Perhaps I’m running into my lack of understanding when it comes to Brendan Rodgers and the Liverpool FC talking points. Perhaps, when I hear stories of Rodgers telling the English media he is waking in the dead of night, wondering what is wrong, my (negative) reaction should be tempered, constrained. Perhaps, when I listen to him giving post-game interviews and lamenting the problems, screwing his brow into a deep furrow, and telling the Liverpool faithful, “We need to be better,” I should simply clam up and go along with the program – however, I cannot help comparing Rodgers with some of the greats from an unlikely source: American sports.
I think Rodgers’ greatest strength is also his greatest weakness. He wears his heart on his sleeve. Some do that, heck, I’ve even been accused (correct word) of doing that but there comes a time when unrestrained chatter from one’s emotional center is a detriment. Enter Rodgers. His admission of his personal struggles as he attempts to sort out the nuances of Liverpool’s very pedestrian start is just too much. Yes, an emotional connection can serve a coach well when it comes to getting the best possible performances from his players but with the media Rodgers needs to remain reticent, noble, and at least appear in-control.
When I mention coaches like Bill Belichick (New England Patriots), Bill Parcells (New York Giants), and the Zen Master himself, Phil Jackson (Chicago Bulls/Los Angeles Lakers), they all have/had an ingredient which set them apart: they at least gave the appearance they knew what they were doing. Please don’t jump to conclusions and assume I think Rodgers doesn’t know the path to success, but recent empirical evidence may support that conclusion. Belichick, Parcells, and Jackson all presented a particular persona to the media and most of the time, toyed with them. Irrespective of the trials and tribulations, they provided knowing responses to invasive questions, they fenced with reporters, all the while presenting a facade of grace, knowledge, and most of all, confidence.
Rodgers hasn’t gotten there just yet. Remember, Rodgers is only in his mid-40’s and made some crucial decisions late last season which some would argue directly contributed to Liverpool falling short of the league title (why not settle for a draw with Chelsea instead of going for the win?). Rodgers even commented on his own decisions saying everyone was “learning” from the experience. Fair enough but that process of learning must also be shifted over to the “handling” of the media.
Enough with the heart-on-sleeve commentary about this problem or that issue. Desist with allowing the media to see behind the curtain of your personal anguish as you lament over problems. None of this is serving you, the fans, and MOST importantly, your own team.
From where I sit, Liverpool has some issues with personnel but more importantly, with mental attitude. Gerrard said the summer of 2014 was the worst he can remember. Do you think he’s back from that horror story? Last seasons, Gerrard said Rodgers would make players feel exceptional before hitting the pitch. Is that happening this season? Coutinho slumped in early season going – perhaps something to do with the finish to the prior season? Add to that the heavy dose of new faces and, of course, things will be bumpy.
Rodgers should express a knowing confidence, appear to have a firm grasp on the moment and rally the team around his leadership, not his confusion. I believe in Rodgers, I believe in his philosophy, but I anguish over his media interaction.
Bill Shankly (originally) told all of us, “If you can’t support us when we lose or draw, don’t support us when we win.” I remain resolute in my support but I’d like to see some polish and growth from Rodgers as a coach. It should be said, I’m miles away from him being fired. Give the guy an opportunity to work through what can only be a difficult change.