Carolina Panthers owner David Tepper seems to be launching a media campaign to ensure Ben Johnson becomes their next head coach.
There is untold pressure on the Carolina Panthers to put the right foundations in place this offseason. It's been a constant stream of failings under David Tepper's ownership. But the billionaire is making no secret about who his preferred target is for a third permanent head coaching hire.
Ben Johnson is the hottest name on the cycle this year. He spurned multiple advances during the previous preparation period to remain as Detroit Lions offensive coordinator. Considering the success he's achieved once again in 2023, the respected play-caller could have his pick of teams when push comes to shove.
Carolina Panthers want in-demand Ben Johnson to take over
The Panthers are putting out obvious feelers intent on wooing Johnson, who hails from the area and played his college football at North Carolina. Their latest came courtesy of Dianna Russini from The Athletic, who stated that the progressive mind is Tepper's No. 1 priority as he finally looks to get something right.
"A league source said Tepper has his eye on Detroit Lions offensive coordinator Ben Johnson, who was his first choice last hiring cycle. Johnson is a native of western North Carolina and a former UNC walk-on quarterback but turned down a chance to continue conversations about the Panthers job last year because he didn’t feel ready to take over as a head coach. Now, the source said, Johnson is ready and is expected to have options."- Dianna Russini, The Athletic
As Russini stated, Tepper isn't going to be alone in his chase to make Johnson the new Panthers head coach. There could be around 7-10 job openings after Black Monday according to some. This complicates matters given the hedge fund manager's reputation in league circles.
Tepper seems to have entered damage control mode based on Russini's detailed weekly column. Sources close to the owner claimed he's seen the error of his ways. Even going as far as to say he's rejuvenated by the challenge of getting Carolina out of the proverbial wilderness and into contention.
"In Carolina, owner David Tepper has taken hit after hit around the league for meddling and creating a culture of fear, but a league source said Tepper has been self-reflective, blaming himself for almost all the mistakes made this season. The source said, “He’s incredibly accountable and ready to make it right. He’s rejuvenated.” For a man worth billions of dollars who is paying two coaches who aren’t even working, that should be a positive sign to Panthers fans."- Dianna Russini, The Athletic
It's almost like Tepper is speaking to Johnson indirectly through the media. Look at how I'm self-reflecting. Look at how much I'm willing to alter my mindset. Look at how much I am striving to make the Panthers a force to be reckoned with.
That's a far cry from Johnson reportedly receiving messages from current Panthers coaches about how difficult it is to do your job properly under Tepper's watch. It's going to take some convincing and a lot of money to land the offensive coordinator. There's also a chance somewhere else offers more allure when it's time for the in-demand coach to pick his next destination.
If Tepper can pull this off, he'll have secured a major coup. Forcing something on another general manager isn't ideal. But this was the guy he wanted before appointing Frank Reich and it's evident he's not deviated from his original plan.
Can Tepper bring Johnson home? Time will tell on that front.