Carolina Panthers Owner David Tepper Fires Coach Frank Reich; Is GM Scott Fitterer Next On Chopping Block?

NFL: New England Patriots at Carolina Panthers

Hours after leaving the Carolina Panthers’ post-game locker room Sunday by grumbling, “F—,” impatient billionaire owner David Tepper pulled the trigger.

His targets were offensive: coach Frank Reich, assistant head coach/running backs coach Duce Staley and quarterbacks coach Josh McNown, who were all fired Monday morning.

Does general manager Scott Fitterer have much slack left?

Fitterer’s biggest fault could be his belief the Panthers would not draft within the top 10 in 2024. That misplaced confidence led him to invest heavy draft assets into acquiring the rights to draft 2021 Heisman Trophy winner Bryce Young.

In nine starts, the No. 1 overall draft choice possesses one of the NFL’s lowest passer ratings and has failed to surpass the 200-yard passing mark during his past four starts.

Fitterer also did not recognize the pass-blocking faults of the Panthers’ injury-prone offensive line or address the lack of playmaking skill up and down the 53-man roster.

And his three major trades have yet to benefit the franchise.

While he’s still drawing a Panthers’ paycheck, here is an analysis of Fitterer’s three biggest trades:

Panthers Execute 2021 Trade For QB Sam Darnold

Fitterer negotiated a deal with the New York Jets to land quarterback Sam Darnold, a 2018 third-overall draft selection attempting to revive his career after three inconsistent seasons.

The cost: 2021 sixth-round pick, 2022 second-round pick and 2022 fourth-round pick.

The result: Darnold made 12 starts in 2021 and compiled four more interceptions (13) than TD passes for the 5-12 Panthers. He made six more starts in 2022 before joining the San Francisco 49ers as a backup.

GM Scott Fitterer Trades RB Christian McCaffrey

With Tepper firing coach Matt Rhule midway through last season (sense a pattern), the Panthers reacted to running back Christian McCaffrey’s trade request to a contender by dealing the franchise running back to the San Francisco 49ers.

The cost: 2023 second-round pick, 2023 third-round pick, 2023 fourth-round pick and 2024 fifth-round pick.

The result: Fitterer, with an eye on the 2023 draft class, wanted to compile draft picks to make a big deal. He did. Not only did the team draft Young, but Fitterer used the second- and third-round picks to draft rookie outside linebacker DJ Johnson, who has played in 43 percent of the Panthers’ defensive snaps and has yet to record a sack.

Owner David Tepper Pushes For Bryce Young To Be Franchise QB

Tepper reportedly wanted Young. Reich wanted C.J. Stroud, who went No. 2 overall to the Houston Texans and remains the heavy favorite to win the NFL’s Rookie of the Year honor. Taking the owner’s cue, Fitterer, buoyed by his belief that the Panthers would contend in the relatively weak NFC South, handed the Chicago Bears a bounty for the rights to the top pick.

The cost: 2023 No. 9 overall pick, 2023 second-round pick, 2024 first-round pick, 2025 second-round pick and WR DJ Moore.

The result: While it’s too early to enter a verdict, the deal could be one of the worst in franchise history. The only way this turns out to be a win for Fitterer is Young develops into a Super Bowl-caliber signal caller. Thus far, there are few signs that will happen soon.

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