David Tepper

Latest On Texans’, Panthers’ GM Search

We heard several weeks ago from Ian Rapoport of NFL.com that the Texans, who tried but failed to hire Patriots exec Nick Caserio as their GM this spring, were planning to operate without a GM in 2020. But Jason La Canfora of CBS Sports hears differently.

La Canfora says the Texans remain interested in Caserio, who is still a desirable GM candidate. Indeed, La Canfora reported back in October that Houston was expected to hire Caserio in 2020, after his contract with New England is up, which is one of the reasons why Rapoport’s report from earlier this month was a bit of a surprise.

But if the Texans do hope to hire Caserio this offseason, they could face some competition from multiple clubs, including the Panthers. Per La Canfora, Panthers owner David Tepper wants to speak with several coaches and executives with ties to New England, and he was among those who reached out to former Patriots executive Jack Easterby last year.

Coincidentally, Easterby ultimately became Houston’s executive vice president of team development, but La Canfora says Tepper could pursue him and/or Caserio in 2020. Of course, the Panthers currently employ Marty Hurney as GM, and Hurney is a part of the team’s head coach search following Ron Rivera‘s recent firing. But Tepper wants to add multiple people to his front office, and Hurney’s role could change as a result.

One way or another, Caserio will almost certainly not return to New England, and he could have a number of options available to him. Indeed, Mike Garafolo of the NFL Network says that the team’s extension talks with Caserio have gone nowhere, and the Patriots are bracing for a number of defections from their front office (video link).

In related news, Tepper has officially sold his minority interest in the Steelers, as the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reports.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Panthers Notes: Newton, HC Candidates, Bradberry

Panthers QB Cam Newton will undergo foot surgery, and as Ian Rapoport of NFL.com writes, Newton is expected to be fully ready and able by March. Rapoport says Carolina has not ruled out retaining Newton — not that the team would publicly say anything different — but the expectation remains that the Panthers will look to trade the former No. 1 overall pick,

The QB market may be unusually robust in 2020, and Newton may be the most desirable piece. The Panthers will not give Newton away, but if they “get a large deal to make it worth their while,” they will pull the trigger.

Now for more out of Charlotte:

  • Of course, what the Panthers do with Newton may depend on who they hire as their permanent head coach. Jason La Canfora of CBS Sports reiterates his view that the Panthers will seek an offensive-minded or QB-driven coach, and what that person thinks of Newton, Kyle Allen, and Will Grier could impact the club’s offseason plans in a big way.
  • In the same piece linked above, Rapoport suggests that owner David Tepper will of course be on the lookout for a top-flight coordinator and someone who is unafraid to embrace analytics, but he suggests that Tepper’s top priority will be a strong manager of people. RapSheet names ex-Packers coach Mike McCarthy, 49ers DC Robert Saleh, and Ravens OC Greg Roman as just a few of the possibilities.
  • Even if the Panthers retain GM Marty Hurney — which is not a guarantee — Adam Schefter of ESPN.com says Tepper, the former minority owner of the Steelers, could look to bring familiar faces from Pittsburgh to Carolina. Tepper plans to name an assistant general manager to focus on pro personnel evaluation and a vice president of football operations, and sources say he could be eyeing Steelers GM Kevin Colbert — whose contract is up at the end of the season — and/or vice president of football and business administration Omar Khan.
  • The Panthers have 28 players eligible for free agency this offseason, and Jourdan Rodrigue of The Athletic examines the decisions that the team will have to make with respect to a few of those players. The club just signed LB Shaq Thompson to a four-year extension, and Rodrigue’s source says the Panthers have made CB James Bradberry their next top priority.

Latest On Panthers’ Plans, Ron Rivera

Some personnel executives around the league and on the NFL periphery believed David Tepper would make changes after last season, and Yahoo.com’s Charles Robinson notes GM candidates were viewing the Panthers as a job that would be open earlier this year. Tepper opted against firing Ron Rivera and second-stint GM Marty Hurney after last season but was discussing over the summer plans to revamp the organization, beefing up its analytics commitment, Robinson adds. Tepper confirmed Tuesday he plans to hire an assistant GM, and Robinson adds the second-year owner is expected to bring in multiple high-ranking execs to contribute to the operation. In the wake of Rivera’s ouster, Hurney’s future with the team is obviously uncertain. New scouts are expected to be brought aboard soon as well, though Mike Florio of Pro Football Talk notes no scouts or execs were fired along with Rivera on Tuesday.

