CHARLOTTE, N.C. — Carolina Panthers owner David Tepper never gave a reason for why he fired coach Frank Reich during a 14-minute news conference Tuesday, but he did stand by the team’s decision to draft quarterback Bryce Young with the top pick and defended his perceived lack of patience.
Reich was fired Monday with a 1-10 record, and critics suggested the Panthers made a mistake in drafting Young in April over C.J. Stroud, who is having an MVP-type season after being selected No. 2 by the Houston Texans.
While Tepper deflected from answering most questions, he didn’t hesitate to support the decision to select Young, who is 1-9 as the starter and ranked next to last among qualified quarterbacks in Total QBR at 32.3.
“Now, look, everything that’s right here, everything that’s wrong here, ultimately it’s my fault,” he said. “I’ve got the final say. But as far as those decisions, whether it’s Frank Reich or it’s Bryce Young, those decisions were made.
“And in the case of Bryce it was almost … I believe it was a unanimous decision from the coaches and the scouts. And very strong opinions at the time.”
Tepper added that he was “totally confident in agreeing with that pick.”
Reich, hired in January for his offensive prowess, has been adamant he wanted Young all along despite reports he wanted Stroud. He supported, as did Tepper, the decision to trade two first-round picks and star wide receiver DJ Moore to the Chicago Bears for the top pick.
“Originally, we thought we were going to the No. 2 pick, and we thought we’d get C.J.,” Tepper said. “We thought the Texans were going to take Bryce. And listen, we preferred Bryce. He was our No. 1 choice. We had a lot of conviction.”
Tepper also took time to explain that despite his decision to fire three head coaches in-season since purchasing the team in 2018, and despite having six head coaches (including interims) during that time, he is patient.
“Look, there are reasons for each individual situation,” said Tepper, who fired Matt Rhule after a 1-4 start in 2022 and Ron Rivera with a 5-7 record in 2019. “You guys, upon your own reflection looking into what happened in the season, can understand that. Again, I’m not going to get into the particulars, but I do have patience. My reputation away from this game is one of extreme patience.
“Now that patience comes with good performance and things you want to see, progress you want to see in different aspects.”
Tepper, 66, said he grew up a fan of the Pittsburgh Steelers, who have had only six head coaches since 1957.
“I would like to have somebody here for 20 or 30 years,” he said. “I would like to have somebody that would say the eulogy at my funeral in 30 years. OK, maybe it’s 40 years, I hope.”
Tepper had no real explanation for why the Panthers have had six consecutive losing seasons since he took over the team after having four out of five playoff appearances before that, including an NFL-best 15-1 record and trip to the Super Bowl in 2015.
The team’s record under Tepper is 30-63, second worst only to the New York Jets‘ since 2018.
Asked whether he needed to reevaluate how he does business, the NFL’s second-richest owner (with a net worth of $20.6 billion) said: “Trying to make things better is what you always try to do. Obviously, that record is not good enough. There’s no hiding it. It is what it is. … That record is not good enough. We’re going to self-reflect and make it better.”
Because the news conference was cut abruptly short, almost ending at the 11-minute mark before Tepper agreed to answer one more question, the owner never was asked what he will be looking for in his next coach.
Multiple league sources told ESPN the team is expected to go after an offensive-minded coach. Detroit offensive coordinator Ben Johnson, 37, was the team’s top choice in January before he opted to stay with the Lions another season.
After admitting in January at Reich’s introductory news conference that he made a mistake in hiring Rhule, Tepper wouldn’t address what his mistake was in hiring Reich, whose offense was ranked near the bottom of the NFL in almost every category.
“I’m not going to get into the individual sort of things,” Tepper said. “You guys can speculate as to that. But we just moved on [Monday] and that’s that.”
But Tepper did acknowledge the frustration of the Carolina fan base, many who sold their tickets to games against the Minnesota Vikings and Dallas Cowboys to make Bank of America Stadium look like a home game for the visiting team.
“Listen, once upon a time I was just a fan, a poor kid in Pittsburgh,” Tepper said. “That’s what I was. So, I know what it’s like to be a fan. Every week I sit in that box, we live and die with every play.
“So, I understand how the fans feel and the frustration. And I appreciate that. I will say this: We will make it better.”
First appeared on www.espn.com