SUNDAY'S horror 98-point capitulation to Melbourne has added another layer of pressure for Gold Coast.
If the blowout loss was a one-off performance, it could be easier to turn a blind eye, but what the Suns have dished up since their mid-season bye raises a lot of questions.
Questions that will be asked by the club's hierarchy, its coaches and its players over the next few months.
How can a team be almost uncompetitive against Fremantle and Port Adelaide, and lose to a one-win North Melbourne, then turn around and overrun then-top-eight teams Richmond and Greater Western Sydney away from home in the following fortnight?
How does the same team push the rampant Western Bulldogs, then lead by 27 points at half-time against Brisbane, before being totally embarrassed by the Lions and Melbourne in the ensuing six quarters?
Neither Gold Coast nor any fair-minded pundits expected the club to play finals this season, although a move up the ladder and more consistent performances were a fair benchmark.
But the gap between the Suns' best and worst remains as wide as any team in the League.
To be fair, their preparation for Sunday's game was terrible, travelling to Melbourne on short notice after Queensland was thrown into lockdown and then undergoing COVID tests until beyond midnight – less than 12 hours before their match began.
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But the club isn't – and shouldn't – be using that as an excuse for the showing.
Stuart Dew is in his fourth season at the helm, but with the coaching landscape changing dramatically in recent weeks, eyes have turned to the team's progress beneath him.
Most notably, four-time Hawthorn premiership coach Alastair Clarkson is now without a job next year and has an obvious link to the Suns via CEO Mark Evans, who worked alongside him at Hawthorn as his football manager.
Evans appointed Dew in late 2017 and is a big supporter of his senior coach, who has a deal that runs until the end of 2022.
Brad Scott is another former senior coach in demand – and someone the Suns had interest in before Dew's appointment in 2017, before the former North Melbourne mentor re-signed with his club.
Scott could wear almost any hat in a football department and is believed to be in the running for the vacant head of football operations role at the AFL, formerly occupied by incoming Geelong CEO Steve Hocking.
Gold Coast is still heavily funded by the AFL, and like most clubs, is on a tight leash with its off-field spending, awaiting the new 'soft cap' figure it has to work with in 2022.
They have little, if any, financial wriggle room.
Terminating coach contracts was controversially reduced to just a six-month payout, but any such agreement would still sit inside a club's soft-cap figure.
Part of that financial juggle is Dew's coaching staff, which also needs to be addressed, with senior assistant Josh Francou on the move at season's end for personal reasons.
As reported by AFL.com.au, Brisbane champion and current Port Adelaide assistant Michael Voss has emerged as a possible candidate to assist Dew next season.
The Suns currently have just Josh Drummond, Tim Clarke, Tate Kaesler and development coach Rhyce Shaw on their books, with Kurt Tippett in a part-time role.
And that's to service 49 players, the largest list in the competition.
Richmond famously shook up its assistants at the end of 2016 and Melbourne following 2019, with varying results, but this group is in just its third year together, following last year's culling of Dean Solomon, Ashley Prescott and Nick Malceski among others.
Sam Day, one of just four inaugural players on the Suns' list, is the highest priority player remaining out of contract this year.
While there is no indication Day is leaving, in fact, he and the club are talking about a new deal at the moment, securing his signature as a sidekick to young forward Ben King is just the start of a huge 12 months ahead.
Therabody AFL All-Australian contender Touk Miller, fellow vice-captain Sam Collins and 2018 NAB AFL Draft top-10 picks Jack Lukosius, Izak Rankine and Ben King are all out of contract at the end of 2022.
So are Ben Ainsworth, Will Brodie and Connor Budarick among others.
A lot of people have to make a lot of decisions – from top to bottom – in the next 12 months that will determine the immediate future of the Suns.