A fish always stinks from the head to the tail.
When there’s dysfunction in a team, corporation, or even a family, poor leadership is, more often than not, the culprit. It always starts at the top and slithers to the bottom to contaminate the whole dynamic.
It’s five years in the David Tepper era of the Carolina Panthers, and there’s nothing to show for it but consecutive losing seasons, a coaching staff overhaul, and four head coaching changes.
Tepper wants to win. He wants to win now and wants to win badly. The problem with that is Tepper thinks the only way to win is his way. At some point, the posturing has to stop. The hubris has to stop. There’s no shame in admitting that help is needed and Carolina needs a ton of it.
The Dallas Cowboys came into Bank of America Stadium Sunday and made easy work of the home team, rolling to a 33-10 victory. Another day. Another loss, and another wasted season. Tepper meddled in personnel choices and is doing nothing but making matters of this franchise worse than what they already are.
In my previous post, I pointed a finger at Panthers’ GM Scott Fitterer. I did it because, for one, he’s responsible for the roster construction. Secondly, Tepper isn’t selling the team.
Knowing that the Panthers aren’t up for sale, Tepper should consider changing his approach. It wouldn’t hurt to tear up the blueprint he has and borrow one. The blueprint Tepper needs is in San Francisco. What he needs is his own personal Jed York moment.
The parallels between this iteration of the Panthers and the Niners post-Super Bowl XLVII. After posting an 8-8 record, York and the Niners fired Jim Harbaugh and hired Jim Tomsula. After the Niners posted a 5-11 record, Tomsula was fired in 2016. Chip Kelly was up next. Under Kelly, San Francisco only won two games. Then, York hired Kyle Shanahan as coach and John Lynch as GM, and they’ve been NFC contenders ever since.
The trajectory in Charlotte is nearly the same. Tepper buys the team and immediately clears out the remnants of the Jerry Richardson era. He fires Ron Rivera and hires Matt Rhule. Tepper fires Rhule and GM Marty Hurney and doesn’t pop the interim head coach tag on Steve Wilks. Tepper hires Frank Reich as head coach and he and Fitterer are now both on the hot seat.
If Tepper fires Reich and Fitterer, the next move is to pick a firm and let them hire a coach and GM. As the owner of the team it is reasonable to make executive decisions regarding coaches and the front office, but he might need to come to the realization that what works in operating a hedge fund doesn’t work in sports. You can’t build a team off of the data of spreadsheets alone. Sometimes the eye test has to matter more, especially when it comes to evaluating and scouting talent. Its okay to admit that and reach out for help.
The long-term health of the franchise depends on it.