Bringing The World Home To You

© 2024 WUNC North Carolina Public Radio
120 Friday Center Dr
Chapel Hill, NC 27517
919.445.9150 | 800.962.9862
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations

After record-breaking disastrous season, where do the Carolina Panthers go from here?

Carolina Panthers

The Carolina Panthers' season is mercifully over.

They made news for all the wrong things: the worst record in the NFL, back-to-back shutouts, an owner who fired his coach midseason and got fined $300,000 for throwing a drink on an opposing fan.

WCNC Sports Director Nick Carboni joined WFAE's Nick de la Canal to discuss the disastrous season that was.

Nick de la Canal: I wanted to start with maybe a recap. Just how bad was this season?

Nick Carboni: Well, it's the worst any team has fared since the NFL switched to a 17-game schedule. That was just a few years ago, 2021. But nobody, since that additional game was placed on the schedule, has finished as poorly as 2 wins to 15 losses. It is the worst record of a 17-game schedule in NFL history. It's the Panthers’ worst season record-wise since 1-15. I think, when you add all of the other things that I think we're going to talk about into it, you could make the argument, although winning percentage-wise, statistically on paper, it isn't technically, mathematically the Panthers’ worst-ever season. There’re certainly arguments to be made.

De La Canal: Yeah. Well, we also learned this morning that the Panthers have fired general manager Scott Fitterer. It's the latest in a series of firings by the owner, David Tepper. He's been through six head coaches in six years, counting the interims. What do you make of this latest termination? Was this inevitable?

Carboni: I think this was inevitable. There was some thought that Scott Fitterer could hang on and help, at least, with the hiring of the next head coach, and then see if that was a match for him to remain general manager. But at the end of the day, I just think the writing was on the wall for Fitterer.

On the field, the team had the worst record in the stretch since Fitterer has been here than any team in the NFL. You kind of look at Fitterer's first couple of seasons, he was working with and really for head coach, Matt Rhule, at the time, who had control over the roster. But once Rhule was fired and Frank Reich came in, the power structure clearly shifted to Scott Fitterer. Since then, the moves that were made, many of them did not pan out. Many more misses than hits.

De La Canal: I also want to ask about David Tepper specifically, the owner, because at times this season, it seemed like he was making more headlines than the players on his team. Given the firings, then throwing a drink on Jacksonville fans and then getting fined, do you think Tepper's public perception is changing or has changed among N
FL and Carolina fans, and do you think that that might affect the team's search for a new GM and also, now a new permanent head coach since Frank Reich was fired in November?

Carboni: Just locally here in Charlotte, Nick, the honeymoon phase for David Tepper and this city ended many, many years ago, and the perception of him publicly has just continued to get worse and worse. I don't know how much lower you can get than throwing a drink on fans, perception-wise. We've seen with the previous owner — it could get lower than that. David Tepper certainly has not been accused of anything that Jerry Richardson was accused of, or Dan Snyder, the former Washington owner was accused of, but certainly, you know, you hear about these coaches who are coming up on potentially being candidates for jobs around the league, asking people around them questions about David Tepper, asking people with the Panthers that they know questions about David Tepper.

It's an exceptionally small world and if you have a choice as a head coach and there could be as many as 10 openings this hiring cycle, you're going to think long and hard about who the owner is. Not just that he had an outburst in his suite one day in Jacksonville, but that he meets with his head coaches every week, that he tends to meddle in schematics of what you're running on offense or defense, that he has a lot to do, more than most owners, with the big moves that you're trying to make in a football sense.

De La Canal: So, Quarterback Bryce Young somehow escaped injury this season despite being sacked 62 times. Still, this was a rough first year in the league for him. Where do you think Young goes from here and is this a what-doesn't-kill-you-makes-you-stronger situation?

Carboni: Yeah, I think it goes to the latter there, Nick. I think the one trait that we know about Bryce Young unequivocally after his rookie season is that he is a tough person. He's tough-minded and he's tough physically. We'll see if he can now go and define himself as a good quarterback in the NFL, and that's going to take a lot of help from around him and from a team-building standpoint.

De La Canal: Well, finally I would like us to try to end on a positive note if we can. Were there any bright spots in this season for you or anything that didn't get as much attention that you think is worth noting?

Carboni: Yeah. I mean locally, Derrick Brown, their defensive tackle who they selected in the first round four years ago, is a huge bright spot. He had 103 tackles, the most by a defensive lineman in at least 30 years in the NFL. He should have made the Pro Bowl, he may end up on an all-pro list.

Even turning back to Bryce Young, besides his toughness, I think he showed that he can be a leader. He can rally the troops in big moments. He showed a lot of accuracy in a lot of moments, so I think there are some things to work with there, as well.

Sign up for our daily headlines newsletter

Select Your Email Format

Nick de la Canal is an on air host and reporter covering breaking news, arts and culture, and general assignment stories. His work frequently appears on air and online. Periodically, he tweets: @nickdelacanal
More Stories