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  • The new Panthers’ owner represents a shift in the old-guard thinking of NFL owners that have long run the league. But just how different is his thinking?
By Jonathan Jones
January 16, 2019

New Carolina Panthers owner David Tepper has been welcomed by the other NFL owners in large part because he knows how to make money, and with another the collective bargaining agreement coming in 2021, owners would appreciate a guy like Tepper on their side. His stance on Donald Trump (pre-ownership) and his self-made background to becoming the richest owner in the NFL symbolize a change from the old guard that has long run the league.

Tepper spoke with 15 media members Tuesday in Charlotte, including this reporter. Below are three general NFL topics that Tepper discussed, and I rate his comments on a scale of old to new-guard thinking:

On Eric Reid’s dispute with the league over how many times he alleges he was drug-tested this season:

“I think the player’s union is the right place to go for a grievance for somebody who’s in a union. Listen, if you want to talk off the record with math, I’m very good at math and I can tell the math of situations. But I would rather not comment on that right now, one way or another.”

Tepper and the Panthers signed Reid when no other team in the league would, and his comments clearly hint at the statistical improbability of Reid being tested as many times in the span that he claims. He also took up for his guy publicly as all team owners should.

Guard scale: Fresh out of high school.

On the Rooney Rule and the lack of diverse hires during this coaching cycle, which saw five black coaches get fired and only one hired for eight open positions:

“Ratings are up, points scored are higher, people love offense. The rules have gone to offense. So there’s a bias toward offensive head coaches right now. So I think that the ranks of potential offensive coaches who could be head coaches is not high, there’s not that many. I think that’s more the reason [with] the way the league’s going, the way rules have gone. I think that’s why you have that leaning toward offensive coaches. And my feeling, and I think the NFL in general, and I know this is very conscious of this and are having intern programs to make more black offensive coaches, so there can be more offensive head coaches in the future. I think it’s going to take time for that to get built up again, to be in a position. You can look at the makeup of players on any given team. Offensive coaches come from the offense and defensive coaches come from the defense. So I think a little bit has to do with that. A little bit more of those sort of people in the training grounds. Now that effort is going to be made so hopefully that changes up a little bit in the future.”

Let me say that Tepper was fairly open with us about nitty-gritty local stuff, and he answered every question we had for 35 minutes. This was his worst moment of the day, by far, on a really important topic. Our Robert Klemko highlighted how deeply rooted the current diversity crisis in the NFL is. And it also appears that Tepper is saying that even though 70% of the league is black, the majority of white players in the NFL play offense so that’s why we’re seeing higher numbers this cycle.

I’ll say this: qualified black folks have heard all their lives, usually from well-meaning folks, to be patient, that things are changing, that their time is coming. Now, they’re really tired of hearing that. Tepper inherited one of four minority head coaches and has gone on to employ no fewer than three women in high-ranking positions since he took over the team. But he missed the mark badly here.

Guard scale: A retired longbeard living off his pension.

On the biggest issue facing the league heading into 2021’s CBA negotiations and what he will be pounding the table for on the owners’ side:

“From the owners’ perspective, this contract works for both sides. I think that it works for the players and it works for the owners. So the question is how much do you want to screw around with this and how much do you need to make it better on the edges? That’s what I think this CBA is. I think there have been bigger issues in other CBAs.”

Generally everyone is happy about the money they’re making in the NFL right now. If history serves, in two years no one other either side of the table will be happy with anything. Personally I love that Tepper doesn’t find much issue with the current negotiations, as it was a refreshing dose of honesty on a topic that rarely receives that. I can’t imagine his fellow owners do, or will, feel the same way.

Guard scale: Fresh out of high school.

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Question or comment? Email us at talkback@themmqb.com.

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