Back in Week 28, following a shocking and humiliating 7-0 loss at Atlanta United on Sept. 13, I wrote a column about the failures of the New England Revolution. Those failures were both short- and long-term, both individual and institutional.
The team's transfer window recruitment has been wayward, and their player development from within has been wanting. Aging stars hadn't been replaced, and young potentials hadn't progressed.
Since 2014's run to an appearance in MLS Cup, things had just not gone right for the Revs.
On September 19, head coach Jay Heaps paid for the above with his job. As is often the case in our sport – in any sport – it is the coach who's the first to go when things go wrong.
Heaps had been coach of the Revs since November of 2011, which makes this his sixth season. That's a good, long run as boss in Foxborough, and it followed up a good, long, eight-season run there as a player. When the Revs open up their own Circle of Honor or Hall of Fame or whatever, Heaps' name should be one of the first on the list of inductees.
It's also important to contextualize his tenure. When he took over for the 2012 season, New England were a moribund team that he coached into a young-and-promising bunch that managed to achieve respectability. In 2013, he got them into the playoffs (it felt like he did it a year ahead of schedule), and they scared the bejesus out of eventual champs Sporting KC. In 2014 he got them all the way to MLS Cup, and it seemed like they were set to dominate the back-half of this decade.
But as I delineated in last week's column, it's been hard to look at these Revs and see anything but a downward trend. It's apparent in the standings – second place in 2014 to fifth in 2015 to seventh in 2016 to eighth so far in 2017. The underlying numbers largely agree with those big, fat, overlying numbers:
I tend to trust underlying numbers a lot, and I'd like to stress that this year's Revs have been colossally unlucky. They really should be comfortably above the playoff line, making plans for November and maybe even fighting for a bye into the conference semifinals.
But luck deserted them almost from Day 1 this season, and underlying numbers go only so far. "Yes, but we should be better!" is not a great rallying cry.
If this season was an outlier – if the Revs were coming off a solid postseason showing last year – then Heaps would probably still be on the sidelines. You could write it off in the same way that, I'm sure, FC Dallas' tailspin will be written off for Oscar Pareja.
That, however, is not the case, and that's why Heaps is now looking for a job. The folks above him, those in charge of player scouting and signings, in charge of building and developing the academy, will be the next ones to face scrutiny. It's rare that a team in such a prolonged downward trend can chalk it up to just one guy even if, for now, that's the entire list of folks officially taking the blame.