The Cranky Panthers Fan’s Guide To David Tepper
1:59 PM EST on November 30, 2023
Drew Magary’s Thursday Afternoon NFL Dick Joke Jamboroo runs every Thursday at Defector during the NFL season. Got something you wanna contribute? Email the Roo. And buy Drew’s book, The Night The Lights Went Out, through here.
There are stories about Jerry Richardson. There was the time where the founding owner of the Carolina Panthers told his freshly drafted No. 1 overall pick, Cam Newton, when he learned that Newton had no tattoos on his body, "Good. We want to keep it that way." There was the time his fast food empire was accused, credibly, of denying service to black customers, including Bill Clinton’s Secret Service detail. There was the time Richardson, a former NFL player himself, spearheaded the 2011 lockout and sneered, “Do I need to help you read a revenue chart, son?” to Peyton Manning’s face at the bargaining table. There was the also time he received a 13-foot tall statue of himself as a gift for his 80th birthday (how did they know?) and stationed it at the entrance of the Panthers’ stadium.
Finally, there was the time Richardson was ousted from the league after a Sports Illustrated report, written by human beings Jon Wertheim and Viv Bernstein, detailed a litany of sexual harassment claims that the Panthers owner dished out millions of dollars to settle. He made the team’s female employees turn around so that he could get a good look at their asses. He ordered them to get manicures. And he invited one into his office to massage his feet. For all of this good ol’ boying, Richardson was forced to sell the Panthers five years ago to hedge fund magnate David Tepper. Tepper outbid a small number of other suitors that included Fanatics owner Michael Rubin. Upon his $2.2 billion purchase, and until Rob Walton bought the Denver Broncos in 2022, Tepper was the wealthiest owner in the NFL.
He has never been afraid to luxuriate in that fact.
Because there are stories about Tepper now, too. There was the time Tepper kept a pair of brass balls on his desk that he rubbed every day for good luck. There was the time he bragged about bringing live music to Charlotte for the first time in that city’s history (this was untrue). There was the time he broke ground on an $800 million practice facility in Rock Hill, SC, complete with $115 million in tax breaks, only to abandon the project when that city declined to give him even more money. There was the time he hired Pepsi loyalist Matt Rhule to coach the Panthers, only to have it prove disastrous. Tepper could have kept Steve Wilks to permanently replace Rhule after Wilks had compiled a damn near miraculous 6-6 record as interim coach … only he hired retread Frank Reich instead. He then forced Reich to meet with him after every game. Those meetings did not improve morale on any front.
Which brings us to now. The Panthers are 1-10. They’re not merely the worst team in football, but the worst by leaps and bounds. That shouldn’t be possible when the 2023 Giants, Jets, Commanders, Cardinals, and Patriots all exist, but here we are. The Panthers can’t block. They’re a bottom-five team in both rushing and passing offense. They traded away their first rounder next spring—all but certain to be No. 1 overall—to draft Bryce Young instead of C.J. Stroud, only watch Young regress every week. And they lost to the 4-7 Titans last week when, at the very end, they ordered Young to throw a screen pass two yards behind the line of scrimmage on fourth-and-6.
Tepper was unenthused by that loss, so much so that he fired Reich less than a year into the new head coach’s tenure. Between his Panthers and his MLS team, Charlotte FC, Tepper will have fired 10 coaches within a span of eight seasons. He’d like the next Panthers coach he hires to be the last one he ever hires. I think that you and I know that won’t be the case. You and I already know that the only constant Panthers fans will experience over the next few years—decades, likely—is David Tepper being an incompetent, meddling asshole who never wins a fucking thing.
Because I know this kind of owner. I lived in the D.C. area for almost the entirety of Dan Snyder’s tenure as steward of the Commanders. Like Tepper, Snyder took over his franchise from a dusty old fossil. And like Tepper, Snyder was unafraid to throw his money around. This was new money. Good money. At the very beginning, there was the feeling in Washington that Snyder was different, and different in the NFL always comes with the promise of better. Tepper’s acquisition of the Panthers had a similar feel, especially after he had that statue of Jerry Richardson sent into the blast furnace. Everything in Carolina would be fresh and exciting with Tepper in charge, just like it would be when Snyder took over in Washington.
