CARLTON is searching for its fifth coach in nine years, with the club sacking David Teague on Thursday after a bizarre and drawn-out conclusion to its external review into the football department.
Teague had been expecting to find out his fate on Monday, only for the club to delay what even he had deemed an inevitable departure by saying it will not be swayed by "external expectations or pressure".
Three days of mounting speculation followed, with the Blues rocked by four-time premiership legend Alastair Clarkson officially informing clubs on Wednesday that he would follow through on plans to take time away from the game in 2022.
However, the club has still moved on with plans to remove Teague from his position – despite still having one season remaining on his contract – and will now begin the hunt for yet another senior coach.
In an email sent to club members on Thursday morning, president Luke Sayers said: "It was identified that there had been confusion associated with the gameplan at times and on-field, the team has underdelivered in its ability to consistently defend, win the contest and apply pressure.
"This was highlighted, but not limited to, an overt, consistent focus on offence at a detriment to the defensive side of the game.
"While the easier option would have been to wait a further 12 months in the hope these deficiencies would change, the in-depth data gained over a significant period of time as part of this review process left no doubt that such an option would not be in the best interests of the club. As such, it would have been irresponsible to ignore the decisions that had to be made."
Veteran tactician Ross Lyon - who hasn't coached at any level since being sacked from the Dockers in 2019 - remains in the box seat to take over from Teague and has significant members of the board pushing for his signature.
When facing the media on Thursday, Sayers would not confirm or deny if had spoken to Lyon but said "I am always talking to lots of people in footy".
"It would be remiss of me if I hadn't always been looking at opportunities.
"I started this process hoping in my head and heart that David would be the ongoing coach of the Carlton footy club. But I would be remiss in my responsibilities if I hadn't considered options B, C, D and E. Right here now we have got to this stage of the process where we will be pivoting and putting a panel together to find the best coach we can find."
CEO Cain Liddle addressed questions about a rift between Teague and many of the players, including co-captain Patrick Cripps, which had been fuelled by Teague's manager Liam Pickering during the week when Pickering said Cripps was no longer an A-grade player.
"Let me cover off on Teaguey and Cripper. They have a very good relationship," Liddle said.
"They spoke at length. If Teaguey had his way, I think he would have suggested to his manager [Pickering] those comments about a key player at the club would not have been helpful.
"I am pretty confident he would have had those conversations. (But) we are looking at each other and demanding high standards. Is this going to cause some friction and tension? To get better and improve it's exactly what they need."
Liddle said the decision to sack Teague and other members of the football department was going to cause some hurt and emotion it was fully expected.
"(But) this is not without precedent to review your football department and make changes," he said.
Carlton also confirmed that assistant coach Dale Amos would join Teague in departing the club, following in the footsteps of fellow assistants Brent Stanton and John Barker in parting ways.
Teague's sacking follows yet another tumultuous season for the Blues, who launched the high-profile review into the failings of their football department in June and then lost eight of their final 12 matches to crash from the finals picture.
The future of Teague had been among the most speculated outcomes of the review since it was made public. He finishes at Carlton with a coaching record of 21-29 and was unable to break the club's lengthy September drought, which has stretched to eight years.
His appointment on a full-time basis at the end of 2019 had initially been met with great optimism, having steered the Blues to six wins from 11 games during a period as caretaker coach following the mid-season sacking of Brendon Bolton.
He earned a three-year deal at Ikon Park, but leaves in forgettable circumstances after last week criticising the public nature of the review and pleading for more support from the club's hierarchy.
His manager, Liam Pickering, also slammed the club's review process over the weekend and took aim at Lyon for previously and publicly throwing his hat into the ring for a Blues coaching job that was not yet vacant at the time.
Teague's sacking comes as the Blues prepare to completely overhaul the club's board, making four changes to the eight-person panel, with those alterations coinciding with upheaval in the football department.
Premiership player Greg Williams will replace fellow dual Brownlow Medallist Chris Judd as the new football director, with former president Mark LoGiudice, vice-president Jeanne Pratt and Chris Townshend QC also stepping aside.
Williams played 109 games for Carlton, won a Brownlow Medal and a best and fairest with the Blues in 1994, as well as claiming the Norm Smith Medal in a premiership team in 1995.
He recently returned to Carlton as a part-time skills coach under the guidance of Teague and football boss Brad Lloyd, but parted ways with the Blues midway through the 2020 season as a result of the cuts to the soft cap in the wake of COVID-19.
DAVID TEAGUE'S TIME AT CARLTON
2004: The defender was traded to Carlton in 2003 after three seasons at North Melbourne and made an instant impact, winning the club's best and fairest award.
2008: Delisted at the end of the 2007 season. Immediately dived into coaching, taking charge of Carlton's VFL affiliate Northern Blues.
2017: Returned to Carlton after helping Adelaide reach the 2017 grand final. Was put in charge of the Blues' forward line after serving as an assistant coach at West Coast, St Kilda and the Crows.
2019: Promoted to caretaker coach after Brendon Bolton's mid-season sacking. The support of players, a free-flowing style of attacking football and 5-4 record resulted in the club installing him as head coach on a three-year contract. The Blues interviewed Michael Voss but CEO Cain Liddle said Teague was the best candidate and "quite simply could not be more ready".
2020: Threatened to steer the Blues into their first finals series since 2013 but his side lost four of their final five games to finish 11th. It remains their highest finish on the ladder since 2013.
2021, June: A round 12 loss to West Coast marks the beginning of the end, prompting an independent review of the club's football department. Former Collingwood football manager Geoff Walsh, Fremantle legend Matthew Pavlich and leadership consultant Graham Lowe are tasked with investigating a flat 4-8 start to the season.
2021, July: Teague insisted he remained the right person for the job despite Alastair Clarkson's emergence as a potential successor. An untimely loss to eventual wooden spooners North Melbourne comes as the board prepares to unpack the review.
2021, August 12: Three-time premiership coach Damien Hardwick is among those to offer support as speculation swirled about the the Carlton coach's future. Teague recounts that Hardwick "talked about Richmond's courage to back him in when things weren't going well in 2016 ... it gives you confidence and I'm really hopeful that our club backs me in and has the courage to stick to the cause and to finish what we've started".
2021, August 19: The writing is seemingly on the wall but Teague remained in the dark. He offered a public critique of the review process, and said he would "have loved some people from within the club to come out and back me up".
2021, August 21: Teague admitted "it doesn't look like it's going to go in my favour" after a final-round loss to GWS. Ross Lyon had already declared an interest in his job but Teague was still yet to be given any indication of his fate.
2021, August 23: The board was widely tipped to finally show its hand but dithered. Teague was put in the awkward position of conducting exit interviews with players despite expecting to be fired soon.
2021, August 26: Teague is sacked. Carlton president Luke Sayers pointed to the review's findings of "confusion associated with the game plan" and an "overt, consistent focus on offence at a detriment to the defensive side of the game". - with AAP