This is The Drive with Josh Graham Podcast. We are killing it online. Tune into The Drive weekday afternoons 3 to 7 on WSJS. We're so glad to have you on this Monday Drive. It is WSJS NewsTalk Sports For The Triad where, a lot like our bellies over the extended holiday weekend, today's show absolutely stuffed.
It's one of those rare occurrences where not just the top story of the day comes from our backyard, but the top two stories in sports come from our neck of the woods. Panthers coach Frank Reich fired 11 games in. Duke coach Mike Elko is now Texas A&M coach Mike Elko.
But let's start in Charlotte. It was time for David Tepper to pull the plug on Frank Reich. His offense has been broken, and much like a horse with a broken leg, Frank had to be put out of his misery as Panthers coach. That's actually one thing David Tepper deserves credit for today. If we're going to give Tepper credit for anything, when that dude makes up his mind, he doesn't leave a coach hanging.
That might sound like it's a disservice to Frank Reich, but really that is a service to him. I'd much rather be Frank Reich today than Ron Rivera, who there was a report yesterday from Jonathan Jones of CBS. Rivera is going to be let go at the end of the year, but not until the end of the year.
That's just a purgatory. You've got to speak with the media three or four times a day. You've got to keep doing this job when you know you're going to be fired.
That sounds like hell. To David Tepper's credit, when he knew to fire Rivera, or he made up his mind that he was going to do so, he did so. You know what that allowed Ron Rivera to do?
Be up for the commander's job just a few weeks later. He wouldn't have gotten that next opportunity if he had not been fired during the season. If David Tepper had waited until after the year. Matt Ruhl a year ago. They let Matt Ruhl go in October. And given how quick the hiring cycle is in college, where you have to have a coach before the early signing period starts in mid-December, if David Tepper had waited to fire Matt Ruhl after the year, Matt doesn't get that opportunity in Nebraska.
So I can promise you that coaches do appreciate that. David Tepper, yesterday, yelled an expletive, an obscenity I can't say, in front of reporters in Nashville following the Panthers' 17-10 loss to the Titans. That's going to be remembered as the final straw here. It's the shortest tenure an NFL head coach has had in 45 years. Only 11 games. Heck, Urban Meyer got 13. Nate Hackett got 15 a year ago. And the reason why it was right to do it now is there was no chance that it was going to get better.
Or at least a very small chance that that was going to happen. The offensive line had more injuries yesterday. Chandler Zavala went out in the first half. Cade Mays was carted off in the second half. This was just days after Austin Corbett, who started the year on IR, joined Brady Christensen on IR yet again out for the remainder of the year. On the other sideline yesterday was Calvin Throckmorton, who they cut a couple of weeks ago. So, so much offensive line turnover. It's not giving you much of a shot to compete.
And it's not going to get better, likely. And when Frank Reich took back the play calling duties a couple of weeks ago from Thomas Brown, who he just gave it to, and the offense looked worse as it did against the Cowboys and yesterday, it was a wrap. And when it's a wrap, you call it what it is, you cut your losses, and that's what the Panthers did.
And you've got to call it what it is. Frank Reich was a complete whiff. He was a whiff of a hire. Many people conflated Reich's offensive background, the Panthers hiring an offensive-minded coach for the first time in their history, with creativity, with the ability to be nimble, with flexibility. And Frank Reich was none of those things.
He turned out to be a dinosaur in his mid-60s, somebody stuck in his ways. When Steve Wilks, the greatest thing Steve Wilks did a year ago was he decided, given the personnel that we have, we can win with a power run game and by simplifying things. And that's what Carolina did. Steve Wilks saw his personnel and said, we were going to play a certain way that played itself to the strengths that we have on this roster. Frank Reich took over and said, you know what, this is the way that I did it in Philly and in Indy. We're going to bring Miles Sanders in here. We're going to try and win on the perimeter rather than in between the tackles.
We're going to, with a rookie quarterback who ran a lot of RPO in Alabama, run next to no RPO, no pre-snap motion. He tried to force a lot of square pegs through round holes. And that's why we're at where we're at today. That's why it was time.
And it's just a whiff. It's a miss of a hire. It was time for David Tepper to put Frank Reich out of his misery, even if that's only after 11 games. It doesn't have to be tradition. That's the funny thing about the entire deal with Frank Reich. It is.
