David Tepper’s next move will define Carolina Panthers ownership

(Bob Donnan-USA TODAY Sports) David Tepper
(Bob Donnan-USA TODAY Sports) David Tepper /

David Tepper’s next move will likely define his ownership of the Carolina Panthers after a rocky few years since buying the franchise.

To say it’s been a rough start to life as an NFL owner for David Tepper would be an understatement. The billionaire made bold claims about winning football after buying the Carolina Panthers from Jerry Richardson, but it’s been a series of failed moves and little in the way of genuine progression over a prolonged period.

Tepper’s come in for some heavy scrutiny in recent months thanks in no small part to the team’s dismal run of results under Matt Rhule. Something that finally ended after Week 5 against the San Francisco 49ers when the penny dropped for the man that initially allocated seven years and $62 million to get the former Baylor coach from college.

Another disaster was the Rock Hill headquarters project. Tepper promised an industry-leading facility that the Carolinas could be proud of, but it ended up being nothing more than a costly error that is now the subject of a criminal investigation.

Whether this has humbled Tepper enough to stop meddling in football affairs is debatable. He’s been more hands-on than most owners regarding personnel decisions, but there’s been no quality football product as a result and the Panthers have yet to secure a winning campaign since the $2.2 billion transaction with Richardson.

It’s not been good. And more misery could be on the way before things get better.

But make no mistake, Tepper’s next move will define his ownership.

The choice for Tepper is clear. Does he move forward with Steve Wilks as head coach or look further afield in pursuit of finally finding an inspiring leadership figure to guide the Panthers back to prominence?

Wilks is taking a strong claim for the job. He’s deeply respected within the locker room and outside linebacker Shaq Thomson stated during a recent interview that he will be banging the table hard for the former Arizona Cardinals head coach once the campaign concludes.

Tepper’s preference could be to swing for the fences once again. The hedge fund manager didn’t acquire his unbelievable wealth by not taking risks, so the temptation to bring in a big name is there for all to see.

Whatever Tepper’s done before regarding his thought process just isn’t working. Influential figures such as general manager Scott Fitterer and Dan Morgan will lend their expertise, but the owner carries the can alone on this one and it could go either way right now.

Fans are growing tired of Tepper’s mismanagement, so the pressure is on. Otherwise, it has the potential to set the organization back years.

That might sound dramatic, but it’s exactly what’s a stake for Tepper this offseason. And after languishing in mediocrity or worse under his watch, the margin for error has gone from slim to nonexistent in a hurry.

There’s an air of pessimism about Tepper and rightfully so. Getting his next appointment spot on is a positive step forward, but there are many more cracks that need fixing before the Panthers can become what their owner promised just a few short years ago.

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