You know what happened there. Snyder’s Commanders won a grand total of two playoff games under his watch. They blew through eight head coaches and 28 starting quarterbacks. The only constant for them this century was Snyder being an absolute fucking embarrassment. Such is the case now in Carolina. Like Dan Snyder, Tepper has been unafraid to meddle. Like Snyder, he discards head coaches like they’re common wastepaper. Like Snyder, he abandoned a boondoggle of a practice facility in a neighboring state. And, just like Snyder, Tepper is an incredible asshole who will never, ever acknowledge his shortcomings.
There are other terrible owners in the NFL. Many of them, in fact. I wouldn’t even know what a good owner looks like, to be honest. But most of the bad owners fall into relatively benign categories. There are geriatric fools like the McCaskeys. There are clueless idiots like Mark Davis. There are common crooks like Jimmy Haslam. And there are skinflints like Mike Brown. But none of those owners are quite like Snyder, and none of them are like David Tepper. David Tepper is the King of Suck Mountain, less an owner than he is a sentencing. The pall he casts over the Panthers franchise, and over both Carolinas, is so dark as to be eternal nightfall.
And while Tepper has yet to be accused of any of the particular kind of nasty shit that both Snyder and Richardson pulled, is there anything to suggest he’s not the type to feel entitled to anything he pleases? And can’t you already guess that continued futility—the Panthers have yet to make the playoffs since Tepper purchased the team—will only make him worse? That’s the promise that David Tepper ensures now. In just five years, he has made things impossibly ugly in Carolina. He will only make them uglier: more firings, more bullying, and more losses. Lots of them.
That’s where the dread comes in. It’s not merely that Tepper is a waste of skin; it’s that he’s never going to leave. I remember Commanders fans realizing that Snyder was dud and then having the even worse realization that, “Oh god, I’m gonna die before he does.” They feared, fairly, that they would be stuck with that man for the entirety of their fandom.
That’s David Tepper now. The rightful heir to Dan Snyder. Snyder only ended up selling the Commanders only because decades of open evildoing forced him to. Tepper, a spry 66, will have to commit similar acts over a similar span to do likewise.
Or he can die.
All games in the Jamboroo are evaluated for sheer watchability on a scale of 1 to 5 Throwgasms.
49ers at Eagles: I refuse to get myself too psyched up for this matchup, because the last time these two teams met, Brock Purdy’s elbow tendons got plucked out of his arm like they were guitar strings. So I’m ready for this marquee affair to end 9-3 with Tanner McKee out-dueling Sam Darnold by 180 passing yards to 142.
Broncos at Texans: When the Texans had to use kicker Matt Ammendola in a pinch last week, the TV guys kept talking, with an unreasonable amount of gusto, about how Ammendola was “on the couch” prior to getting signed as a free agent. Like Ammendola, who is extremely jacked as kickers go, was housing boxes of donuts and watching soap operas when his phone rang. Let’s not get melodramatic here, gentlemen.
Anyway, Ammendola missed the game-tying kick. He’ll be unemployed and on his supposed couch again soon enough.
Chiefs at Packers
Seahawks at Cowboys: My 14-year-old’s soccer season is over, which means that I am free of driving hell until spring. But the boy made me work for my respite, because his last game of the season was a tournament game in Stafford, Va., on Sunday morning. Stafford is 50 miles from my house as the crow flies, but if you’ve ever driven in Northern Virginia—and I pray you haven’t—you know that number means nothing. The boy and I flew through the dreaded Mixing Bowl and were seemingly in the clear when a CRASH AHEAD billboard flashed in front of us. Other cars were already turning off of 95 South, but I wasn’t quick enough on the draw to follow their lead onto the exit ramp. Uh oh for me.
