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Coaching, managerial changes follow predictable patterns

by Dave Wiggins

Whenever a coaching change is made in the NFL or a managerial switch takes place in MLB, the players on the teams involved must feel like police suspects being subjected to the classic “good cop-bad cop” routine.

With their hires, teams are always bouncing back and forth between stricter and more gentle on-field leaders.

Detectives subject a person of interest to much the same pattern of treatment in the interrogation room.

For those of you who don’t watch any of the 53 CSI spin-offs on TV, that classic good cop-bad cop process works like this:

First, they bring in a detective with issues who gets in your face and sprays it with spittle as he tries to scare the bejeezus out of you.

Then, his more compassionate counterpart takes over. He offers you tissues to clean off with and tells you things will go a lot easier if you just ‘fess up.

Sometimes they reverse their order of appearance.

Think of it as a sort of tag team approach, with the notorious Iron Sheik and the lisping Randy Savage working in tandem.

Upper management in the big leagues and pro football follow a similarly alternating pattern when making a managerial/coaching change.

It goes like this:

Team suits usually replace a canned MLB skipper or NFL head man who was a “player’s manager/coach” (one who gave his charges a lot of leeway) with one who is a taskmaster.

This type of change is made by clubs looking to transform an undisciplined, underachieving assemblage of talent into responsible winners.

Or the switch can work the other way around.

A stifling, micro-managing type or an old school disciplinarian is almost always jettisoned for a laissez-faire kinda guy who has only two rules: 1) be on time and 2) play hard.

This type of move is made in hopes that an outfit believed to be suffocating under an overly exacting leader will perform better in a more relaxed atmosphere.

It’s either Randy or the Sheik in a never-ending rotation.

MAS guarantees that if you check all the NFL and MLB firings and hirings, you’ll find they almost all follow this regimen.

(You’ll notice that MAS has not included the NBA, where coaches keep their jobs mainly by placating — and not alienating — their superstars.)

Here are some examples of this major league/pro football merry-go-round in operation.

Just after the last NFL regular- season games, seven coaches got the axe.

Among them was Greg Schiano, who was deep-sixed by Tampa Bay after just two years at the Bucs helm.

His overall record was a lacklustre 11—21. Just as important in his firing, though, was the fact that his philosophy of leadership was not meshing with the talent on hand.

And it’s a bit unfair because Schiano’s bad-cop approach was what Bucs management liked about him when they hired him.

Schiano replaced Raheem Morris, an easy-going former Bucs player and assistant coach who management felt had become too familiar with his players.

(Morris, incidentally, had replaced snarling Jon Gruden after the latter’s bogus tough guy act had worn thin.)

Schiano, an exacting and thorough coach who stressed character, was tasked with bringing Buc players back in line.

His style worked well with college kids on scholarship but not, as it turned out, with the millionaires he inherited at Tampa Bay.

Eventually, some — like high-priced defensive star Darrelle Revis — openly questioned Schiano’s modus operandi.

Result: The Bucs replaced Schiano with ex-Chicago coach Lovie Smith, who is the consummate player’s coach.

Smith doesn’t badger his charges; he expects them to act professionally because they ARE pros.

His is an approach that normally only works with responsible players and not lunkheads. Lotsa luck in today’s NFL climate, Lovie.

Now for the good cop-bad cop scenario at play in MLB managerial circles.

Two recent examples of this cyclical process involved beloved former NPB figures — Bobby Valentine and Charlie Manuel.

Valentine, the former highly successful Chiba Lotte Marines skipper, was hired by the Boston Red Sox in 2012 to bring order to their increasingly dysfunctional ballclub, which had collapsed down the stretch of the 2011 season.

Former skipper Terry Francona was blamed for a deteriorating situation that included non-starters pounding beer, munching on chicken and playing video games in the clubhouse DURING ballgames.

It was decided that Francona’s slap-on-the-back style needed to be replaced by Valentine’s kick-in-the-pants approach.

Bobby and the spoiled, pampered BoSox players butted heads almost from the start.

When Bobby dared question the focus of loopy Kevin Youkilis, bratty Dustin Pedroia proclaimed; “That’s not how we do things around here.”

Translation: The inmates run this here asylum.

By mid-season, the players were in near-open revolt.

After just one campaign, Valentine was replaced by understated former Boston pitching coach John Farrell.

In 2005, Manuel, a former Kintetsu Buffaloes slugger, replaced Larry Bowa — an overbearing, ants-in-his-pants type skipper — as Philadelphia’s manager.

Under Charlie’s patient, understanding tutelage, the Phils captured five straight National League East titles, two National League pennants and a World Series crown.

Then age and injuries caught up with the Phillies and they endured a losing season and a half.

Phils management, though, determined a sense of complacency had set in.

So, good ol’ “Uncle Chollie” was unceremoniously dumped in favor of Hall of Famer Ryne Sandberg, whom Phillie brass felt would demand more accountability from the players — ie make ‘em try harder.

This same old tired cycle will continue to play out ad infinitum in the major leagues and the NFL.

It’s a front office cop-out you can count on.

And all the players can do is duck to avoid incoming spray.

Contact Man About Sports at: davwigg@gmail.com