David Tepper shared his thoughts on the season with Bill Voth today in a video released by the team, speaking for almost ten minutes on his “whirlwind” of a first season as sole owner of the Panthers, likening it to having a child – from the highs of a 6-2 start to the lows of a seven-game losing streak.
“For me there was a bit of a learning experience,” said Tepper. “Like I said, I was a rookie.”
“I’m not a rookie anymore.”
Before touching on football matters, Tepper made sure to mention how much he’s enjoying interacting with the Panthers fanbase, which he’s shown throughout his first season as he stopped by the Roaring Riot home tailgate multiple times throughout the season as well as joining the fans in Pittsburgh ahead of the game.
“I think my first takeaway is how much I actually enjoy the Charlotte region and the people here,” said the Pittsburgh native who likened Charlotte to his hometown last year. “I thought I would, and I actually do – that’s kind of been fun for me interacting with fans and seeing people, which I actually enjoy people, so that’s fun.”
The owner came into the season looking at the Panthers from an outside perspective – a team that’s led on both sides of the ball by Cam Newton and Luke Kuechly is certainly one that seemed ready to contend for a Super Bowl, but as the season bore on, even as the Panthers were winning early on in the year, it became obvious that changes needed to be made, especially on the defensive side of the ball as the Panthers struggled to stop their opponents.
An important game against Tepper’s former team in Pittsburgh in which the defense gave up big plays throughout the contest and eventually lost 52-21 on national television certainly stung the owner – and he felt as if the changes on the defensive side of the ball from a coaching standpoint – defensive line coach Brady Hoke and secondary coach Jeff Imamura were fired with Ron Rivera taking over playcalling duties from Eric Washington after a Week 13 loss to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers – may have come too late to salvage the Panthers season.
“I think there was a very good offense and an elite defense, that would have been my perception coming into it,” said Tepper. “I think after a few games it became apparent that there were a few issues with the defense and how they were communicating on the field and different things that were going on. Some of those things were addressed with some of the coaching changes that came maybe a little bit too late on the defensive side.”
Those coaching changes are one of the reasons why he’ll continue to roll with Rivera and GM Marty Hurney heading into the 2019 season, citing the final two New Orleans performances as the level of defense the team could play; he also acknowledged that the team was certainly hindered as Cam Newton’s shoulder deteriorated throughout the season.
“Ron is a good coach, he has the locker room still – always had, never lost it. If you look through the season at what happened, there were some unforeseen things there,” said Tepper. “On the offensive side of the ball, that is obvious to anyone who watched the team.”
“There’s no secrets there. Cam’s shoulder was obviously an issue later in the season. I think it’s pretty well known that he wasn’t throwing in practices, that was probably a problem that threw off his rhythm; at the end of the season, we couldn’t throw the ball downfield, which was a problem.”
“If you look at Cam’s shoulder and you really analyze it, if but for the shoulder, we would have won.”
Tepper says that the backup quarterback position is going to be very important going forward, but indicated that any decisions made would not only be for the 2019 season, but for the future of the franchise going forward – he’s not panicking about the condition of Cam’s shoulder going forward, hopeful that the team’s franchise quarterback will be ready to go for the beginning of next season.
The new owner said they’ll take a “selectively aggressive” tact to free agency for not only this offseason, but going forward – and that may include the backup quarterback position.
“You want to build winning teams for the long-term future here.”
Check out the full interview with Bill Voth of Panthers.com here:
— Carolina Panthers (@Panthers) January 15, 2019