Here is the latest out of Carolina, coming off the firing of a two-time coach of the year.

  • Having been run by defensive coaches throughout their 25-year history — from Dom Capers to George Seifert to John Fox to Rivera — the Panthers are expected to pursue an offensive-minded leader, David Newton of ESPN.com writes. Tepper may not be leaning toward hiring a college coach. Although he’s not dead-set against it, Newton adds the tougher transition for those coaches points to Tepper leaning in another direction. The Panthers are expected to pursue a younger coach who will support analytics more than Rivera did, per Newton. That’s certainly not dissimilar to how most of the HC-needy teams proceeded during this year’s hiring period.
  • Rivera broke the news to the coaching staff he had been fired, Albert Breer of SI.com tweets. Although Tepper praised Norv Turner and his son Scott, it’s certainly possible the organization moves on from the father-son tandem after their two-year run in Charlotte. Norv Turner will move from Carolina’s offensive coordinator to special assistant to the head coach, with Scott set for a four-game run as the team’s OC.
  • The most famous player Rivera coached expressed his support for the only NFL HC he’s known (Twitter link). Cam Newton, who will undergo surgery to repair his foot injury, is not certain to be back with the Panthers in 2020. One year remains on his contract.
  • Rivera revealed he wants to stay in coaching. The former Bears linebacker has been on an NFL sideline in each season since 1997.

Panthers Owner Discusses Coaching Change, Front Office, Future

Panthers owner David Tepper was forced to make a difficult decision today, firing long-term coach Ron Rivera. Since Tepper took over ownership of the organization in 2018, he’s had Rivera on the sideline. Now, the team will turn a page and start hunting for their next head coach.

Secondary coach Perry Fewell will serve as the Panthers head coach on an interim basis. The shakeup also will see offensive coordinator Norv Turner transition to special assistant to the head coach as quarterbacks coach Scott Turner moves to offensive coordinator. When it comes to the front office, GM Marty Hurney will keep his job, but Tepper revealed that he’ll be searching for an assistant general manager and/or a vice president of football operations.

Tepper sat down with Bill Voth of Panthers.com (Twitter link) this afternoon to discuss the coaching change, the owner’s outlook for the organization, and the team’s future shuffling of the front office. We’ve snagged all of the notable soundbites below:

On why he decided to fire Ron Rivera:

“[It was] a very hard move. Ron Rivera, besides being a good coach, is one of the finest men I’ve ever met in my life.

“Look, I came here two years ago. I wanted to show patience on the football side to see how it was going. On the business side, we made vast and sweeping changes. I didn’t want to make those vast and sweeping changes on the football side. I wanted to take time and patience to see how it could go.

“I just thought it was time, given the way things have gone the last two seasons, to put my stamp on the organization on the football side, as we’ve done on the business side of the organization. As much respect as I have for Ron, I think a change was appropriate to build things the way I want things to be built.”

On why the move was made now instead of after the season:

“There are competitive reasons why I wanted to make sure we were out there looking at all personnel possible for the future. I didn’t want to be having inquiries where Ron didn’t know what I was doing.

“I didn’t want to be doing things not upfront; thats not who I am. So I’d rather be straight-up and honest, and if I’m going to make a change, I’m going to make a change. And not to get a competitive disadvantage over other teams; if I need to talk to people, i want to talk to them, and I want to do it in a straight-forward, honest way.”

On why Fewell was chosen as the interim head coach:

“I have different coaches on the staff and I’m looking at the future now. And the future is: who may I have as potential candidates for different roles. Perry is a person who can command a room, can be a general, and I think that he is the right person to have that interim role… and to be auditioning for that role in the future.

“As far as the other choice we’ll probably make is to make Scott Turner a play-call offensive coordinator. In that respect, same thing: I want to see what Scott can do. Again, in an audition sort of way, see how he does it. He has some new ideas, and we’ll see how they get implemented.”

