Let’s say you think Bob Bradley has done a great job as United States national team head coach. You point to the U.S. winning the 2007 Gold Cup, finishing second in the 2009 Confederations Cup and a very respectable round of 16 appearance in the 2010 World Cup.
You’re willing to forgive some lineup head-scratchers (Robbie Findley, Ricardo Clark) because he instilled a “never give up” mentality and made clever tactical changes when he realized he made a mistake. You also think the U.S. can’t get a better coach than Bradley, his players support him and he’s going to give 110 percent over the next four years.
Even if you believe all of these things, I don’t, but if you do, you should still adamantly be against Bradley continuing his tenure as U.S. men’s national team head coach. Why? History!
Coaches rarely manage the same nation in back-to-back World Cup. Some of this has to do with federations being quick to sack their coach, some of it has to do with coaches not wanting to have the same job for eight-plus years, but, more than anything, it has to do with it simply not working.
Here are the coaches that managed the same national team for consecutive World Cups in the last 20 years:
France — Raymond Domenech (runner-up ’06, group stage ’10)
Italy — Marcelo Lippi (winner ’06, group stage ’06)
Denmark — Morten Olson (round of 16 ’02, did not qualify ’06, group stage ’10)
England — Sven-Goran Eriksson (quarterfinals ’02, quarterfinals ’06)
Sweden — Lars Lagerback (round of 16 ’02, round of 16 ’06)
USA — Bruce Arena (quarterfinals ’02, group stage ’06)
Norway — Egil Olson (group stage ’94, round of 16 ’98)
Spain — Javier Clemente (quarterfinals ’94, group stage ’98)
Germany — Bert Vogits (quarterfinals ’94, quarterfinal ’98)
Romania — Anghel Iordanescu (quarterfinals ’94, round of 16 ’98)
Columbia — Francisco Maturana (round of 16 ’90, group stage ’94)
Ireland — Jack Charlton (quarterfinals ’90, round of 16 ’94)
Argentina — Carlos Bilardo (winner ’86, runner-up ’90)
Soviet Union — Valeriy Lobanovskyi (round of 16 ’86, group stage ’90)
West Germany — Franz Beckenbauer (runner-up ’86, winner ’90)
Belgium — Guy Thys (semifinals ’86, round of 16 ’90)
England — Booby Robson (quarterfinals ’86, semifinals ’90)
To summarize, of the 17 coaches that coached the same nation in consecutive World Cups, three (Beckenbauer, Robson and Olson) are the only ones to advance their team further the second time around. Three coaches finished at the same stage and 11 coaches did worse on their second try.
Honestly, I can’t explain why the experience of coaching one World Cup almost never translates into doing better with the same nation at the next. Maybe coaches rely too heavily on the same players, maybe coaches become too predictable, maybe players become too comfortable, maybe coaches become too comfortable, maybe its something else. But, whatever the reason, history gives us a huge warning — DON’T KEEP THE SAME COACH FOR CONSECUTIVE WORLD CUPS!
Even if the precedent wasn’t crystal clear, Bob Bradley doesn’t deserve to lead the U.S. to Brazil. Calling up – let alone starting — Findley, picking Clark over Maurice Edu, not figuring out a way to use Stuart Holden, having a terrible goals against record and conceding too many early goals makes it a no-brainer (to me) that Bradley should continue his coaching career somewhere else.
But clearly it’s not a no-brainer to Sunil Gulati and the U.S. Soccer Federation or Bradley would have been released weeks ago. If they do believe Bradley has done excellent job leading the U.S. the last four years, hopefully they’ll realize even great coaches fail when they have to do it all over again.