Should potential Columbus coaching candidate Brad Friedel move directly into the top seat? Maybe not

5 Comments

We can go a lot of places with the news that Brad Friedel may be on the consideration list for Crew Stadium coaching duty. Here’s where I will take it today:

The track record of coaches who take the fast-track path – player to the manager’s seat without a stop in between – is pretty sketchy.

In Friedel’s case, it’s a risky move for a franchise that needs some stability, one that looks a bit stuck and needs to elevate its game, so to speak. The Crew has not won a playoff series since Sigi Schmid took the men in yellow all the way in 2008.

That’s not on Friedel, necessarily – it’s on the set of circumstances.

Friedel would be walking off the playing field directly into the managerial chair. If we look at the last five MLS men to trace the same path, the results get spotty, fast.

Four current MLS managers moved more or less directly off the field into the manager’s position: Real Salt Lake’s Jason Kreis, D.C. United’s Ben Olsen, New England’s Jay Heaps, Toronto’s Ryan Nelsen. With Kreis as the obvious exception, you will also recognize that as a list of MLS managers who stand today on highly unstable ground, employment-wise. A quick look:

  • Olsen (who was an assistant for a few months, at least) had one successful season sandwiched around two poor ones. (Including one hapless campaign, the current one, that may eventually be labeled the worst MLS season ever.)
  • Heaps (who spent two years as a broadcaster and investor before moving into coaching, but not a bit of time as an assistant) is about to miss the playoffs for a second consecutive season. New England has a chance at the post-season, but it’s a longshot.
  • Nelsen? Well, it’s Toronto, where coaching careers go to die. So perhaps he never had a chance. But the fact is, he walked off the field at Queens Park Rangers and moved within days into the coaching office at BMO Field.

If we look at some others in MLS, we see that even a couple of years as an assistant appears to help prepare someone for a head coaching assignment. Mike Petke was an assistant and then interim head coach for the Red Bulls for two years. Yes, he has a bunch of talent at Red Bull Arena, but managing the egos is hardly a slam dunk. What Petke has accomplished this year

Oscar Pareja is working wonders with his young guns at Colorado. He’s a first-time head coach, but he spent six years as an assistant in Dallas.

Peter Vermes is a first-time head coach, but he spent almost three years as Sporting KC’s technical director before inheriting the coaching whistle.

The point is this: time spent as a pro assistant or even a technical director is not guarantor of success – but it seems logical to suspect that it helps arrange a better chance for success, at least.

In that way, Friedel looks like a risk. It’s even a risk for Friedel himself; if he really wants to merge successfully into coaching, a couple of seasons as an assistant may be the better way to go about it.