On the decision to move Norv Turner from offensive coordinator to special assistant to the head coach:

“Norv Turner is obviously still a tremendously knowledgable coach who I respect a lot. Norv has been around and is very knowledgable. Scott is potentially a future offensive coordinator of some sort. Why not see what he has to offer here.”

On what he’ll be looking for in a new head coach:

“What I want, just for the organization in general, is a mesh of old and new. Old football discipline. Modern processes, modern analytics, statistics, and the rest of that. But I respect old discipline, too. Listen, I was with a team in Pittsburgh that was the epitome of old-school discipline, so I want to see that brought in, I want to see that mesh. And what I want to have more than anything…I want to put the best people in the best positions to be successful. And I want those coaches to put our players on the field in the best positions to be successful, period.

“This whole process – they don’t build Rome in a day. People think if I make a magic change today, it’s going to make the organization better tomorrow… it is not. This is going to be a process.”

On how an assistant GM can help the front office:

“Marty Hurney is one of the best recognizers of college talent in the nation. I don’t want to lose that. And he’s also not a bad manager. There’s also new processes that I want to bring in. I think the modern football organization needs a couple people there [in the front office].”

On what today’s move means for the future of the organization:

“As far as a process is concerned, it’s the first step in a process. I’m making sure we have a standard of excellence on all sides of this business.”

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Latest On Ron Rivera’s Future With Panthers

Panthers owner David Tepper recently spoke with the media about the state of his team, though he specifically told reporters that he would not answer questions about head coach Ron Rivera. However, the fact that Tepper held the impromptu session at all led some members of the organization wondering about Rivera’s future, as Jason La Canfora of CBS Sports writes.

Tepper was considering major changes last year, but he ultimately stuck with the status quo for 2019. The hedge fund billionaire purchased the club in 2018 and focused more on the business side of operations during his first year in charge, but he was clear about his desire to eventually become more involved in the football side. As such, 2019 was always going to be a defining year, and, in the wake of Carolina’s recent slump — including last week’s blowout loss to the 3-7 Falcons — Tepper is once again mulling a significant shakeup.

Rivera is under contract through 2020, though Tepper may be inclined to part ways in favor of a head coach with an offensive background and an analytics-based approach. Indeed, sources close to Tepper say that, barring a major turnaround, the owner is likely to make a change at season’s end.

Ian Rapoport of the NFL Network (video link) confirms that the manner in which Rivera’s 5-5 Panthers close out the season will go a long way towards determining his future in Carolina. Regardless of whether or not Tepper fires Rivera, the team will have to figure out what to do with QB Cam Newton, though Tepper said that no decision would be made in that regard until Newton is fully healthy.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Panthers Owner Discusses Cam Newton Injury

There have been whispers that Cam Newton could sit out the 2019 campaign as he recovers from a sore right shoulder. While Panthers owner David Tepper didn’t explicitly say that the Panthers franchise quarterback could miss the upcoming campaign, he did explain how that scenario could end up being a positive. Tepper specifically compared the situation to Colts quarterback Andrew Luck, who missed the entire 2017 campaign before coming back for a productive 2018 season.

“If you told me he took a year off and could recover and be fully recovered and everything else, and that’s what it took, an extra year, why wouldn’t you do [that]?” Tepper told ESPN’s David Newton. “Now we would have to do other things, right? We’d have to go out and get another quarterback. If you could find me some more cap space I’d appreciate that.”

Through 14 games in 2018, Newton completed a career-high 67.9-percent of his passes for 3,395 yards, 24 touchdowns, and 13 interceptions. He also ran for another 488 yards and four scores. With strength in his shoulder fading, the Panthers decided to shut down Newton for the final two games of the season.

Tepper, who purchase the franchise for more than $2B back in May, recognizes that it would ultimately be in the organization’s best interest if Newton is at full health.

“When you make a decision, this gets into business, or here … you want to keep your options open as much as possible,” Tepper said. “And you want to put yourself in a position to win. Not a position to lose, but a position to win…That means keep your options open and try to have as much [cap] space as you possibly can.

“Hopefully, Cam’s shoulder is fantastic, right? And we’re hunky dory, all fantastic. If it’s not, you may need more cap space. You may need to go out and find somebody. If you don’t, you guys are going to be writing what a dope we are here. Why did we make these other moves? So think about that. You want to keep your options open, put yourself in best position as you can to win, and I’m talking again for the long term.”

