From the halls of Foxboro Stadium…

Are We Witnessing the End of the Steve Nicol Era?

Posted by Mike Marshall on September 26, 2010

I mean, the way the Revs have played this year, you have to start wondering, right?  And the way the Revs have played in their last eight league matches is just embarrassing.  In fact, were it not for a 12-minute meltdown by the Seattle Sounders, the Revs would be 0-6-2 in that stretch with a goal differential of -11.

And the schedule is not doing the Revs any favors.  Two of their last four matches are on the road where they have shown little ability to earn points.  Their two home matches are against Real Salt Lake and a Kansas City Wizards team that figures to be fighting for their playoff lives.

I hate to say it, but we could seriously be looking at a team that finishes the year at 7-18-5 and having won just one of their last 11 matches.  Should that happen, would Steve Nicol be in trouble?  Would Kraft Sports make a move?

Well, what prompts the Krafts to make a move?

A couple of times, they haven’t had much of a choice.  Bill Parcells famously left the Patriots after the Krafts wouldn’t let him go grocery shopping.  Frank Stapleton realized early on in his Revolution coaching career that MLS was nothing like the kind of soccer he was used to.  Walter Zenga forced the hands of Kraft Sports by asking for a contract extension and an enormous raise by MLS standards after his team had been eliminated from playoff contention.

They did move on from Fernando Clavijo in 2002.  Clavijo had been in charge of the Revs for a little over two seasons when let go following a 5-2 loss to Colorado in mid-May.  His first year was somewhat of a success in that he made the playoffs – no small feat in the pre-Nicol Era.  2001 was widely viewed as a major disappointment, despite reaching the finals of the US Open Cup.  But Clavijo’s tenure was marked by inconsistent efforts and rumors of locker room dissention.  It’s also believed that Clavijo did not get along with then General Manager Todd Smith, who was likely influential if not the man behind the coaching change.

The only other coach the Krafts have ever fired was Pete Carroll, who was let go after three seasons as Head Coach of the Patriots.  Carroll had inherited a young team that had just lost to the Packers in Super Bowl XXXI, and by the time he was dismissed, the Pats had slipped to 8-8, and a last place finish in the AFC East.  Still, Bob Kraft called the decision to let Carroll go one of the toughest as the owner of the club, adding “a lot of things were going on that made it difficult for him to stay, some of which were out of his control.”

Neither Clavjio nor Carroll are ideal parallels to Nicol’s situation, however.  The Scotsman has far more of a track record than either Clavijo or Carroll.

What I do think the two moves show is that the Krafts have certain expectations, and they aren’t willing to stand by and watch their teams not live up to those expectations for a prolonged period of time without making a change.

I don’t believe the Krafts don’t care about or don’t pay attention to the Revs.  Do they care as much as they care about the Patriots?  Of course not.  But at their core, they’re sportsmen, and they’re fans.  I don’t think they like losing, and I don’t think they’re keeping the Revs in business just to rip off New England soccer fans.

My gut says after the season, the Krafts really do “clean house”, and replace both Steve Nicol and Mike Burns.

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