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NFL Open Thread: Anything could be finer edition

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Having canned yet another coach, David Tepper seems lining up to be the new Daniel Snyder:

Because there are stories about Tepper now, too. There was the time Tepper kept a pair of brass balls on his desk that he rubbed every day for good luck. There was the time he bragged about bringing live music to Charlotte for the first time in that city’s history (this was untrue). There was the time he broke ground on an $800 million practice facility in Rock Hill, SC, complete with $115 million in tax breaks, only to abandon the project when that city declined to give him even more money. There was the time he hired Pepsi loyalist Matt Rhule to coach the Panthers, only to have it prove disastrous. Tepper could have kept Steve Wilks to permanently replace Rhule after Wilks had compiled a damn near miraculous 6-6 record as interim coach … only he hired retread Frank Reich instead. He then forced Reich to meet with him after every game. Those meetings did not improve morale on any front.

Which brings us to now. The Panthers are 1-10. They’re not merely the worst team in football, but the worst by leaps and bounds. That shouldn’t be possible when the 2023 Giants, Jets, Commanders, Cardinals, and Patriots all exist, but here we are. The Panthers can’t block. They’re a bottom-five team in both rushing and passing offense. They traded away their first rounder next spring—all but certain to be No. 1 overall—to draft Bryce Young instead of C.J. Stroud, only watch Young regress every week. And they lost to the 4-7 Titans last week when, at the very end, they ordered Young to throw a screen pass two yards behind the line of scrimmage on fourth-and-6.

Tepper was unenthused by that loss, so much so that he fired Reich less than a year into the new head coach’s tenure. Between his Panthers and his MLS team, Charlotte FC, Tepper will have fired 10 coaches within a span of eight seasons. He’d like the next Panthers coach he hires to be the last one he ever hires. I think that you and I know that won’t be the case. You and I already know that the only constant Panthers fans will experience over the next few years—decades, likely—is David Tepper being an incompetent, meddling asshole who never wins a fucking thing.

I suppose you don’t want to write off Young entirely, but as of now the trade is looking like a world-historical disaster:

Young is having a very bad rookie season. Per FTN Network, his DVOA of -39.1% is worse than Zach Wilson’s figure as a rookie in 2021 (-32.3%), and Wilson had one of the worst rookie seasons of any quarterback who received regular playing time. Young’s metrics are down in a danger zone from which few prospects ever recover.

Stroud is not surrounded by the 1999 Rams down there in Houston; Nico Collins and Noah Brown weren’t exactly coveted in fantasy leagues, and the Texans line has been dealing with injuries all year. Stroud has received better coaching, but he’s pretty clearly the superior quarterback.

A team picking in the top five in any draft should consider a quarterback if they do not already have one. Such a team should also try to at least possess:

• A go-to receiver who can create separation by himself. Adam Theilen was supposed to be that guy for the Panthers, which was an exercise in wishful thinking. D.J. Moore would have been much better, but the Panthers went all Gift of the Magi in their trade with the Bears;
• Capable veteran starters at center and both tackle spots, even if some of them are journeyman free agents. The Panthers had veterans at most positions and top prospect Ikem Ekwonu at left tackle before some preseason injuries at guard;
• A caretaker veteran to soak up early-season starts if the rookie is not ready or the receivers/line are obviously going to be a problem. Andy Dalton probably should have started the season for the Panthers; and
• An owner who won’t pitch a fit if he’s forced to watch Dalton for a month.

The decision to include Moore in the trade up for Young is particularly bizarre. Anyway, we might have to score one for the old-school scouts here — 5’10” might just be where a QB’s height becomes a major problem. (And with the success of Hurts and Tua, it’s not the Alabama system making randos look good. It’s true Mac Jones is cratering, but nobody thought he was a high-ceiling prospect when he was drafted.) There are a few QBs who have come back from performances of comparable quality — Goff and Alex Smith being the most obvious — but you can’t really like the odds, and if he doesn’t pan out the the path forward for Carolina is really bleak.

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