Newton detailed several ways the Panthers could open up cap space this winter, noting that they could clear $7.2MM by releasing offensive lineman Matt Kalil and another $3.5MM by releasing cornerback Captain Munnerlyn.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Coaching Notes: Kaczor, Redskins, Panthers, Goodwin

The Redskins announced yesterday that they’ve hired Nate Kaczor as their new special teams coordinator. The long-time coach had interviewed with the organization earlier this week.

“We are excited to have Nate join our staff. We have had the opportunity to face his special teams play during his time at Tampa Bay and respected competing against him,” said head coach Jay Gruden. “He is a competitor and we have noticed and admired the intensity his units have played with through the course of his time as a special teams coordinator and assistant coach in the NFL.”

Kaczor had spent the past three seasons in the same role with the Buccaneers, and he previously served as the Titans’ special teams coordinator. He also had a stint as an assistant with the Jaguars. Prior to his tenure in the NFL, Kaczor spent 17 years in the NCAA, with jobs at Idaho and Nebraska-Kearney.

Let’s check out some more coaching notes from around the NFL…

  • Panthers owner David Tepper told reports that he didn’t want to “make rash decision[s]” on the status of head coach Ron Rivera and general manager Marty Hurney (via Joe Person of The Athletic on Twitter). Ultimately, the owner judge the duo throughout the entire 2018 season (not just the stretch run), and this led to him retaining the pair for the 2019 season.
  • Buccaneers assistant head coach Harold Goodwin wasn’t happy that Steve Wilks lost his job with the Cardinals, noting that his friend never got a chance to succeed. “That hurt a little bit,” Goodwin told ESPN’s Jenna Laine. “He’s a friend of mine. We worked together back in the day with the Bears. It’s hard to build something from the ground up with one year. It’s like, ‘Hey, I want you to start this Fortune 500 company, but you’ve got one year.’ That’s impossible. And that’s what he was tasked with.”
  • Goodwin also grumbled about the lack of minority hires around the NFL, noting that teams really don’t take the Rooney Rule seriously. “Every time I went in to interview, ‘You don’t call plays.’ Well, I did call plays in the preseason,” Goodwin said. “Are we looking for play-callers or are we looking for leaders? Leaders of men, who can help build an organization from the ground up on the football side…The next excuse was, ‘Well, we don’t like your staff.’ A lot of my staff is still coaching. Some guys are coordinators in the NFL now that have had a lot of success that were on my list.”
  • We learned yesterday that the Cardinals added another name to their offensive coordinator search, as former Browns head coach Hue Jackson is scheduled to interview for the gig.

Panthers Owner David Tepper Considering Major Changes

When David Tepper purchased the Panthers for over $2.2 billion earlier this year, he indicated that he was comfortable with the team’s coaching and management situation and was not looking to make major changes. However, Jason La Canfora of CBS Sports writes that Tepper is growing increasingly uneasy with the status quo and has told those close to him that he may need to make those changes after all.

The Panthers got out to a hot start in 2018 but have lost three in a row and now find themselves on the fringes of the NFC playoff picture. Tepper is reportedly concerned about the dearth of modern analytics in the team’s operations, and the team’s regression on defense and a few questionable in-game decisions by head coach Ron Rivera have added to Tepper’s worries.

Rivera has served as Carolina’s head coach since 2011, and he has generally been quite successful, having compiled a 70-52-1 record and an NFC Championship. His job security has come into question a couple of times over the course of his tenure, but it was expected that Tepper, a former minority owner of the Steelers, would want to bring the Steeler Way to Carolina. In other words, he was expected to champion the ideals of continuity and stability, particularly with respect to someone like Rivera, who has established a mostly strong track record with the club.

GM Marty Hurney, who is in his second stint leading Carolina’s front office, was hired as the interim GM in 2017 and had the interim label removed earlier this year. If Rivera’s status is up in the air at this point, Hurney’s probably is as well.

Of course, the Panthers are still more than capable of qualifying for the playoffs and making a deep run, which would probably make all of this a moot point. Jourdan Rodrigue of the Charlotte Observer tweets that Tepper has been consistently communicative with the team’s front office and coaching staff about where they stand, though Rodrigue concedes that much will depend on how the Panthers perform down the stretch.

