For anyone with an unwavering affinity for sports metaphors, this one should seem self-evident:
When the team is on a catastrophic losing streak, you can’t get rid of all the players, so sometimes the only option is to change the coach.
There’s a team in these parts — not the whiteout-inspiring one that plays professional hockey and whose hope for a springime triumph still seems realistically within reach, but one of a broader geographical and metaphorical sort that has regularly been referenced during our long, ongoing crisis — that is currently chalking up losses at a pace that has shaken even the most pessimistic among us.
Team Manitoba is in big, big trouble. Whatever has passed for a game plan during the past 15 months has proved inadequate, as unclear strategy has combined with abysmal communication to create a scenario in which worst-case predictions and too-long-ignored dire warnings have been eclipsed by a reality that has of late grown more grim with each passing day.
The coach remains resolute that his is a winning strategy. The fault for the losses lies with the team that has failed to implement it as envisioned. Blame has been assigned; fingers have been pointed. The coach has ceaselessly preached "play defence" as the path to victory, but the opponent continues to rack up numbers that make it obvious that whatever was drawn up in the defensive playbook was not the blueprint needed to hold the foe at bay.
And despite having seen it falter back in the second quarter of the game, no apparent halftime adjustments were made and the same ineffective play sheet was put in motion in the fourth.
When others have heralded the need for aggressive play-calling to turn the tide in Team Manitoba’s direction, the coach and his staff of assistants have opted for a conservative approach that favours the least-forceful measures possible in the vain hope of achieving the most-forceful results. And despite having seen it falter back in the second quarter of the game, no apparent halftime adjustments were made and the same ineffective play sheet was put in motion in the fourth.
Compounding the problem is the actuality that the current version of Team Manitoba functions under one of those old-school organizational charts in which the coach also handles the general manager’s duties — which necessarily puts him fully in charge of player personnel decisions, as well. While the rest of the coaching staff has remained mostly silent on the sidelines or echoed the head coach’s rhetoric, it has become abundantly clear the decision-making power within the organization flows through one individual.
With the much-vaunted defence in tatters, very little in the way of enterprising offence being unleashed in pursuit of evening the score, special teams left begging for help from outside clubs and the team saddled with a coach who often seems more focused on longer-term salary-cap issues than on doing everything necessary to win the current crucial contest, the obvious question arises:
Is it time for a change?
The legendary NFL head coach Bum Phillips, in considering the lot of those who toil in his chosen profession, once offered this folksy career-path encapsulation: "There’s two kinds of coaches: them that’s fired and them that’s gonna be fired."
The current scoreboard isn’t flattering, regardless of whether one is at field level, up in the pressbox, in the management suite or among the increasingly agitated ticket-buying/tax-paying crowd. Perhaps it’s time for the GM to take a long, hard look at the guy behind the bench.
Or, if it serves the same purpose, in the mirror. In the meantime, Team Manitoba’s sports-metaphorical on-the-field struggles continue.