Carolina Panthers owner David Tepper held a press conference to explain why he fired head coach Matt Rhule after the team’s 1-4 start to this season. To say that the disdain in the room was palpable would be a severe understatement. Given his tax bracket, Tepper is not a guy who frequently has to justify his decision-making, let alone own up to any kind of failure, and he clearly did not enjoy doing that today. He acted like the smartest guy in the room, which was striking given that Tepper was the one explaining why he got rid of the hand-picked head coach who was so wildly overmatched that he did not even last three seasons into a seven-year contract.
Tepper started off a lot of his answers with “Look” and “Listen,” as if what he was saying was the most obvious thing in the world. He also kept repeating that the Panthers had to “get over the hump.” When a reporter asked Tepper to quantify that—did he mean a winning season, a Super Bowl appearance, or something else?—he said, “Winning more this year than you did last year, having the appearance of winning more than you did last year. Looking like you’re going to win more than you did last year. By that definition, I don’t think we’re over the hump.” Since he bought the team in July 2018, the Panthers have not won more than seven games in a season.
The full press conference can be found here, but there were two moments at the end that really illustrated how smug this guy is. When a reporter asked Tepper to talk about a lack of follow-through, illustrated by the Panthers’ front-office changes as well as the team’s nixed Rock Hill practice facility, Tepper pointed to the success of his MLS team, Charlotte FC. He also claimed that before he got there, “there never was [live] music” in Charlotte. Nothing says “executive focus” like claiming to have introduced the clueless yokels of North Carolina to concerts in response to a question about why your football team keeps stepping on its own discarded banana peels.
Then, after he dismissively answered a rather harmless question about interim head coach Steve Wilks, Tepper became agitated over a question from Scott Fowler of the Charlotte Observer about when he made the decision to fire Rhule, and what was behind it. “I actually read your columns, and I can go back to your columns and regurgitate them,” Tepper said. “You can read your own columns, OK, for that answer.”
Then the presser ended. Phew! This guy was considered a brash asshole by people who worked with him at Goldman Sachs, you say? Never would’ve guessed.