Tuesday’s sudden decision by the Panthers to part ways with coach Ron Rivera was stunning, but it really shouldn’t have been a surprise. Owner David Tepper has his own vision for what it takes to be successful, and he had owned the team long enough to come to a conclusion — right or wrong — that Rivera didn’t mesh with that vision.
The first hint that changes could be coming appeared in the final episode of this year’s All or Nothing series from Amazon. In it, Tepper rides in the back seat of a vehicle and explains his philosophy regarding the building of a successful NFL franchise.
“This league is set to be an 8-8 league,” Tepper said. “Everything is fair in this league. So if you have better coaches, better GM’s, some advantages with facilities, advantages with the training, management process, whatever those, whatever it is, you know, analytics, whatever that is to give you an edge, that’s what you need. And you need a good quarterback.”
It’s currently unclear whether the Panthers have a good quarterback, because their franchise quarterback is injured. Before a decision can be made about the future of Cam Newton, Tepper needs to decide who will be making that decision.
The first step in the process will be trying to find “better coaches” (in Tepper’s assessment), and the next step in time possibly will be to find a better General Manager (although Marty Hurney seems to be safe, at least for now). Tepper has owned the team long enough to come to the conclusion, right or wrong, that he can find someone better than Rivera. Other significant decisions could come as Tepper tries to bend a league that is built for all teams to go 8-8 in his team’s favor.
Whether it works or not, making changes fall within the prerogative of the multi-billionaire who decided to buy the team. In time, we’ll find out whether Tepper can compete with the other billionaires, in a league where some of them have figured it out — and plenty of others haven’t.