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If the Panthers final four games determine Ron Rivera’s future, then we have a David Tepper problem

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David Tepper has nearly eight full seasons of Rivera’s performance to easily evaluate, so basing his decision solely on this season’s results would be a mistake.

NFL: Carolina Panthers-Training Camp Jeremy Brevard-USA TODAY Sports

Many Carolina Panthers fans have strong opinions about how they hope the final four games of the season will play out and the impact it will have on Ron Rivera’s future. The view of one segment of the fan base can be summarized like this: I hope the Panthers lose the next four games so David Tepper cleans house, fires Ron Rivera, cans Marty Hurney, and BURNS! IT! DOWN!

Here is my response to that mentality: If the Panthers win-loss record over the next four games determines Ron Rivera’s fate, then we’ve got a David Tepper problem.

Tepper agreed to buy the team last May and has now had a full seven months working directly with his head coach. But even more important, Tepper has nearly eight full seasons of Rivera’s performance to easily evaluate. His coach’s win-loss record, tendencies, mistakes, and triumphs are very much part of the public record. At this point, David Tepper should know exactly what he has in Ron Rivera.

Based on his business record, David Tepper is an incredibly smart guy who’s used to making tough decisions. He earned his MBA from Carnegie Mellon in 1982 and the university has since renamed its program as the David A. Tepper School of Business. In 1993 he co-founded Appaloosa Management which mostly invests in debt of companies in distress. His sound decision making has fostered the growth of the assets Appaloosa manages from $57 million in 1993 to over $15 billion today. Making these types of investments requires detailed analysis, strategic thinking, and unshakable decisiveness. Tepper isn’t only good at making these types of analytically-based decisions, he’s so good at it that Forbes called him “arguably the greatest hedge fund manager of his generation.”

Some fans are viewing these final four games as Ron Rivera’s last chance to salvage his job. Those who want Rivera gone are morbidly hoping the Panthers lose out to finish 6-10. Rivera is certainly approaching the last quarter of the season as if his job is on the line, hence the recent coaching staff shakeup. This mindset assumes David Tepper has something like this written on the dry erase board of the owner’s office:

  • 7-9 or worse: Fire Ron
  • 9-7 or better: Keep Ron
  • 8-8 record: Flip coin

While I’ve never met David Tepper, I don’t think one of the smartest hedge fund managers in human history would think this way. In fact, I’m desperately hoping he doesn’t think this way. An owner making short-sighted personnel decisions like this probably can’t be trusted to make the right hiring decisions that would follow.

My view is David Tepper already knows Rivera’s fate. The Panthers could stumble to a 7-9 finish and Tepper could immediately come out with a vote of confidence in his coach because of his successful career win-loss percentage (.569), playoff experience, relationship with players, and the stability he offers to a team with a solid foundation. Conversely, the Panthers could shock all of us and miraculously get hot to finish the season and sneak into a wild card spot. Even if that happens, Tepper could still fire Rivera because the team has peaked under his leadership and he feels the franchise needs a more innovative, forward-thinking approach. My assumption is the Panthers owner already knows if Ron River will be fired whether or not Graham Gano makes a game-winning field goal in Week 17.

As for me, I’m hoping for two things: First, I hope the Panthers win out. Yes, that sounds crazy based on the Panthers performance over the last month, but wins make me happy and losses frustrate me. I prefer to be happy. Second, I hope David Tepper’s ultimate decision about Ron Rivera is the right one for the future success of the Carolina Panthers, whatever that decision may be.


If you owned the Carolina Panthers, would you fire Ron Rivera based on what you know today?

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