John Doyle’s firing as general manager last month was Step One in a long rebuilding process. Before the Quakes can do anything else, they need to hire a GM. Amazingly, and perhaps frightfully, the best candidate for GM might the man calling the shots on game day.
Admittedly, I am not a Dom Kinnear fan. In fact, I have been very vocal in advocating his release at season’s end as Step Two of the rebuilding process; the team is worse than they were last year, and this is the fourth year the Quakes will be out of the playoffs, barring a miracle finish and epic collapse of Portland, Seattle, or Kansas City. Yet when I look at Doyle’s vacancy, Kinnear could be a very good fit.
My primary reason: Kinnear is also the head coach, and he had a few “free passes” based upon player personnel as a reason for the team’s lack of performance: he was not in control of the players that were signed. Innocent hasn’t had any minutes, MPG found himself on the bench, Leo Barrera was a bust. Giving Kinnear the control he needs to make his team work might be a good thing for a manager eager to prove he has what it takes to build a winning squad. He did manage to make Alberto Quintero, a second division Liga MX player, into a key part of the starting XI. Dawkins–despite a dismal season–is showing signs of life. He also found ways to make a patchwork-at-best defensive line be able to hold its own against any other MLS club. Would he be the coach everyone expected him to be if he had complete control over the team? Probably yes.
Second, Kinnear has the experience. In Houston, he was both the coach and head of soccer operations. He knows a thing or two about building (and destroying) a program, and that knowledge might be beneficial to rebuilding the Quakes in the post-Wondo era.
Third, Chris Leitch isn’t the man for the job YET. Players who go straight into the GM role too soon after their playing career (Alexi Lalas and John Doyle) have been a disaster for San Jose. Leitch would be a potential third player-turned-GM on which the Quakes have gambled, and I’m tired of seeing San Jose throwing dice, both at players and coaches. Let Chris develop and learn in the management role via the academy system, and if Kinnear doesn’t work out after a few years, then Leitch can have the job. Until then, hiring a guy with more than a few years of soccer operations experience should be the primary qualification for the new GM.
Fourth, Kinnear does have San Jose history, and that’s a good thing. I hate it, but bringing in an outsider might completely blow up an already fragile Quakes franchise and alienate the fanbase even more, which could threaten the future of the franchise in San Jose. Kinnear knows what we got, and should know how to fix it if given the opportunity to call the shots.
Fifth, Kinnear may excel more as a GM than a coach. No one will say Kinnear has had a great run over the past several years as coach, and perhaps the game has passed him by. This is why Kinnear at GM may kill two birds with one stone. If he were to assume the GM role, the opportunity would potentially be made for him to step down as the head coach, allowing the team to start with a fresh coach. And as a former coach, he would know the qualities to look for in a good MLS coach, and hire someone with whom he could work in tandem moving forward. (Of course, the question would then have to be asked: would any potential coaches want to work with Dom??)
Finally, who else could right the Quakes ship? Kaval is in Europe “scouting” and “interviewing,” yet most candidates in Europe are not looking for soccer jobs in the United States; Europe is where the fame and fortune lie for players, coaches, and GMs. This leaves a very small pool of people from which to choose, and would any of them really know how to build San Jose into a winning program? As I racked my brain on potential Doyle replacements, Kinnear seemed to have all the qualities that the Quakes would want in their GM. In fact, I would bet Kinnear knows more about the program and how to turn it around than most people on Kaval’s short-list.
Call me crazy: Kinnear for GM.