Throughout the Carolina Panthers' constant struggles in recent years, one common denominator remains. The incompetence of team owner David Tepper.
When David Tepper bought the Carolina Panthers for a then-record $2.2 billion from Jerry Richardson, promises of winning and industry-leading infrastructure on the football side and behind the scenes followed. Fans took the new owner at his word considering how successful he'd been in the business world, but the billionaire quickly found out that the NFL is a completely different animal.
The Panthers have regressed considerably since Tepper took charge. He has yet to experience a winning season as owner and Carolina is now just two games away from another campaign languishing below .500.
They are eight games in.
David Tepper cannot seem to turn the Carolina Panthers around
For all the changes to playing personnel, the coaching staff, and the front office under Tepper, one common thought remains. This is a fish rotting from the head down and unless something significant changes, nothing will.
Tepper's gone about this all wrong with the best intentions. Firing Ron Rivera was inevitable - something the head coach might experience again with new ownership of the Washington Commanders - but keeping Marty Hurney and becoming enamored with Matt Rhule became his first fatal flaw.
A harsh lesson learned perhaps. Tepper went about putting this right by finally seeing the light in 2022, removing Rhule from the equation, and installing Steve Wilks as the interim figurehead.
Wilks restored the Panthers' to its foundation which made them a force to be reckoned with once upon a time. Instead of rewarding him accordingly, Tepper hired Frank Reich and shelled out a substantial amount for high-caliber coaches that looked like a dream - at least on paper.
Delusions of grandeur came soon after - thanks in no small part to how happy those in power appeared with their offseason acquisitions. What's followed has been another constant stream of failings that cast further doubt on this franchise's future and left many sections of a disillusioned fanbase past the point of no return.
Bank of America Stadium is a tourist attraction for visiting fans rather than an intimidating home atmosphere these days. Fans are voting with their feet, not that it matters to Tepper as long as those seats are filled by somebody to bring in money.
Opposing owners are dancing their way through Carolina's locker room on their way out after attaining success more often than not. If Tepper isn't embarrassed, he should be, but he's shown little remorse for his suspect moves and hasn't exactly inspired trust throughout his tenure to date.
These half-baked rebuilds and talk of winning now don't help. Tepper's first two head coaching hires also came with the general manager held over from the previous regime - an against-the-grain method that forces individuals to mesh rather than find an already blossomed connection.
It's flawed. And it's almost become normality in Carolina.
This is without accounting for the decision to implement one of the league's worst turf surfaces and the Rock Hil fiasco. Tepper's reign represents a house of cards capable of collapsing at any moment rather than a strong foundation for sustainable success.
The Panthers are a laughing stock. A perennial bottom-feeder. A team whose fanbase is clinging on to past accomplishments rather than looking forward to the future.
And that, above all else, is the saddest thing of all.
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