If I'm trying to think about the good times of the Frank Reich era, I'm thinking about the draft process. He has his phone out filming CJ Stroud's throws and they have the caravan going to Will Levis's pro day and Bryce's pro day and all that. And I remember that quote. The only win he got was against CJ Stroud in the Texans. The only win he got is the Panthers coach, which is ironic as well. And then there's this quote here that just makes me smile every time I hear it. It doesn't have to be tradition.
An old man saying tradition. That was after the Panthers. That wasn't even a month ago.
But that happened. Frank Reich's out of a job after 11 games. It's amazing.
It's amazing. But the problem is that he was a little too tradition. And as Frank Reich, Frank Reich should have taken his own advice. If he listened to his own advice, maybe he's not out of a job.
And that advice, of course, is... It doesn't have to be tradition. On X at WSJS Radio if you want to. That's where we're streaming video.
In addition to YouTube and on Twitch. Will Dalton, the executive producer of this show today, got a Cam Newton t-shirt on. Darn right. Why not?
I can think of a few reasons. No. Probably not. Are you feeling happy today? How do you feel as an emotionally attached Panthers fan? I'm happy something happened. I feel bad that Frank Reich's out of a job, but I'm happy something is in motion.
A lot of things in motion in College Station as we shift things here. When it comes to Texas A&M's hire of Mike Elko, both these statements can be true. It's a home run hire for the Aggies, and Mike Elko was likely their pick for the wrong reasons. In other words, they lucked out.
They lucked out into a great hire. For starters, we know Elko wasn't their first choice. There were reports out there that some of the big names that were immediately connected to the A&M job.
Guys they were going to swing for weren't all that interested. It's not hard to figure out who those coaches are. Given how forceful Dan Landing was in saying that he's going to return to Oregon and, you know, Lane Kiffin.
There are guys that didn't make it to the interview process. Saying, we'll pass on Texas A&M. And then they focused on Kentucky coach Mark Stoops. We know that.
On Saturday night, he was the choice. There was some sort of agreement in place. And we'll never know what happened for sure. Whether it was truly Mark Stoops backing out after upsetting Louisville. Or the Board of Trustees backing out when they saw the reaction from A&M fans to that news. It does have shades of the Tennessee situation with John Curry and the hire of Greg Schiano a few years ago in Knoxville. But my guess is it fell apart when the Board of Trustees got it and they saw, wait, your choice is a guy who's in conference that coaches Kentucky? That's the guy who's going to replace Jimbo Fisher?
To me, it felt like a financial decision. This is what I mean by we don't want to hire the guy at Kentucky. Stoops is making what Jimbo Fisher did.
I don't think a lot of people realize that. Mark Stoops is making $9 million a year. Which is about what Jimbo Fisher made this past season. Clearly, the board didn't want to pay more after shelling out $76 million to fire Jimbo Fisher. They didn't want to pay more to replace him with Kentucky's coach. Because remember, it was such a splashy hire. Oh, we hired Florida State's coach. Now you're going to pay more, which you would have to do to get him to leave a place where he's making the same amount as you were offering Jimbo Fisher, as you were paying Jimbo Fisher, with more pressure to coach at A&M, by the way. It would have required you to pay him Kirby Smart-type money, and you'd be doing that for Kentucky's coach. I doubt that happened. So they went to the alternative and said, oh, Mike Elko, who's already been here, who we know?
Yeah, let's hire that guy. Because while Duke, we don't know exactly what they were paying Elko. I'm sure it wasn't cheap. It wasn't that type of money. And they're probably not paying $9 million for Elko.
It's probably between $7.5, $8 million, if I had to guess. Those numbers aren't out there yet. And those donors who paid a lot to buy that recruiting class a few years ago, that number one class, they probably want some return on their investment. So let's bring in the guy who helped bring that class together when he was at A&M. And Elko did that.
With all that said, Elko was the perfect choice for them. They locked into this hire. When you replace somebody, when you fire somebody, you want the exact opposite of what you fired. In your office, if somebody gets fired for being disorganized and late all the time, don't be surprised if the replacement is somebody with a military background who's always there 10 minutes early and is completely anal with their schedule and completely organized. When Danny Manning was fired by Wake Forest, who was a big name and didn't have the greatest of personalities, they hired Steve Forbes, who was the opposite of a name and had the greatest of personalities.
