Panthers owner defends Bryce Young pick, firing another coach

Carolina Panthers owner David Tepper defended his decision to fire another coach and called the selection of quarterback Bryce Young unanimous among football staff in a 13-minute press conference Tuesday.

Tepper fired Frank Reich on Monday and elevated special teams coach Chris Tabor to interim head coach, setting the franchise on a path to hire what will be the team’s seventh acting head coach since the ownership change in 2018.

Why pull the plug on a coach hired in January?

“I’m not going to get into it here. There are different reasons why different things happen,” Tepper said. “You guys see like I said, everything is on the field. Everything is known over time. People know it. The league knows it. If everything was perfect, it wouldn’t be the case. If everything was good, it wouldn’t be the case. So it’s not as if it’s not known out there.”

Carolina is 1-10 this season and 30-63 since Tepper purchased the team. If the 2023 season ended today, the No. 1 pick in the 2024 draft would go to the Panthers based on their NFL-worst record. But Carolina already traded that pick to Chicago to move up and select Alabama quarterback Bryce Young in this year’s draft.

Tepper said the Panthers unanimously agreed Young was the right player to select. But No. 2 pick C.J. Stroud (Houston Texans) has been a standout among the first-year QB crop. Tepper claimed Young was the No. 1 player on the team’s draft board and said he didn’t offer his own personal input until draft day.

“Originally we were gonna go to the No. 2 pick and we thought we’d get C.J., because we thought the Texans were gonna pick Bryce (Young). And listen, we preferred Bryce, he was our No. 1 pick, we had a lot of conviction,” Tepper said. “It’s just not the way the process was done.”

Tepper insisted of the choice to draft Young, “We were totally confident in that pick, we made the pick first. For me, I’m totally confident in that pick.”

Panthers media relations ushered Tepper away from the microphone while questions were still being asked of the owner.

Tepper did not answer a question about the future of general manager Scott Fitterer.

Tabor followed Tepper’s press conference and said the decision to part with quarterbacks coach Josh McCown and running backs coach Duce Staley was a decision he made on his own “to improve the team.”

Tabor also said he took the interim head coach position with no assurances that he would receive an interview for the full-time position.

Tepper, listed by Forbes as the fourth-wealthiest owner in the NFL, owed Reich $30 million for the final three-plus years on a four-year contract. That’s in addition to payments owed his first hire, Matt Rhule, who Tepper fired last October with more than $40 million left on the contract he signed in January 2020.

Given the rate of turnover and relative lack of patience shown by ownership, Tepper denied there is any reason for concern about hiring a new coach. Under new NFL rules, the Panthers can’t interview any coach employed by an NFL team this season until Jan. 22.

“If I had my druthers, I would like someone to be here 20, 30 years. I’d like to have someone say the eulogy at my funeral in 30 years. OK, maybe 40 years,” Tepper said.