GROUNDHOG Day has arrived at Ikon Park yet again.
As well-oiled and successful modern clubs like Geelong spent this week preparing for a ninth finals appearance in the last decade, Carlton was preparing to install a fifth coach in that same length of time.
David Teague's sacking, as well as the tumultuous and drawn-out circumstances surrounding the highly public and highly debated external review that led to it, gives anyone clad in navy blue a valid reason to question why the result of appointing yet another new person at the top will be any different.
This week continued 10 years of turmoil at Carlton and yet, still, legitimate failings can be found in nearly every aspect of the club's on-field performance. But, as is almost always the way at Ikon Park, the senior coach has been identified as the primary culprit.
Brett Ratten was a coach supposedly underperforming with a list capable of challenging in 2012. A veteran like Mick Malthouse was a proven performer ready to eke out the most from that same group of players. The only issue was that the club had drastically overrated the list and, within three seasons, was ready to completely overhaul it.
And so went Malthouse, replaced by Brendon Bolton. Here was a young coach, ready to teach and develop a young group of players. But after a promising start to his career, progress stalled. Four wins from his last 42 games meant the winds of change were blowing through Carlton yet again.
Teague, having won six of his first 11 games as caretaker coach, was hired on a full-time basis. Like Ratten, he was meant to be a first-time coach that had blossomed from his interim role and would grow with a promising young group that had been rebuilt from scratch.
Except, after just two seasons, it has been determined that Teague is underperforming with a list capable of challenging. Maybe a veteran like Ross Lyon, a proven performer ready to eke out the most from that same group of players, can do differently.
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Wait, hasn't the club been here before? If it feels familiar, it probably should. Multiple members that sat on Carlton's eight-person board throughout season 2021 were also part of the board that removed Ratten and appointed Malthouse a decade ago. Some, including new president Luke Sayers, will now preside over picking their fourth and fifth coach in that same span.
No club has a habit of bloating expectations quite like Carlton. Just like Ratten was unable to succeed with No.1 picks Marc Murphy, Bryce Gibbs and Matthew Kreuzer, Teague's squad – outside of No.1 picks Jacob Weitering and Sam Walsh – has battled.
But is that a Teague issue? Yes, there are significant downfalls within his coaching that have been brutally exposed over the last two seasons. A midfield that was comprehensively and consistently beaten in clearance and contested work, an inability to stop opposition momentum swings and ongoing defensive frailties will mark his tenure.
However, there are also matters out of his control that have played into his demise. For instance, the fact he's taken the reins during two of the most uncertain and difficult years in the game's history has undoubtedly taken its toll.
Henry Playfair, appointed as the club's head of coaching performance in January 2020 with the aim of working directly with the senior coach, was made redundant just eight months into Teague's first full season due to the financial effects of COVID-19. The review, and the disruptions that came with it, was launched just 12 games into his second.
A medical room that piled up throughout the year, culminating in a total of 17 players being included in the club's injury list for round 20, also saw Teague deal with key-position and ruck stocks being decimated. It resulted in one of the findings of Thursday's review revealing that "opportunity exists to clearly define roles and responsibilities" within the high-performance department.
List management decisions dating back to 2015 have also played their part. Having pleaded patience with members at the start of the club's latest list overhaul, which would be conducted primarily through the draft, the Blues should have been expecting results by now.
Instead, Carlton is heading towards a Trade Period that will mark the first move away from that same rebuild. Top-10 picks Sam Petrevski-Seton (2016) and Lochie O'Brien (2017) are almost certain to not have their contracts renewed, the former having fallen out of favour this season and the latter having never established himself at all.
Top-three pick Paddy Dow (2017) could also find himself departing for a new home, providing there is a suitor, while first-round pick Brodie Kemp (2019) is only now closing on a new deal.
Yes, Weitering and Walsh have met expectations. They were also the unequivocal No.1 picks in their draft years. Harry McKay, another top-10 selection, has also succeeded, while Charlie Curnow appeared destined for stardom before knee injuries derailed his last two seasons and a promising career.
