David Tepper finally gets in position to solve Carolina’s quarterback problem
Panthers owner David Tepper said several years back in the final episode of his team’s turn on the now-defunct All or Nothing series on Amazon that the NFL is set up for every team to cluster around .500, and that the difference comes from having the right quarterback.
“This league is set to be an 8-8 league,” Tepper said at the time. “Everything is fair in this league. So if you have better coaches, better GM’s, some advantages with facilities, advantages with the training, management process, whatever those, whatever it is, you know, analytics, whatever that is to give you an edge, that’s what you need. And you need a good quarterback.”
Tepper, during five years as the team’s owner, hasn’t been able to get one. Now, with a bold move to the top spot in round one, he has a chance to get one.
That’s one of the benefits of the draft. Rarely if ever do the best prospects pass on their assigned destinations. And there’s no reason to think it’ll happen to the Panthers, not with Frank Reich as the coach and a staff that will develop a young quarterback into the franchise player the Panthers haven’t had since Cam Newton was in his prime. Still, they need to make the right decision.
Twelve years after Newton arrived via pick No. 1, the Panthers get another crack at a franchise guy. Sure, they might decide that several players fit the bill, allowing them to trade down, recoup some assets, and still get a guy they believe in. It won’t be an easy decision, given that the bust rate for top-10 quarterbacks remains significant.
Only five years ago, four quarterbacks went in the first 10 picks. Just one of the four -- Josh Allen -- ended up being a proven winner. Of the other three, the Panthers have employed two of them (Baker Mayfield and Sam Darnold). Neither worked out.
So now, with just under 50 days to go until the draft, the Panthers will embark on figuring out how many guys they truly believe can become a franchise guy. Whether they stay put and pick first or slide down and take the second or maybe third option (as Allen was), there’s very real risk that it will all go wrong.
Get it right, and the Panthers could become perennial contenders. Don’t, and they could become a laughingstock.
Regardless, Tepper’s play was to be aggressive. And that’s fine. Now the real work begins. They need to make the best possible projection based on the top-level quarterbacks, and they need to hope the one they get will be the one they need to turn the franchise around.