You often hire the inverse of what you fire. And what's the inverse of Jimbo Fisher? It's Mike Elko. Jimbo Fisher's from Alabama, went to Samford, or excuse me, from West Virginia and went to Samford in Alabama. Mike Elko is a New Jersey kid who went to Penn and spent most of his time at group of five schools and at mid-majors and in private schools, while Jimbo was coaching in the SEC and at Florida State. And Elko has familiarity with A&M as well.
So it is a perfect home run hire for them, but it can also be true that they hired him for the wrong reasons. The picks were five and four this weekend. Should have been six and three, though. Horrific beat in the game last night between the Ravens and Chargers.
Not for me. Chargers plus three and a half. They have the ball, and they get stopped by the Ravens, who at this point, they're just trying to melt the clock. Third and three or four get the first down, take knees, and the Chargers don't tackle, and it's a long touchdown run for the Ravens. So rather than a half-point cover, the Ravens end up winning the game by ten, and that's tough, unless you're WD. Yeah, that's two weeks in a row I've got you now. Between taking the over for Notre Dame wake and then Ravens charge, that's not bad.
You won the coffee bet, which I was reminded of this morning. That game was on WSJS just like Vikings-Bears tonight. Listen to Kevin Harlan on the call for Vikings-Bears. We'll get back to what happened with the Panthers today.
Not just Frank Reich that was fired, but some of the other decisions that have been made since then. However, the college football regular season's finished. That really bums me out, thinking that no more full Saturday slates.
You have championship weekend coming up, and then you have bowl season after that, but college, it just ends in such a blur, it feels like, the college season. Let's attach letter grades to what our locals did in 2023 in Graham's Grades. Every week is a test for your favorite sports teams. Is this a test? Who passed the test? I don't know.
Who dropped the ball? I don't know. Josh Graham has the answers.
What? Time for Graham's Grades. The good, the bad, the meh.
We cover it all, and let's start positive around here. A. I've got NC State as an A. Just because of the incredible turnaround it was, going from four and three to nine and three, blowing out your rivals, Wake and North Carolina, without MJ Morris, who wanted the red shirt put back on him. Dave Doran, he dealt with a lot, and he maneuvered through it finally. Not just finally, he thrived in some of the things that happened this year.
A lot of coaches would have folded. In year 11, Dave Doran might have done the best coaching job he's done thus far at NC State. For that, he deserves an A, and we'll see.
If he gets that elusive tenth win that he wasn't able to get during the COVID season because of the COVID problems UCLA had the day of the bowl game in San Diego. B. App State. They might be an A at this time next week if they're Sunbelt champions, but the reason it's a B, let's be honest about it. Yes, you won the East Division in the Sunbelt, and no one's going to take that away from you, but the reason why you won the East is because JMU isn't eligible for postseason competition. So the next best team in the East wins, and you needed JMU to do you a huge solid by winning at Coastal the way they did over the weekend. Credit to App, they took care of their business after falling behind 14-3, hammering Georgia Southern the rest of the way, and it's been a great turnaround for Sean Clark as well. But it's a B, and has the chance to get even better if App capitalizes on being in the Sunbelt championship game at Troy and wins on Saturday afternoon.
C. Got Duke here. They might... I don't know how to assess their season. They're the definition of a C. They won seven games, but it felt like they should have won a lot more. The reason they didn't win a lot more is because they lost very tight games, including the one in Chapel Hill, and they lost their starting quarterback and their backup quarterback and had to play with a third stringer. It's bad breaks that the Blue Devils had, and after losing Riley Leonard and losing games you probably should have won, the Notre Dame game comes to mind too, you also lose your head coach in Mike Elko as well. So it's bittersweet to say the least for the Blue Devils. D. The North Carolina Tar Heels.
The wheels have completely come off here. They lost four of their last five ACC games. They were favored in four of those five games.
And in a couple of cases, double-digit favorites. Against Georgia Tech, 24.5 point favorites. Against Virginia at home, and they did not show up in a rivalry game. Down 23-0.
