, “COO” or something in between.
“Marty Hurney is one of the best recognizers of college talent in the nation. Period. I don’t want to lose that. And he’s also not a bad manager,” Tepper said.
“The modern football organization needs a couple of people there. If I was looking at the future, I would have, if I’m looking at the manager in the future and I’m looking at who’s going to be there in the future and Marty is more senior if I brought someone else in it could be a potential GM. And if that person was more involved in the scientific side, the analytic side and interfacing with the business side. Just like with the business side, I brought in not only a president but a COO. This is a COO. Because a football organization needs more than just one man to be successful.”
The owner added that Carolina plans to hire an assistant GM with those qualifications and that Hurney will be part of the process in hiring that role, per The Athletic.
Tepper’s comments indicate that the Panthers owner wants to reshape the football side of Carolina’s organization, as he has attempted to reshape its business operation. That will include the implementation of analytics behind X’s and O’s.
It’s a new day in Charlotte, on the field and off of it.
Here are the other takeaways from Tepper’s availability on Tuesday:
ï¿½ï¿½ In addition to the future of his coaching staff, Tepper addressed Carolina’s status under center and Cam Newton‘s future with the organization.
“Hopefully Cam (will be) healthy. I frankly don’t know and neither does he at this point,” Tepper told reporters, per the team. “But we’re not weighed down by a $36 million mistake right now.”
Newton, who has missed every game since Week 2 with a foot injury and was placed on injured reserve earlier this season, took to Instagram to mourn Rivera’s firing, writing, “This one hurt deep!!”
The Panthers quarterback has one year left on his deal in Carolina and is owed $18.6 million in base salary next season. If the new regime in Carolina were to move on from the franchise QB, the Panthers would be on the hook for just $2 million.
Newton’s place in the organization will certainly be a talking point in Carolina’s upcoming coaching search.
ï¿½ï¿½ What type of candidate will Tepper pursue?
“In the modern NFL, I think there’s a preference for offensive coordinators,” Tepper said, per The Athletic. “That doesn’t mean if you find someone excellent on the defensive side you don’t consider it.” The owner added that an internal committee will conduct Carolina’s coaching search.
Tepper added that he elevated Scott Turner from quarterbacks coach to offensive coordinator so that he could evaluate the offensive coaching talent within the organization over the last four weeks of the season, per The Athletic. Norv Turner, previously Carolina’s OC, will serve as assistant to interim head coach Perry Fewell.