Panthers owner: Won’t stand long-term mediocrity

NFL

CHARLOTTE, N.C. — Carolina Panthers owner David Tepper would not address the future of coach Ron Rivera and general manager Marty Hurney during a Monday meeting with Charlotte-based reporters, but made it clear he will not accept long-term mediocrity.

Tepper also made it clear no decision has been made on the future of quarterback Cam Newton, saying that can’t happen until the first pick of the 2015 draft is completely healthy.

Newton, who has one year left on his contract, recently was placed on injured reserve with a Lisfranc injury that sidelined him after an 0-2 start.

Tepper’s meeting with reporters was held 24 hours after the Panthers fell to 5-5 with a 29-3 loss to Atlanta that put a big dent in their playoff aspirations.

Tepper said he didn’t sleep well after the Atlanta loss, the second time in four games the Panthers were blown out by an opponent. They were beaten 51-13 at San Francisco on Oct. 27.

“Every time we have a loss, my mood is s—-y,” said Tepper, adding that he never accepted losing on the business side, where he accumulated a $12 billion net worth as a hedge fund manager.

The Panthers have a 13-14 record since Tepper purchased the organization for an NFL-record $2.275 billion from former owner Jerry Richardson in 2018. If they post a losing record this season, it will be the second in a row and third in the past four seasons since reaching the Super Bowl in 2015.

Carolina’s record against NFC South opponents since 2015 is 7-14, compared to 14-4 in the three previous seasons.

Tepper’s frustration over losing was evident as he continually said long-term mediocrity would not be accepted. He also said fans, many of whom left the stadium early on Sunday, were smart enough to recognize long-term mediocrity.

Rivera, who this year surpassed John Fox as the winningest coach in team history, has an overall record of 76-61-1. The Panthers have a record of 195-198-1 since becoming a franchise in 1995.

Tepper made wholesale changes to the business side after purchasing the team from Richardson, who put the team up for sale amid allegations of sexual and racial workplace misconduct. The NFL fined Richardson $2.75 million after a lengthy investigation.

Tepper did not make changes to the football staff last season after a 7-9 record following a 6-2 start because Newton’s sore right shoulder played a factor in a seven-game losing streak.

Newton’s shoulder healed after offseason cleanup surgery, but he suffered a Lisfranc injury in the third preseason game and re-aggravated it in the second game. Tepper said that ideally Newton, 30, will recover fully from the injury and perhaps one day lead the Panthers to a Super Bowl.

Tepper said Newton has done a lot of good for the team and Charlotte, calling him one of the greatest quarterbacks of all time.

Tepper also made it clear he liked Newton’s replacement, Kyle Allen, suggesting the second-year, undrafted quarterback has played above expectations despite throwing four interceptions against Atlanta and nine in the past four games.

The Panthers are 5-3 under Allen this season and 6-3 overall dating back to a victory in last season’s finale at New Orleans, where the Panthers play on Sunday. Allen started his career with a 5-0 record, making him the seventh quarterback in NFL history to get off to such a start.

Tepper defended the organization’s decision not to go to Colin Kaepernick’s workout in Atlanta on Saturday, saying the team has a young quarterback in Allen, a third-round pick in Will Grier, and Newton, so there was no interest in signing a veteran quarterback.

Tepper also said he has a copy of the video of Kaepernick’s workout, so attending the session wasn’t necessary.

Neither Rivera nor Hurney were a part of Tepper’s meeting. Earlier in the day, Rivera expressed hope the Panthers still could make a playoff run. He said they still control their own destiny with two games left against the Saints (8-2), a rematch against Atlanta (3-7) and contests against Washington (1-9), Indianapolis (6-4) and Seattle (8-2).

“Probably the biggest thing is we control it,” Rivera said of the team’s playoff hopes, even though the Panthers currently stand ninth in the NFC playoff hunt. “It’s one game at a time. It’s one focus at a time. That’s probably the biggest thing we have to do, is focus in on the next opponent.

“That’s just getting ready for New Orleans.”

Tepper’s focus, with future plans to move the team headquarters to a state-of-the-art facility in Rock Hill, South Carolina, and ultimately get a new stadium in Charlotte to host the Panthers and an MSL team, is to give fans hope and end the long-term mediocrity.

While he didn’t mention Rivera or Hurney, he appeared to be putting them on notice.

As Tepper indicated the day he was hired, his first priority is winning.

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