Just looked completely lifeless. Saturday night at Carter-Finley Stadium. North Carolina a D. F. The Wake Forest team of Deacons.
I wanted to put my ECU Pirates here, but didn't feel like, I felt that's just a given, how bad things have gotten in Greenville, America. Wake Forest, 4-8. Clawson's worst season, and his 10 years as coach. Oh, but Josh, they went 3-9 his first two years.
Yeah, but he was building it up at that point. Picking up the pieces that Jim Grove left behind, and red-shirting classes of players coming in, waiting for them to turn into upperclassmen or get into the second and third years in the system. It was all by design that things were going to start off rough.
Not in year 10. The standard has been risen. And then they didn't meet the mark, and you lost Sam Hartman, and you had to go head-to-head with him and lose in South Bend, and you had a lead in the fourth quarter, and you collapsed against your rival in Durham, against their third string quarterback. Just a brutal season for Wake, and a lot of bottom-tier ACC teams this season have seen their coaches out there publicly saying, we haven't gotten our arms around what's going to happen with the transfer portal. Like, you hear these pleas from Dave Clawson. Hey, it's open season. Our guys are getting poached. It's become full-out free agency. He's had those comments. Dino Baber said similar things before Syracuse fired him last weekend.
Keep an eye on that. What happens with some of these ACC rosters' bottom tier of the standings, how schools are going to be able to retain some of that talent. But it's an F for Wake Forest. Both the Carolina Panthers and Duke football program are left with coaching vacancies today.
So what's next for both of them? Let's get into Carolina Panthers opening first. You could make the case that the Panthers' job today is more attractive than it was a year ago, even though Carolina is hiring their third head coach in as many years under David Tepper's guidance.
That might sound ridiculous to you, but let me make the case. Knowing who your quarterback is versus knowing you have the number nine pick of the draft I think is of greater value for a coach. Not knowing whether or not you're going to be able to draft one of the top guys, even though that might be your intent upon taking the job versus knowing you got Bryce Young to work with after just one year of him being removed from Alabama, I think is of greater value. You don't have to wait till May to give him a playbook and deal with a lot of the rookie stuff that Bryce is dealing with this year.
The day you take the job as the Panthers' head coach, you can give Bryce your playbook and tell him what you want to do, and you can begin to work with Bryce. That's a huge plus. Secondly, you don't have to deal with an arranged marriage when it comes to a GM. Scott Fitterer is probably going to be out of a job, even though it wasn't announced today.
That seems like the likely thing to happen. So you and the GM will have some alignment. There will be more alignment between a coach and GM than there was going into last year's job where you knew that you were going to be paired with Scott Fitterer. Then you look at the money piece of this. David Tepper, second richest owner in the NFL, worth $18 billion according to Axios earlier this year. Matt Ruhle was owed $40 million when he was fired.
Frank Reich owed $30 million. That's not appealing to coaches? That's not something that would appeal to you? Oh, man, you don't want to play for an owner that's as meddlesome as David Tepper is, as if the Dallas Cowboys' job, if it comes open tomorrow, they're not going to be interested in working for Jerry Jones. Please, there are only 32 of these jobs? You know, I remember a year ago, who's going to want to coach the Houston Texans? Four coaches in four years. D'Amico Ryans might be the coach of the year in the NFL.
Yeah, you got a pretty good coach. Who's going to want to be the Denver Broncos' coach if they just fired a guy 15 games in, they don't have a first-round draft pick, and you have all this money tied to Russell Wilson who's washed? You know, Hall of Fame coach Sean Payton takes the job. There are going to be plenty of people interested. In fact, you can make the case, more people will be interested in the job this year than a year ago.
Here's Ian Rappaport kind of driving that point home on NFL Network today. You know, so many questions coming in about owner David Tepper and this Carolina franchise and people saying, who would take this job? A lot of people. A lot of people would take this job. You get paid a lot of money. You get to work with Bryce Young, who we can look now and talk about everyone knows C.J.
Stroud is better. Bryce Young was the consensus number one quarterback. A lot of people want to work with him.
There's a base here in Carolina. I still, like I did last year, expect this to be a very coveted job. Yeah, and look at where Caleb Williams is at right now and Drake May, how he's been struggling lately. Gibby Bryce Young is a prospect over those two guys. And as he said, he's a consensus prospect, number one guy from last year. And you don't have to wait till May to give him a playbook.
