The Chicago Fire are reportedly set to hand Veljko Paunovic and Nelson Rodriguez a new deal. It is, unfortunately, a sign of the stagnation of the club.
They say that if you are not moving forwards, you are moving backwards. In sports, standing still is a sign that you are not really doing anything at all. Look at the innovation of the NFL.
It was only this week that we were all watching the Kansas City Chiefs and Los Angeles Rams rewrite the rules of the game thanks to inventive, progressive coaching, refreshed, innovated game plans, schemes, strategies and skills. This was the sport moving forward, and those two organisations in particular.
Contrast the risk that the Rams took in hiring Sean McVay or the continued excellence of Andy Reid and his plethora of coaches that now pervade the league to the decision that the Chicago Fire are currently set to make.
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According to the Athletic, the Fire are set to re-sign head coach Veljko Paunovic to a new, multi-year deal that could see him stay beyond 2020. Paunovic, after three years with the Fire, saw his prior deal expire at the end of last season. Although he wanted revealed he wanted to stay earlier in the year, it was not known how the Fire would handle their management structures beyond 2018.
Not only was Paunovic facing an uncertain future, but general manager Nelson Rodriguez, who had taken much of the flak in the latter part of the season for the Fire’s incompetence, was also out of contract. The same report claims that he too will be offered a new, multi-year deal. This, if you had not realised, is probably not the best development for the Fire.
There has been much debate in Fire circles regarding who is to blame for their struggles this season. There has been a growing disenchantment with the franchise in Chicago, with their commercial significance depleting, their presence in the city diminishing, and a decreasing attendance. The problem is that such has been the extent of the problems in the past season, there is almost too much blame to attribute to one person.
Both Paunovic and Rodriguez are to blame, in their separate roles. Ownership must also take a share of the responsibility, as should the players and bad luck, especially with injuries. But what is most damning about the whole situation, beyond anything else, is that it is set to continue for at least another season. That is a sign of stagnation.
The Fire are stagnating in the stale, same structures that have allowed the decline to happen over the past 12 months. Perhaps the only thing worse than standing still is allowing yourself to stand still for longer than is necessary. And that is exactly what Chicago are allowing themselves to do here.
Rodriguez is mediocre. As is Paunovic. They have made some excellent decisions and some terrible ones. But the Fire, by keeping them, are making the worse one of all. They are allowing themselves to stagnate.