It is almost universal, this strange blood lust that accompanies the approaching end of a professional coach's tenure. What is it that makes the public, fueled by an often obsessive media, lap it up so much? Coaching at the top of any professional sport has to be one of the most cutthroat and challenging occupations in the world, and it seems there are always plenty of people poised to demand the swinging of the axe.
Over the weekend we saw the end of Ole Gunnar Solskjaer's tenure at Manchester United. The mighty club was desperately struggling, a position entirely unacceptable to its legion of fans, and so Solskjaer found his head on the chopping block.
Despite a brief period where he looked as though he may have turned things around, critics suggest that he really wasn't up to the job from day one. Even the purchase of one of the greatest to ever play the game in Cristiano Ronaldo, hadn't helped. The players looked lost, disinterested and the answer of course was to sack the coach.
When a coach takes over at a club, there is often very little room for leniency, and rarely much thought given to the kind of extended run necessary to turn a club's fortunes around. The fans demand success, or at the very least marked improvement from a new coach. Few seem to remember that they are expecting so much from someone who only has the job because his predecessor was struggling, often with many of the same playing staff.
It can become a cycle that is hard to escape. How much time does a new coach need before he takes ultimate responsibility for failure and how certain can you be that ousting him is the answer to your club's ongoing woes? The very people making this coaching call, are usually those who erred in appointing the last one.
You need only look at the NRL's Wests Tigers to see a prime example of the coaching revolving door problem. The Tigers last played in the NRL finals in 2011, and they are onto their fifth head coach since. The latest, Michael Maguire, in his third season at the club, survived calls last year for his head.
There seems very little doubt among fans and observers, that a slow start to the 2022 season will see the axe sharpened again. Although Maguire has been coaching a clearly inferior playing roster, entering his fourth season, that begins to be seen as more his responsibility. But is another new coach really going to be the answer for the Tigers?
Kevin Walters at the Brisbane Broncos heads into a second season in charge, with much expected of him. The Broncos are a proud club with a long history of success, but Walters has had precious little time to build the team he wants. He has nabbed veteran halfback Adam Reynolds to help his cause in 2022, but the microscope will be on the Broncos and their performances.
Over at the Bulldogs Trent Barrett similarly heads into his second season in charge. After a dismal 2021, which saw the club finish last, he has an influx of talent to help him in a season where the only way is up. However the fact that the Bulldogs still lack high quality players in two of the most key positions on the field, could lead to another struggle of a year and rumblings around the future of the coach.
At the Eels, coach Brad Arthur has survived several seasons where calls were loud for his termination. The club stuck firm with him and the results eventuated. Still, if he doesn't break their premiership drought soon, the calls will go up again.
Fans have the right to expect positive results from their favourite teams, but should the head coach be the man constantly under threat? Are fans that delusional that they think their clubs are just the right coach away from ultimate glory? And that the right coach is just waiting around for the call to step into the role? The most successful coaches are given the time and the environment to succeed. Exhibit A: Craig Bellamy.
This is true across codes too. Take a look at the Wallabies at the moment. They have invested heavily in the coaching ability of Dave Rennie. The man is undoubtedly one of the best going around in the rugby caper, but the Wallabies have continued to struggle this year, seemingly taking two steps forward, one step back. Still, Rennie has earned himself more time both for the promise his team showed in the Rugby Championship and the cultural overhaul he has overseen within the Wallabies environment.
A coach needs talent, the right people around him, a quality playing roster and enough time to put all of those elements together.
Sometimes the quick fix is not a fix at all. I'm not sure who would want to be a coach, but quite often they actually deserve a break.