By George Ofman-
(WBBM) You’re fired! Words coaches live by.
It’s probably written in their contracts and in bold ink. YOU’RE HIRED TO BE FIRED BUDDY SO JUST DEAL WITH IT!
It happens to almost all of them. Very few escape on their own terms. And when it comes time to blaming someone for a team’s lack of success, guess who takes most of the heat? The head coach or manager.
But let’s get real here. The general manager is usually the real culprit. He’s the architect. It’s his blue print. If there are design flaws, he’s the man who must make changes. Talent wins games and if you don’t have enough of it, you’re the Milwaukee Bucks, Vancouver Canucks (see goalie Roberto “choke” Luongo) or Kansas City Royals. That includes teams in our town (although the Cubs are in a category of their own). Futility has a way of festering when you get past 100 years of it.
Let’s use the Bears as one example. As much as Lovie Smith was oblivious to offense and had more coordinators than the Kardashians have had husbands, do you think his job might have been saved had Jay Cutler been afforded a competent offensive line, another reputable wide receiver and maybe a worthwhile tight end? Lovie’s time had come but most of the blame belongs on the shoulders of Jerry Angelo, and Phil Emery knows he better give his new head coach better resources or the results will get worse, not better.
Meanwhile, as fanatical as Tom Thibodeau is in squeezing out as much as he can from the Bulls, you can only wring out a dish towel so much. The current crop, minus Derrick Rose, has done far better than many predicted. But even when Rose returns, the Bulls have little if no chance of beating the Miami Heat and getting to the NBA Finals. Yes, I know the East is weak but this group is no better than the one the Heat dismissed in the Eastern Conference Finals two years ago. Asking Rose to carry them after such a crippling injury and hellacious rehab is too much. He can’t will this team to a championship. The burden of getting a seventh title falls squarely on general manager Gar Forman. And it’s a rather hefty burden at that. The window for winning a title appears closed, though looks can be deceiving.
And while we’re at it, can the Blackhawks keep this thing going without more size? It may not matter as much behind closed doors but it can when trying to succeed on a sheet of ice. The Hawks remain a somewhat fragile group, consistently getting out hit every game. Wasn’t Stan Bowman prodded to get a second line center, add another solid defenseman and perhaps, seek another netminder? Maybe this group will exceed expectations but I hazard to think Joel Quennville will need reinforcements. When you’ve recently won a Stanley Cup, anything less than getting another in short order is unacceptable, as are successive dismissals in the first round of the last two playoffs.
I will give Rick Hahn and Theo Epstein a pass for now, but both will be under the microscope. While Hahn was Kenny Williams’ right hand man, the White Sox managed to make the playoffs just twice in 12 years. (Sorry, the statute of limitations on the 2005 championship team has run out). Hahn has not drastically altered the 2013 team albeit replacing A.J Pierzynski with Tyler Flowers. (This appears rather shaky, yes?) The third baseman of the future is not the third baseman of the present and the Tigers are better, period. But this is Hahn’s first go around in the big chair so I want to see a full season of his maneuverings.
Theo’s first effort on the North Side produced 101 losses. But remember, Rome wasn’t built in a day. I think it took about 107 years, about the same gap of time needed for another World Series title. I said might. All bets must be hedged when discussing titles and the Cubs in the same sentence.
There’s always pressure but it shouldn’t be on Robin Ventura, Dale Sveum, Tom Thibodeau, Joel Quenneville and the new guy in town, Marc Trestman. No, it should be on their bosses.
George Ofman is a sports anchor and reporter for WBBM Newsradio 780 & 105.9FM.