If Tepper does decide to part ways with Rivera, he may have his pick of the top head-coaching candidates. The roster already has plenty of talent, and Tepper himself is seen as bright, engaged, and progressive. The team’s GM position would be similarly attractive for those reasons.

La Canfora says that Tepper’s confidants have urged him to remain patient, but it sounds as if Rivera and Hurney could be on their way out if Carolina does not make the postseason.

South Notes: Tepper, Mariota, Bucs

David Tepper may have been a minority owner of the Steelers before purchasing the Panthers for a league-record $2.275 billion, but he does not exactly fit the mold of your prototypical NFL owner. In a fascinating piece on the self-made billionaire, Kent Babb of the Washington Post describes how the enigmatic, unpolished Tepper could clash with the majority of the league’s straightlaced owners, and he wonders whether the league will ultimately change Tepper, or if Tepper might change the league. One way or another, Babb’s piece is worth a read.

Now for more from the league’s south divisions:

  • Despite some concerns that Titans QB Marcus Mariota could require a clean-up procedure on his knee this offseason, Jim Wyatt of TitansOnline.com says Mariota never had such a procedure and that he has looked like his usual self in spring practices thus far. Wyatt adds that, while Blaine Gabbert appears to be entrenched as Mariota’s backup going into the 2018 season, the team is more likely to keep Luke Falk as the No. 3 QB rather than risk sneaking him onto the practice squad.
  • The top four spots on the Buccaneers‘ WR depth chart are already spoken for, but Bobo Wilson, a 2017 UDFA who spent much of his rookie campaign on Tampa Bay’s practice squad, is making his case to stick around. As Greg Auman of the Tampa Bay Times writes, head coach Dirk Koetter has spoken highly of Wilson, who will compete for reps with 2018 fifth-rounder Justin Hunter. Wilson also has the ability to return kicks, which will certainly help his cause.
  • The Buccaneers traded a fourth- and sixth-round pick in this year’s draft to move up to the No. 94 overall selection, which they used to select Humboldt State OL Alex Cappa. Auman believes that Cappa may not be a starter right away, but that he will quickly push for a job as a regular on the offensive line (Twitter link).
  • Larry Holder of the Times-Picayune believes the Saints were wise to put a “ceiling price” on big-name free agents like Jimmy Graham and Ndamukong Suh this offseason, and he says the approach to Graham and Suh was emblematic of the team’s overall effort to rely more on young, cheap talent rather than high-priced veterans. That shift has been difficult because of New Orleans’ poor draft record in recent years, but while the Saints have a long way to go, Holder says they are moving in the right direction. Indeed, although the offense is heavy on expensive contracts, the defense is largely built on youth and thrift.
  • Texans head coach Bill O’Brien and GM Brian Gaine have specific physical characteristics in mind for every player they draft or sign, and they do not like to make exceptions to those parameters, as Sarah Barshop of ESPN.com writes. O’Brien’s and Gaine’s goal is to create a roster full of “big, strong, physical” players, and while their offseason acquisitions clearly reflect that philosophy, it is now incumbent upon O’Brien and his staff to mold his roster into a playoff contender.

NFL Approves David Tepper’s Panthers Purchase

No surprise here. On Tuesday, NFL owners voted to approve hedge fund manager David Tepper as the new owner of the Panthers.

Tepper is no stranger to the NFL community thanks to his time as a minority owner of the Steelers, so his approval at the Atlanta meetings was viewed as a mere formality. Between now and the finalization of his purchase – which is expected to take place in July – he’ll sell his 5% stake in the Steelers.

Tepper is paying $2.2 billion in cash for the club, plus another $75MM in deferred payment, bringing the total purchase price to a league record $2.275 billion. Tepper’s bid may not have been the highest of the bunch as there have been rumblings of bids in the $2.5 billion range.

The transaction sets a new watermark for the league and bodes well for future club values as television rights are expected to increase. The country’s relaxation of sports gambling laws should also aid the league’s growth and the next owner to sell his franchise could conceivably receive $2.5 billion.

The sale to Tepper also allows the league to quickly move on from the Jerry Richardson scandal of 2017. On Tuesday, Richardson will give a farewell address to his colleagues.