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Jay Heaps Hired: A Measured Reaction

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Now that we've had a few days to examine things from every angle and formulate responsible judgments, I feel the time has come for a measured and well thought-out reaction to the Jay Heaps hiring. And no, it's not an unintelligible exclamation of frustration.

I still have plenty of reservations about Jay's lack of experience, and also about his leadership style. As much of an on-field leader as he was during his tenure in Foxborough, I still have less-than-fond memories of him barking angrily (and insultingly, it would seem) at teammates, opponents, and ballboys/ballgirls alike. He, Pat Noonan and Taylor Twellman had an unfortunate habit (to varying degrees) of even lambasting rookies unfortunate enough to make mistakes in front of them. I find it particularly telling that Jay was never handed the captain's armband on a consistent basis, even as captains came and went in the squad and he remained one of the longest-tenured players in uniform.

Be that as it may, he's been saying all the right things in interviews and in his press conference. Don't get me wrong, here, it doesn't sound like rehearsed corporate doublespeak. I sincerely doubt that there are any Kraft Sports Group executives pulling his marionette strings from above, cackling like caricature villains. It sounds like Jay has come in with some notions of what he wants to do, and he's not shy about telling anyone who will listen exactly what that is.

"Fundamentally, there's a few things that need to change right off the bat and one of them is game preparation. I think that's something that I bring to the table immediately, day one."

I'm not sure how you can really take that any way other than a bit of a swipe at Steve Nicol, who is Jay's predecessor and former coach. Jay goes on to talk about the use of video analysis and other things that can tie into that and illustrate his "nuts and bolts" ideas, but what's encouraging here is that Jay is identifying a problem and announcing his intentions without giving too much thought to how politically correct his comment might be. That's a breath of fresh air in this organization. Not that Stevie wasn't candid from time to time, but too often we hear the "proper" answers and statements, and never the "right" ones. Jay looks the type to give the latter.

Part of what he said extends to strength and conditioning, which has me very intrigued. I find it baffling that the New England Revolution plays 50% of its home games on FieldTurf, but runs all of its practices on natural grass. Ever notice how overflowing the injury report is every week? Has no one stopped to consider that this is a contributing factor? I hope Heaps will investigate that, and if I get the opportunity I may even ask him about it.

Jay also buys into a major topic that I have been concerned with: scouting. Given Mike Burns' comments on the subject, I was less than enthusiastic about this team's prospects going forward in this area. But Jay appears to follow the Brian Bilello school of thought in this matter, and the two of them have mentioned in separate interviews that they want to use contacts, video analysis and expanded scouting capabilities (full-time scouts, perhaps?) to cast a much broader net when recruiting possible players. Burns is the barrier here, since this is his area of accountability, but I'm not sure he'll be in any position to resist if his coach and his boss are pushing him in that direction.

Overall, TBM member ExiledinUSA made a really good point earlier this week. The hiring of Heaps represents a change in philosophy for this organization. While it can easily be considered that Jay is an in-house choice, a continuation of a comfortable regime, and (most likely) the cheapest option, you have to look at the other side. Hiring young former players with limited or no experience is something of a new trend in MLS, more so than in other leagues or other sports. For once, it looks like the Revolution are willing to try something somewhat new and unproven, rather than falling back on the most cautious possible approach. That's very encouraging, by anyone's estimation.

So, in closing, my final reaction to the Heaps hiring: Hmmm...interesting. Deserving of a golfclap, at least.