"They say our love won't pay the rent
Before it's earned, our money's all been spent
I guess that's so, we don't have a pot
But at least I'm sure of all the things we got
I got you babe I got you babe." -- Sonny & Cher, "I Got You Babe."
Okay, one more pertinent quote before we dive head first into all this, though the imagine of Sunil Gulati and Bob Bradley singing this treachly love song to each other is something more horrific than most M. Night Shyamalan flicks.
"Don't drive angry, don't ever drive angry." -- Phil Connors, "Groundhog Day."
As a general rule, don't blog angry either.
The news that broke a little while ago on Monday that Bradley will get another four years in charge of the U.S. National Team didn't exactly conjure anger, more just sad resignation than anything else.
Bill Murray in Harold Ramis' "Groundhog Day" on the international soccer fields, as it were.
As apt as the "Groundhog Day" comparision might be, in the fact that it's back to the same drawing board for another four years, I've been marinating on an analogy for the last few weeks I was hoping I'd never have to make, but here goes anyway.
Gulati and the USSF bringing back Bradley is tantamount to what "The Office" has been the last three or so seasons, in essence spinning its wheels, recycling the same plot lines and gags. Are the antics of Michael Scott and the rest of the crew at Dunder Mifflin still funny? Sure, most of the time.
Yet it's hard to say the show hasn't stagnated. It's hard to stay fresh(*) for seven seasons on a network sitcom.
(*) Losing Michael Schur and Greg Daniels to the superior "Parks and Rec" doesn't help. A story for another day.
Look at some of the chances "The Office" had to change in its recent seasons:
Michael leaves Dunder Mifflin due to Stringer Bell's management tactics ... but he's back to his old job within four episodes.
Michael and Jim become co-managers of the office, Michael is back to his own role within the course of the episode.
It's the old principle of television, if it ain't broke, don't fix it ... and milk it until the rating go completely sour.
At least with "The Office" star Steve Carrell is officially leaving after the seventh season when his contract expires. Rumored replacements include Rhys Darby (Murray from "Flight of the Conchords") and Danny McBride (if you don't know who he is, well, you're probably reading the wrong blog. Sorry.)
So Dunder Mifflin's Scranton Branch might get its version of Kenny Powers to mix things up.
The U.S., through the 2014 World Cup cycle, sadly will not. It's not that Bradley did a bad job, decisions vs. Ghana notwithstanding. It's just, are we sure we're on board with another eight years of Bradley? Wouldn't a fresh set of eyes make a little more sense?
That said, is Bradley "Satan in Sweats" as some might have you believe? No.
Is he the world's greatest tactical mind? Of course not.
Did Bradley help build an ethos/personality -- think hard work/belief it's never over/fighting spirit(*) -- of how the U.S. plays? To his credit, yes.
(*) Does this rah-rah/college approach get you over the hump against the world elite? Or is it the best approach? For now, unfortunately, unless we find a way to naturalize a Andres Iniesta or Wesley Sneijder type, yes.
Are the statistics the USSF wants to push on people a little misleading about Bradley? You bet.
Does the average U.S. fan love his lineup selections, style of play and general aloofness? No.
Does the U.S. need a wildman coach like Diego Maradona making headlines by snorting coke off a stripper's buttocks? Well, that's not the kind of attention the folks in Chicago want.
Would Jurgen Klinsmann -- the only real viable candidate anyone's better able to produce -- have led the U.S. to World Cup glory? Impossible to say.
One thing you can deduce is that Klinsmann never really wanted the job in the first place. Not in 2006 and again not in 2010.
If the German legend actually wanted to coach the U.S., wouldn't he have taken it four years ago, when players like Landon Donovan, Clint Dempsey, Oguchi Onyewu, etc. were still in their primes? And if you're Klinsmann and you objectively look at the U.S. from top-to-bottom, what do you see? An aging core and not a whole lot of givens the pipeline, though the 2014 cycle is in its infancy.
Throw in the fact Gulati probably wouldn't be able to break the bank on Klinsmann or any other coach of any merit and we're back to the boring, safe, tight-lipped world of Bob Bradley.
The hard reality here, too, is that the U.S. job simply isn't all that an attractive of a position and the USSF doesn't have the financial cout to entice candidates to think otherwise. Nobody else wanted it, nobody across the Atlantic wanted Bradley at their club, so here we stand back where we were four years ago.
All-and-all, is Bradley coming back for another four years the worst thing in the world? No. There's a fair enough chance that Klinsmann wouldn't have panned out.(*)
(*) Maybe we need to redefine success for the USMNT. Are all the eggs in the World Cup basket? Is it four years or bust? Is it just the unfortunate reality of being one of two big fishes in the small pond of CONCACAF?
Let's face it, barring a total calamity the U.S. is going to qualify for the 2014 World Cup. Along the way there's the suddenly important 2011 Gold Cup -- trying to figure out a way to slow down Mexico's re-ascendancy in CONCACAF, too. There is the long, mostly tedious process of qualification and sorting out a fractured player pool spread across MLS and most of Europe. (Admittedly, identifying the best U.S. talent and where to play it isn't the easiest thing in the world.)
And once Brazil 2014 rolls around, we're back to where we were on June 26, when the U.S. had it all set up for them on a platter against Ghana in the Round of 16. Bradley whiffed that day, playing Ricardo Clark then second-guessing himself by substituting the ex-Dynamo midfielder in the first half. The U.S. is never going to have it as laid out for them on a silver platter as this summer in South Africa. When Bradley stepped up to the plate, he whiffed, plain-and-simple.
We know Bradley is smart enough to get the U.S. into major tournaments, and as we saw at the Confederations Cup, given the right situation he's not a bad game-planner. Yet the same problems -- leaking early goals, first and foremost -- continued to plague the squad. If he goes back to the same hands that got him there this summer, we're looking at a repeat of the 2006 Bruce Arena flame out in Germany where he thought the 2002 crew still had what it took at the top level.
Wherein the problem lies, I'd gather from most fans, is that four more years of Bradley rocking his stern looks and sweatpants on the sidelines simply isn't exciting. Should a coach's A-1 priority be to jazz up the fanbase or say crazy things, like say Ozzie Guillen? Obviously not.
Beyond that level of "blah-ness" Bradley exudes, there's this perceived notion of "Bob's Guys." His reliance on the same players (cough, cough Jon Bornstein ... who wasn't a disaster in South Africa in fairness) and stale tactics leave many fans wanting more.
The results (2007 Gold Cup, runner up 2009 Confederations Cup) and resume of Bradley speak for themselves. Maybe the bigger question is to why the good bulk of U.S. fans seemingly wanted anyone not named Bob Bradley heading into 2011?
Perhaps Monday's announcement all boils down to this simple fact: should excitement level be the determine factor in hiring an international soccer coach?