You don't have to spend your entire offseason going to all these workouts to see who your quarterback's going to be and having to rely on what other people's evaluations are in order to get your quarterback. You know, it's Bryce Young. So which coach should the Panthers prioritize? If the Panthers had their way, the list would start and end with one guy, and that's Ben Johnson, the Lions offensive coordinator. Carolina was very interested in him last year. He's a North Carolina football alum.
He's from Asheville, grew up there, went to high school there. And he was viewed as the lead candidate for the job until he withdrew after just one season of being the Lions offensive coordinator. And how did he follow that year up? Oh, yeah, with an even better season with Detroit. He's making Jared Goff look like a Pro Bowl quarterback.
Here's the problem with Carolina, though. He turned down that opportunity. He withdrew, and since then, he's become a hotter name, a hotter coordinator name. In fact, he's the hottest name on the market. A year ago, he wasn't. Shane Steichen was. D'Amico Ryans was. Now it feels like he's the hot name on the market, and there are probably going to be more attractive jobs to Carolina.
What's more attractive? Looks like the Chargers' job's going to open up. You get to work with Justin Herbert. You get to live in Los Angeles.
It ain't bad. You know, the New England Patriots, a championship organization. You might get to step into there and work with an owner that is hands-off in Robert Kraft and not going to medal with you. There's, you know, the Green Bay Packers. Be the head coach of the Packers. LaFleur, he's under some heat.
He's under some pressure. Washington with the new owner. Get to work with him. Be the first owner, the first hire that an owner makes in the Josh Harris group. So it's going to be hard for Carolina to land Ben Johnson, but the Panthers will get a good coach. It's about picking the right guy, and who knows, maybe David Tepper will learn from some of his mistakes and how aggressive and hands-on he's been with the organization. We can only hope. He has concerts.
Yeah. Remember, that sound came from the Matt Ruhl post-firing press conference a year ago. David Tepper's going to meet with the media tomorrow at 1030 a.m. and we'll certainly have that reaction on tomorrow's show. Getting to Duke. Duke's in a good position to seek out a proven name.
They can now... Nina King can now sell. Duke's 80. Something that's flatly true, and I don't know how many ACC teams can say this, that the last two coaches to be at Duke won at Duke. Were successful at Duke. David Cutcliffe, he took him to an ACC championship game. I think double-digit wins a couple of times. And now Mike Elko, 16 wins in two years at Duke.
No rebuilding necessary. Right away, winning games. Won nine games last year?
They won. And coaches know who pays and who doesn't. Duke isn't cheap. You'll get paid a handsome salary.
You'll get NIL money, which is important. You know you can win at Duke. And next year's what? The start of the 12-team playoff format. So there's more access to the playoff than there was before. And there's an easier path being in the ACC than, say, the SEC or the Big Ten. So you can get paid handsomely, with not as much expectations as coaching, as one of those top SEC schools, with more access to the playoff existing.
That's what makes it good. And Duke fans should not be that upset with Mike Elko. Some are, oh, you did it the wrong way, as if there's a right way to do this. Tell your players to their face. Yeah, that went really well for Brian Kelly with a 7 a.m. meeting. At least he let the players sleep in. Didn't call for a meeting to say something that they already know and learned on social media.
It's 2023. Grow up. But he didn't lie.
People saying that Mike Elko lied today. Here he was a few weeks ago, the day after the A&M job opened. I'm very committed to this place. Everybody knows I'm very happy at this place. We're doing a lot of really special things at this place. My family's very happy here. We love Duke.
We love everything that this place is for. And, you know, again, I say this all the time. When you're doing your job well, everybody thinks you're leaving. When you're doing your job bad, everyone thinks you're leaving.
And some say, oh, he's very committed. He's not leaving. That's what that means. Oh, he made that joke about people saying you're leaving. That little pun there.
Wasn't that funny? He's staying. That's what that means.
There was the report saying that he told Duke that he intends to stay. Saying words like intends, you plan to. Oh, you're committed.