Turned out that a FedEx tractor-trailer had overturned a few miles ahead, spilling out its entire payload—Amazon packages, Christmas gifts, artisanal sex toys—onto the roadway and the adjacent median. All southbound lanes on 95 but one were closed. Thus, what should have been an hourlong drive ended up taking well over two. We were still stuck in the jam when the boy’s game started. Inevitably, I got the terrible urge to piss but had nowhere to go. So I pulled over to the side of the road, next to a cop car (no choice), and fled into the nearby woods. I experienced stage fright for five endless minutes while trying to break the seal. I begged my dick, out loud, to get started already. “Please,” I said to it. “Please don’t get me arrested.” Once the dam burst, I pissed so hard it was like I was making gunpowder for Judge Holden. It was the worst roadside pissing experience I’d had since having to relieve myself right outside the Lincoln Tunnel a dozen years ago.
We made it in time for my son to play the second half. The game ended in a draw. I told him I would never drive him to any game in that fucking state ever again, and I meant it. I want Virginia disintegrated by the aliens.
Bengals at Jaguars: The Bengals lost to the Steelers last week, due in part to this Herculean effort by Steelers wideout Diontae Johnson (No. 18 in the below clip) to recover his own teammate’s fumble:
This is exactly how hard I tried during football practice back in the day.
Browns at Rams
Panthers at Bucs: I pissed and moaned about the scourge of monochrome uniforms here a few weeks ago, but the problem is compounded when those uniforms are fucking gray. Both the Lions and the Bucs bust out the all-grays from time to time, making me feel like I’m watching a prisoner of war drama and not a football game. I am pleading with you, NFL: stop doing this. This isn’t a Red Sox road game. Please give me brighter colors to look at, and in a wide variety. Is this world not dark enough as it is? Jesus H. Christmas.
Chargers at Patriots
Lions at Saints
Falcons at Jets
Cardinals at Steelers
Colts at Titans
Dolphins at Commanders
Pregame Song That Makes Me Wanna Run Through A Goddamn Brick Wall
“Merkurius Gilded,” by Imperial Triumphant! Not only does this song feature Kenny G (he comes in right around the 3:00 mark), but it makes his sax solo WORK. Reader Mike tells us the story of how the smooth jazz legend ended up playing on a delightful work of symphonic doom metal:
I do Kenny G's tour press for his label. Kenny's son Max is a metal guitarist, and Max was asked by his former bandmates in Imperial Triumphant if he and his dad wanted to appear in their new video. Max said fuck yes. Dad also said fuck yes. Here it is. This is fucking awesome and hilarious. If Kenny G can make you run through a brick wall, you are a real man.
Call me the realest man, then.
Eric Adams’s Lock Of The Week: Lions (-4) over Saints
“Now I’ve lived in New Orleans my whole life, and lemme tell you: the people here? They don’t respect the law. That’s why you have all that crime down there. I always say to my fellow New Orleanionians, ‘Why break the law when you break bread with your enemies instead?’ Then they go on about how I don’t know any ‘poor boys.’ You bet I don’t!”
2023 Record: 7-5
Fire This Asshole!
Is there anything more exciting than a coach losing his job? All year long, we’ll keep track of which coaches will almost certainly get fired at year’s end or sooner. And now, your potential 2023 chopping block:
Josh McDaniels – FIRED!
Frank Reich – FIRED!
(*potential midseason firing)
By this offseason, every head coach in the NFC South will have been fired. That’s not exactly a bold prediction, but it’s an indication of how remarkably dire this division is. No team in the South has a winning record. Only one team in it has a positive net point differential, and that team (New Orleans) has scored a grand total of three touchdowns on their last 32 possessions. Whoever “wins” the South gets a curb-stomping at the hands of Dallas as their reward. What a fucking disaster.
Thanks to the vagaries of realignment, every season has at least one division that needs to be wiped clean by the wrath of God. That’s you, Panthers/Falcons/Saints/Bucs. You’re the Thursday Night division this year.
Great Moments In Poop History
Reader Oliver sends in this story I call BROWN ACRES:
I hate the poop stories and always skim past them in a sort of panicked fashion. But nonetheless! Here is mine.
