Scott Fowler of the Charlotte Observer, screengrab via Dan Patrick YouTube.

The Carolina Panthers and their impatient owner have dominated the NFL news cycle this week. When Frank Reich was fired, he became the third full-time Panthers coach to be ousted since David Tepper bought the franchise in 2018. Longtime Charlotte Observer columnist Scott Fowler wrote that Tepper “didn’t fire the person who is most responsible for this long run of chaos at Bank of America Stadium: Himself.”

Later, Fowler posted on X (formerly Twitter) that he had been “frozen out” from asking Tepper a question at a press conference. He wrote a column about the experience. Awful Announcing caught up with Fowler to discuss what’s going on in North Carolina.

Note: This interview has been edited and condensed for length and clarity.

Awful Announcing: What was Tepper like when he first took over the team?

Scott Fowler: “He was hailed as something of a savior. He was the anti-Jerry Richardson. He was blunt, charismatic, and those things are still true. And the kind of guy who you’d want to have a beer with. In fact, he would do that. Occasionally, he would show up at these fan events, get behind the bar, and pour, sort of making himself a man of the people. Richardson was much older and had no interaction anymore with the media. He did one press conference in nine years. Just because Tepper was accessible, we all liked him right away. And you know what? I still like him as a person.”

What’s your relationship with him like now?

“Today we’re not on good terms at all. He ghosted me at this press conference. It seemed very purposeful. It was a short press conference too, 14 minutes and they tried to cut it off at 11. He took one more question from a radio guy. The last few of these he’s done, including the Matt Rhule one where we had our original awkward exchange, they would go more like 25 minutes, 28 minutes, and you’d learn something. And at this one, you didn’t learn much at all. It was much more platitudes and generalities.”

Have you ever been ignored at a press conference before?

“I’ve been called on in every press conference for 29 years. I’ve covered the team since its inception in 1995, written four books about the Panthers. I was sitting in the front row with my hand raised like a fourth grader wanting to tell the answer because I was afraid this might happen. I did not want to give them the excuse of ‘Oh, we didn’t see you.’ I got there early. I’d written a very critical column the day he fired Frank Reich. I’m sure that didn’t help.”

The question you were going to ask Tepper was: “Do you ever look in the mirror and say, ‘Is it me?'” Do you think he’s thinking about that?

“I don’t know. I will say this. I think I think about him a lot more than he thinks about me, which is understandable. The man is a billionaire. He’s got a lot of plates that he’s spinning. He wants to win. I think that’s one thing that people don’t understand. They think he’s Mr. Burns in The Simpsons, and he’s evil. Not at all. He would desperately love to be the Rooney family. He grew up a Steelers fan. I thought one of the most interesting things in that press conference that he did say was, ‘I’d like the next head coach (to be here) 20 or 30 years. And I’d like him to do the eulogy at my funeral.’ That’s a man thinking way far out. Wow. Those are hard shoes to fill if you’re going to get that coach.”

Does Greg Olsen have a legitimate shot at this job?

“That’s a fun story, but I don’t think so. I love Greg. I think Greg would do a good job because he’s so smart. He would bring in a lot of people around him, but no. I don’t think David Tepper can take that risk right now because he’s failed on his first two coaching hires. I think the next one is more of the typical hotshot young offensive coordinator.”

Any chance Tepper makes an offer for Bill Belichick that the New England Patriots can’t refuse?

“I thought about that. I don’t think so. I don’t think it would work out here. I don’t know that Belichick would want to come. I just don’t know their relationship. What I think is more likely is Jim Harbaugh.”

Why is Harbaugh a more likely possibility?

“It was reported, not by me, that they talked unofficially, or at least Harbaugh’s people talked to the Panthers people last year when the job was open. Harbaugh was here as a backup (in 2001) late in his career, so he knows Charlotte. I think that is a possibility. I think they’ll also make a run at (Detroit Lions offensive coordinator) Ben Johnson.”

Who made the final call to draft Bryce Young over C.J. Stroud?

“I’ve spoken with Frank Reich about this. Tepper addressed that yesterday. (General manager Scott) Fitterer has addressed it. Honestly, I think it was unanimous. In their heart of hearts, there may be some regret there but they’re sticking with the Bryce Young experience. I think the Texans would have drafted Bryce if they had been the ones to trade into number one. They lucked into the guy who is having the Pro Bowl season. I think Bryce is going to be okay. What they’ve done is set him up for failure this year. If you set him up for success, I think he’s going to be alright.”

How is Young holding up?

“He’s super polite, friendly. You don’t necessarily know a lot of what’s going on inside of his mind because he doesn’t let you in that far. He’s as smooth as glass. He answers every question. But you’re not sure afterward what you know exactly. That’s not uncommon for pro athletes, and I respect Bryce a lot. He gets out there quickly. He takes his lumps and he says it’s on me. He’s very accountable.”

You did the podcast ‘Carruth‘ about Rae Carruth, the late Cherica Adams, and their son. Chancellor Lee is now 24. How is he doing these days?

“He’s always going to need to live with someone, have a caregiver. He’s got cerebral palsy and made great strides. His sentences are one or two words. He needs help doing a lot of things, but you’ll never see a bigger smile. He’s a joyful young man. People shouldn’t feel sorry for him because he does not feel sorry for himself. They’re good at concentrating on what he can do and they don’t see a tragedy when they look at him. They see love. He’s a great man. It’s changed me some to get to know that family.”

About Michael Grant

Born in Jamaica. Grew up in New York City. Lives in Louisville, Ky. Sports writer. Not related to Ulysses S. Grant, Anthony Grant, Amy Grant or Hugh Grant.