That gives you some loose rope. That gives you a loose end that if something were to come free, your plans can change. You're committed right now, but you're not committed when something else becomes available to you. Listen to Dan Lanning's statement after he was, you know, seemingly contacted by Texas A&M. He was forceful and saying, I am not going to be coaching anywhere else next year. That is a firm I'm staying where I'm at statement.
What Mike Elko said there is not. And he gave himself an out and that's what coaches do. And if you've been around this long enough, you understand that. We all don't don't knock a coach for doing something that. All of us would do if we were in a similar situation set to make seven million dollars a year doing goofy stuff like you see on these videos of him at his press conference today, swaying back and forth.
It looks like they're swag surfing, but it's some goofy song, which I'm sure is related to their like midnight yell. And it might be the goofiest place in America. Hey, I don't know if coaches would put up with the type of dumb crap traditions that they have over there.
Howdy. They could seek out a proven name, though. I buy it like the first name you got to call kind of like I don't know if Carolina would get a yes from Ben Johnson, but you have to make that call and you know, there's going to be interest. The equivalent to that for Duke is Jamie Chadwell at Liberty. You got to call because the guy is only winning, not losing at Liberty.
All he did was win at Coastal. I mean, I don't know if you take it because you're going to make your staff move again and affect all their lives after just one year being at Liberty. Kind of like Duke, Liberty pays and you're going to win Conference USA almost every year when you're at Liberty. And when you do that for multiple years and jobs open up, there might be better opportunities than Duke that become available to Chadwell.
But you still have to make that call if you're Nina King. What is happening behind the scenes in the Tar Heel football program? What to make of Carolina basketball after Bahamas? Greg Barnes of Inside Carolina tells us next. Next.
A couple of housekeeping notes to get to. Our show is going to be broadcasting from Joel Coliseum Wednesday night, Wake Forest, Florida. ACC SCC Challenge in the Triad, the first ever ACC SCC Challenge. Steve Forbes is going to be among our guests dropping by. Just got a text from our friend Anish Sraff, the voice of the Carolina Panthers, who said he's going to be broadcasting that game on Wednesday night, so perhaps he will be dropping by as well. And with a big weekend ahead of us in Boone, talking about App State facing Troy in a Sunbelt Championship game since JMU isn't eligible for postseason. And, how about this, Auburn, Bruce Pearl's team, going up the mountain to face App State in hoops on Sunday. We're going to be doing our show live from Boone on Friday.
It's live action, Trace. We'll be well traveled. Okay, let's get to Greg Barnes, Inside Carolina, who when I need to know things that happen behind the scenes at North Carolina, he's the guy I go to from Inside Carolina. And I felt the last few weeks are very strange with Carolina football. Timeline-wise, we had the 24-7 report that Mac Brown was considering retirement, that he then gave a statement to you guys and to Tar Heel Illustrated from Jeremy Sharp, the spokesperson from Carolina, saying, untrue, debunking it. The last words of that statement were, so he's not retiring, but made sure to say that that was not Mac Brown's words. Those were Jeremy's words, and that was crystallized at the press conference last week when he was asked about his statement, and he corrected, saying, no, no, no, that was Jeremy's statement. People were always looking for things to write, but never really said, I'm coming back for sure, until Saturday night.
I kind of cornered him a little bit, saying, you're talking about guys. You need to know whether or not they're transferring. Coaches, whether or not they're going to leave or stay.
Are they considering other opportunities? Have you indicated the players that you're returning? And his version of it was, I thought I addressed that last week. You said that was Jeremy's statement, and then he kind of went on the same way he did a week ago, and I said verbatim, to clarify, are you coming back next year?
And he said, yes. Greg Barnes, why is he jumping through so many hoops? Well, because he's 72 years old, and he's the oldest coach at the FBS level right now. I think that's the simple answer, Josh, is he knows that this is going to be a situation he's got to deal with every single year, and every single rival across the ACC and in the Southeast is using that against North Carolina recruiting-wise. And everybody in North Carolina, back in November of 2018, knew that that was going to be a factor. And so they've got the revolving contract where every year he gets an extra year, so he's got a five-year contract at all times.