I have always been a shy person. But I attended Montessori school as a little kid, which is a good place to be a shy kid, as we were all treated like perfect bright weirdo little gifted angels. (Which we were, mostly.) In Montessori school, you only have one teacher all day, so you're not constantly moving to different classes. I loved my teacher, Meg, who seemed one billion years old at the time, but in retrospect was probably like thirty. I mention this only to say that there was no reason that I should have been so shy as to poop in her class... twice.
But I did, and still do, think that pooping is gross and should not exist. So I felt very awkward about standing up and telling Meg I had to use the bathroom. But one day, I really did have to. I really, really did. But I said nothing and pooped my pants. Eventually, this gentle angel Meg came up to me and said, "Oliver, something smells... not great, do you need to use the restroom?"
I went to the bathroom and threw out my tighty-whities with the poop in them. There were a couple of older kids in the bathroom, and they were like, "What are you doing?" "Nothing!" I said, cleverly. I was panicked. They also seemed very much older than me, though they were probably nine years old. But I got out of the situation with minimal loss of self-esteem.
Now, you would think this would be a one-off. But no. The next day in class, I felt too shy to ask to go, so I pooped in my pants AGAIN. This time, I didn't wait for Meg to approach, but rushed to the bathroom, so as to avoid another incident.
And the same older kids were in the bathroom AGAIN (why were they always hanging out in the bathroom?). As I frantically tried to hide the fact that I was throwing out my poop pants, the main guy came up to me and said, "So, you poop your pants every day, huh?!!! Look at this guy. He did it again!"
My five-year-old brain froze. I knew I needed a witty retort. Nothing was coming to mind. So I said...
"Hey! Don't be such a wiseacre."
Now who the fuck uses the term wiseacre? No one since the year 1920. I think maybe my grandfather had said it once, and that was why it came into my head. Anyway, saying that very uncool thing made the situation much worse, and is honestly the most embarrassing part of this story to me. I've still never gotten over it. Let's never speak of this again.
I promise I won’t … you wiseacre you.
And Now Let’s Go Down To The Sideline To Check In With Charissa Thompson
“Drew, I got just finished talking to Sam Altman as he went into the conference room and he told me he’s ‘elated’ to be back in charge of OpenAI. He says that there were a few decisions from his first tenure as CEO that he’d definitely like to have back but added, ‘Hey, I’m not gonna be perfect. We ALL have to learn from one another if we’re gonna be a successful team.’ As for the allegations made by his sister, Sam told me, ‘I just have to cut out the stupid mistakes.’ Back to you, Drew.”
Gametime Cheap Beer Of The Week
Baltika Genuine Strong Beer! Number one beer in all of Russia! From reader of blog Christopher:
Putin's newest hybrid warfare scheme to undermine the decadent west will be to ship this 8% ABV Chernobyl runoff to America in plastic soda bottles. It kind of tastes like a mix of the sugar water drink from the opening scene of Men in Black, Slavic bathtub vodka, carbonation, and musty bread yeast. Honestly though, it's what we deserve. You’ll be halfway to sterilization and methyl alcohol poisoning by the time 3 Doors Down hits the stage. Nostrovia to the official state beer of the U.S.S.A.!
Is good, yes? Is must be goods drink.
Gameday Movie Of The Week For Panthers Fans
Operation Fortune. Guy Ritchie is now at the stage of his career where he has to make one lousy studio movie if he wants make one True Guy Ritchie Movie on the side. Operation Fortune falls into the latter category, which means that I loved it unreservedly. It has Jason Statham playing Jason Statham, Aubrey Plaza playing Aubrey Plaza, and Hugh Grant playing the kind of louche shitbag that he was born to play. Between this movie and The Gentlemen, I will now pay $200 to watch any Guy Ritchie movie featuring Grant living down to his real-life persona. Three and a half stars. I don’t remember the plot.
Gratuitous Simpsons Quote
“My foolish capering destroyed more young minds than syphilis and pinball combined.”
Enjoy the games, everyone.