Beyond that, question marks are littered throughout the club's recruiting. David Cuningham, another first-round pick, has played just 41 games in six seasons, while Liam Stocker – who the club traded a first-round selection to secure – managed just five games in two years before being shifted into an unnatural position in the backline to eventually win senior football this season.
In total, Carlton used 11 first-round selections during its five-year rebuild. Only four – Weitering, Walsh, McKay and Petrevski-Seton – have played more than 20 games over the last two years.
Carlton's work at the trade table throughout this same period is also questionable. During that five-year rebuild, it recruited 22 players from elsewhere. Just seven have contracts for next season. Lachie Plowman, Nic Newman, Marc Pittonet and Jack Newnes aside, barely any have become reliable senior regulars.
Caleb Marchbank hasn't played for more than two years with injury, Mitch McGovern featured just five times this season, Will Setterfield finished the year out of the team, while Jack Martin endured another inconsistent campaign with yet more injuries interrupting his progress.
All arrived on hefty pay packets, and the majority for significant trade capital as well, with Matthew Kennedy, Darcy Lang and Alex Fasolo also brought into the club during this time for salaries that didn't necessarily match their outputs.
That's not to mention Carlton made high-profile, if unsuccessful, moves for both Dylan Shiel and Stephen Coniglio during that same recruiting spree.
It's left the club needing to correct an imbalanced squad over the last 12 months. Moves for Adam Saad and Zac Williams, regardless of their success in 2021, were desperately required to add speed to a one-paced outfit.
Links to more aerobic midfielders like Adam Cerra, George Hewett and Patrick Lipinski this year, and indeed during an unsuccessful pursuit of Jack Graham last year, also made sense given the club possessed an onball group packed with non-runners. After all, there's reason it ranked among the worst teams in the competition in clearance and pressure metrics throughout this season.
The inequity that exists within the club's playing group was typified earlier this week when it had three All-Australian squad members – Walsh, Weitering and McKay – amid a list that was unable to seriously challenge at the top. Instead, the drop-off in talent means those same players have been left to struggle through a frustrating eight-win season.
All the while, the public nature of the review has chipped away at morale. Teague was correct in saying the club didn't "nail" the process. He was correct in claiming he hasn't had enough support from senior figures at Carlton. Players and football department members have spoken privately of the sense of unease during this time.
It's no surprise that form drastically waned after the announcement of the review was leaked through the media. Carlton's percentage dipped from 93.4 in the 12 games preceding its launch, to 83.6 in the 10 games afterwards.
While Sayers conceded on Thursday that he "doesn't feel good" about the way Teague felt during this period and empathised with him, saying feedback had been given to the board about the way the review was conducted, uncertainty still grips the club after Thursday's series of announcements.
"As of right here, right now, the board has the confidence of the CEO in Cain (Liddle) and the management of the football department to get on and implement these recommendations and to drive the change we need within the football department here at Carlton," Sayers later said.
That answer – the response to a question as to whether there would be more departures to come, and the "right here, right now" aspect of it – left more people inside the club feeling as insecure as ever, despite the review having seemingly concluded.
A comment from the president on radio the very next day, suggesting he was "not sure anyone was guaranteed anything in life", failed to reassure many either. Doubt surrounding certain roles continues to linger.
And so, on Friday morning amid the carnage, the club began another 'process' to appoint its next senior coach. Whether this process follows the model of the last two, which were supposedly extensive and led to Bolton and then Teague, is another question. Maybe this one will follow the process before that, which led to a figure like Malthouse after not much consideration at all.
Given there has been little effort to defuse speculation the club has already had significant dialogue with Lyon – Sayers said it would be "remiss if I hadn't always been looking at opportunities" when asked about that prospect, before revealing he had a 45-minute chat with the ex-St Kilda and Fremantle coach on Thursday night – you can guess it's the latter.