And it's just one of those things. When you look at what has happened in North Carolina, really the end of the last three years, if you go back to 21, Carolina lost four of their last five against FBS opponents. Last year, they got out to a 9-1 start, lost their last four against FBS opponents. This year, they've lost four of their last five against FBS opponents. So they've not closed well at all in three consecutive years. And there really was an indication there needed to be significant change defensively last year, and there really wasn't. Dre Bly left, that was about it. So everybody kind of thought, okay, well, this is the year, everything's got to get on track, and it looked great through six weeks.
Got to number 10 in the country, 6-0, and then everything fell apart at the end. So with Drake May likely to leave, he's projected as a top five NFL pick next April, I think people see it as, okay, the program's maybe leveling out a little bit. The top-end quarterback play is probably coming to an end unless they get lucky in the transfer portal. And so is this a good time for Mack to step down? And as you just laid out, everybody on UNC's side is saying, nope, he's not done yet.
But that speculation will continue until you at least get into January and your past signing day and all those kinds of things. Yeah, so I guess what might it look like if he says firmly, I'm coming back, that doesn't necessarily mean as in the same capacity that he's in right now. In other words, he could shift into another role with Carolina, there could be a succession plan that's in place, even though I don't think that's something that worked very well. I think he's talked about that earlier in his tenure, that that's something he looked into while he was at Texas at some point.
What do you think is the most likely scenario to happen? I think it's for Mack to come back. I think he's got a couple more years left in him. I do think he's at the point of his career where it's going to take a few weeks to really think about what this entails, what this is going to be about in the offseason.
Can you handle the grind of another full season? I mean, the whole conversation last summer, right? Josh is, well, Mack lost a ton of weight. That's an indication that, hey, he's committed, because if he hadn't gotten himself into shape, things could get bad pretty quick. Well, he did that. He took care of himself, and now he's in better shape than he's been the last couple years. So it's going to take that kind of rededication every single year, unfortunately, at this age.
But as I said, all indications are that he wants to come back. Greg Barnes inside Carolina is with us here getting to the basketball side of things. You look at today's AP Top 25 that's put out. Oklahoma creeps into the Top 25 at number 25. Tennessee ranked pretty high. The defending champs, UConn, ranked in the Top 10 as well. You have the ACC-SEC challenge where Rick Barnes is going to get a wonderful ovation. I'm sure where the Vols go to the Smith Center for a big game, they have a whiteout for the first time in 10 years. You also have Kentucky and Atlanta in the heart of SEC country. I spell that all out to say their next four non-conference opponents are ranked teams. After facing pretty good teams in the Bahamas this past week, two mixed results I think would be a favorable way to put it.
You have your ACC opener against Florida State this Saturday at the Smith Center. What's been your impression of Tar Heel basketball now that we have a decent-sized sample of this team? About where you thought they'd be? Exceeded expectations?
Beneath expectations? For me, I think they've exceeded expectation, primarily because of how Hubert Davis has handled things. The knock on Hubert the last two years is that he just refused to use his bench and that he was not really using tempo to his advantage like Roy Williams did and was not really focused on creating a lot of turnovers. I might have asked him about that years ago.
He's like, yeah, this is not a priority of ours. What we've seen early this year is that he's playing a lot of guys. We're seeing a lot of rotations.
They're pushing the ball a little bit more. Having a kid like Elliott Cadeau who's a true point guard helps in that regard. And then when you look at some of the pieces, look, we know who Armando Bacot is. We know who RJ Davis is. We know who Cormac Ryan is. Those guys have been around the ACC for a long, long time.
They were not going to make significant jumps in their fourth and fifth years playing ball. But when you bring in a guy like Harrison Ingram, I had some doubts about him coming from Stanford, but he's been incredible. He's probably the best player on the team, I would say, at this point in time. And then you mentioned Elliott Cadeau.
I think Elliott, he's a guy that you've got to play a lot of minutes to let him get up to speed because I think he's key for this team trying to reach their goals. And then I think Everett Withers is another guy. The conversation with Withers when he was in Louisville was, here's a kid who looks the part, fantastic athlete, can knock down to three, but he's just crazy inconsistent. And so can Hubert Davis and his staff help Withers in that regard of balancing things out, letting him be more consistent?
If that happens, I think this team has a lot of really good pieces in place to do some damage in the ACC. Do you know how I know you've covered Carolina for a very long time and you're incredibly plugged in? Because you said Everett Withers rather than Jalen Withers? I apologize. No, no, no, that's actually a flex.
