Panthers owner David Tepper fired another Carolina head coach Monday. But he didn’t fire the person who is most responsible for this long run of chaos at Bank of America Stadium:
Tepper, a hedge-fund billionaire with no clue as to how to run a football team, fired head coach Frank Reich Monday after Carolina dropped to an NFL-worst 1-10 record on Sunday with a 17-10 loss to Tennessee. Reich will be replaced on an interim basis by Panthers special teams coordinator Chris Tabor for the season’s final six games.
If you’re counting, that makes six head coaches (including interims) that Tepper has had since he bought the team in 2018.
Six! In less than six years!
And assuming Tabor doesn’t get the permanent job, Tepper will hire head coach No. 7, likely in January.
Who will actually want this job? Lord knows.
But what Monday showed again is that Tepper — who has also gone through two head coaches for the Charlotte FC MLS team in two years and will soon hire a third — is not only impatient, he’s not good at hiring head football coaches either.
Among the “permanent” head coaches he’s had, he fired Carolina’s most successful head coach in history (Ron Rivera), got enamored and then fell out of love with a college coach (Matt Rhule) and then did the same thing with a veteran NFL head coach who was in many ways the anti-Rhule but was also supposed to be an offensive whiz and couldn’t get Carolina to score more than a touchdown per game (Reich). All three head coaches got fired in the middle of the season, dumped like an underperforming stock in Tepper’s portfolio.
A former Pittsburgh Steelers minority owner, Tepper keeps searching for his Mike Tomlin. But he keeps picking the wrong guys.
Or maybe — and hear me out here — Tepper himself is the wrong guy.
Doesn’t that make more sense?
Carolina is 30-63 since Tepper assumed ownership. The Panthers have had six straight losing seasons under Tepper’s umbrella. The team doesn’t win, isn’t entertaining and plays in a stadium routinely taken over by opposing fans. Rookie quarterback Bryce Young is having a terrible year in terms of wins and losses (he’s 1-9 as a starter) and is lucky not to be hurt given the offensive line the Panthers are trying to protect him with.
As I wrote when it happened — Tepper introduced Reich as the new coach only 301 days ago, on Jan. 31 — Tepper should have hired Steve Wilks in the first place 10 months ago. Wilks, Carolina’s former defensive coordinator, took over a 1-4 Carolina team last year and somehow made it respectable, going 6-6 in the final 12 games.
Wilks wanted the job badly. Interviewed for it. Didn’t get it. Wilks went on to become San Francisco’s defensive coordinator, where he might win a Super Bowl this year.
And the Panthers? They are starting over. Again. Reich is the second head coach Tepper fired this month, after jettisoning Charlotte FC coach Christian Lattanzio in early November.
The team released a statement from Tepper Monday morning which read in part: “I met with coach Reich this morning and informed him he will not continue as head coach of the Carolina Panthers. I want to thank Frank for his dedication and service, and we wish him well.” Tepper wasn’t available to the media immediately Monday, but the team has scheduled a press conference for Tuesday at 10:30 a.m. for Tepper and Tabor. A few hours later after Reich’s firing, news broke that the Panthers (now under Tabor) had also fired two assistant coaches — quarterbacks coach Josh McCown and running backs coach Duce Staley. Offensive coordinator Thomas Brown will call the plays for the Panthers once again, with former NFL head coach Jim Caldwell taking on a meatier role with the offense as well.
Reich has now been fired in the middle of two straight seasons, as the same thing happened to him in Indianapolis last year. He was realistic going into this job. He knew Tepper’s reputation.
Reich, I believe, also knew fulfilling an entire four-year contract was an iffy proposition at best. But he had hoped for two years to implement his system (Rhule at least, got 2 ¼ before getting fired and becoming the head coach at Nebraska). Instead, Reich got 11 games in a 17-game season, or to put it a different way, less than 65% of one season.
To be fair, Carolina’s offense has been horrendous, and something obviously had to change.
I wish I could tell you it’s going to get better, Panthers fans.
But with Tepper still in charge, I have no confidence in that.