Usually when you do a slip, it doesn't look great. That actually is like, whoa, this guy, incredibly plugged into Carolina because I haven't thought about Everett Withers in over a decade. Sitting on G, waiting on O, right?
Yeah, excellent stuff. I guess when it comes to bowl games, do we have any reason to believe, circling back to football, that North Carolina is going to look any more inspired than they did in the opening stretch of that NC State game? It's a good question.
They've already had three guys, I guess four guys now that have entered the portal. I guess the big question is Drake May, and I assume that Drake will play Sam Howell playing in the Orange Bowl. I assume Drake will play. You would like to see some more fight because NC State just took it to Carolina Saturday night. I mean, that was a beat down. And I wasn't sure if Carolina could win that game, but I didn't expect that. I don't think anybody on the Carolina side did. And if you remember back to 21, they kind of stumbled into that South Carolina game in Charlotte and got embarrassed in that one, too. So I think this is a very important couple of weeks for Mac Brown to really make sure that the program is on solid footing and you want to have a positive showing in the ballgame.
You don't necessarily have to win it, but you have to look good and lost if you do actually lose it. And so this is a critical stretch. There's always going to be already going to be a lot of questions in the offseason. We'll have to see Cedric Gray. There's some indication that he may not play in the ballgame. So they're going to have to make sure they have enough good bodies to be able to fill the competent team.
And then they actually have to perform. So a tough couple of weeks for Mac Brown and his staff here. Greg Barnes, it's good to see your face. It's good to hear your voice. I hope you had a pleasant Thanksgiving up until having to watch that football game on Saturday night. And I hope to see you sometime soon. Thanks for doing this.
Sounds good. Thanks, Josh. You got it. There goes Greg Barnes inside Carolina.
Few as plugged in as that guy is. WD, tomorrow, 10 30 a.m. Panthers press conference. It's David Tepper with concerts.
Yes. And Chris Tabor Panthers in a room coach meeting with the media. We don't get to hear from Tepper all that often. Last time we heard from him, he spelled out how initially they were set to trade for the number two pick after Bryce Young ended up being the pick.
And then they got to the number one pick and the Raiders were involved in it. Something newsworthy always comes out of David Tepper speaking. He speaks freely that type of way. The last time he had a press conference after firing a coach, he told us that he brought live music to Charlotte, which was a huge revelation. I did not know.
Couldn't bring Taylor Swift, though. Somebody asked that question tomorrow. Yeah, I thought you were going to believe. I thought you were going to hit on that earlier, but you didn't. OK, this is my.
Can you get it on this pressure virtually? This is my plea to the media. Darren, Joe Person, you out there?
Somebody, somebody ask. Hey, you know, I know everybody's worried about the GM and the coach at all. So you mad you didn't get Taylor Swift? He should be. You mad? I don't see what's happening out here. You mad? I'm not even a Swifty, but I see it. I mean, I recognize. I'm going to put this up on my Twitter page right now.
Yeah. Give us a plea to the media who's going to be in Charlotte, who has the cojones to ask David Tepper. Mr. Music, Mr. Concerts. It was concert.
Why we didn't get an era's tour. Taylor Swift show. Who's it going to be? I'm looking at you, Mike K. Yeah.
Looking at you person. Darren. Darren.
He's very cultured with music. Mike Salardi. Who's it going to be? Putting out this call to the media. Somebody asked Tepper why we didn't get a Swift show. Kansas City got two.
We got to clip this and get it out of your Twitter. Didn't she go to Cleveland for a couple of nights? We couldn't get Philadelphia. She didn't go to Charlotte. It was concert.
She extended that tour. Beyonce did. Can't get Taylor Swift, but you can get Beyonce. We can't get Taylor Swift. That's like in the same realm.
W.D., we're not going to talk about your idea of realms again. You put Nicki Minaj in the same realm as Taylor Swift. Beyonce and Taylor Swift are in the same realm of stardom.
If it was 2012 maybe, but a lot of times past. They're in the same realm. Not anymore. Taylor Swift, no one's in her realm right now. Nobody on the planet.
Travis Kelsey's in her realm. Hey now. I'll be quiet. No, that's actually pretty good. I'll give you some credit.
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