Jurgen Klinsmann would be the wrong manager to take charge of England
The English national team, last seen having its Euro 2016 fire extinguished by unrelenting Iceland, needs a new manager following Roy Hodgson's rapid resignation. Pundits, including The Independent's Mark Ogden and former Three Lions and Liverpool defender Jamie Carragher are publicly advocating for current United States boss Jurgen Klinsmann to get the job.
They shouldn't be.
Klinsmann, who became a legend for his goal scoring and work ethic while at Tottenham, is not without his positive qualities as a manager. He considers himself a visionary, a man with the correct plan that no one else can see and the force of personality to bring said plan into existence.
He's not always wrong about his ability to do so. In 2004, he took over a German team that was reeling from its disastrous showing at the European Championship. He revamped the squad and the entire program, focusing on modern training techniques, dropping popular goalkeeping icon Oliver Kahn and battling the staid German federation while smiling. A surprising run to the semifinal of the 2006 World Cup demonstrated that something he did was working.
That success impressed many around the world and led U.S. Soccer Federation (USSF) president Sunil Gulati to pursue Klinsmann to remake the Stars and Stripes. The German didn't arrive immediately -- there was an unceremonious sacking as coach of Bayern Munich, another club where he starred as a player, and a two-year absence from the coaching scene -- but Klinsmann took over in the summer of 2011 with a mandate to move the U.S. forward.
Has he? Well, that depends who you ask.
The optimist would point to the 2014 World Cup, where Klinsmann led the U.S. out of a group containing Germany, Portugal and Ghana; his eye for finding talent like DeAndre Yedlin; his role in helping to recruit dual nationals to don the red, white and blue; the increase in USSF spending; friendly wins against high-profile teams including Germany and Italy; and (perhaps) the recent fourth-place finish at the Copa America Centenario.
The pessimist would note the horrendous finish at the 2015 Gold Cup; the general failing of youth-level teams, including two straight missed Olympics; the senior team's frequent lack of cohesion; the coach's abject refusal to take the blame when things go wrong along with his continued inability to prepare his team with a backup plan; and half a dozen other factors ranging from picky and absurd to damning and concerning.
Not to give too much credence to the whims and wishes of fickle American supporters, who have a tendency to overreact, but the fact that the vast majority of them would happily let him go manage England says something. In total, Klinsmann isn't as bad a manager as many U.S. fans believe, nor is he as good as the Germany experience would indicate.
When it comes specifically to the England job, however, his faults dramatically outweigh the strengths he would bring. The Three Lions are a program in turmoil, yes, but there are building blocks there. They have a solid core of players -- Kyle Walker, Danny Rose, Chris Smalling, Raheem Sterling, Eric Dier, Jack Wilshere, Dele Alli, Harry Kane, Daniel Sturridge and Marcus Rashford -- who are 26 or younger, some much younger and some with great potential for improvement. That's 10 men who wouldn't be out of place on most of the best national teams in the world.
What England need now are tactics and a plan. Hodgson's strategy against Iceland essentially consisted of showing up and assuming they'd win based on superior footballing history. (It should be said that this isn't too different from England's plan against everyone for the past, oh, three decades or so.) Not surprisingly, it didn't work. (Nor did it work in 2010, 2006, 2004, 2002, 2000, 1998, 1996 ... you get the idea.) But again, it was the plan, or lack thereof, that was the problem, not necessarily the players.
This is where hiring Klinsmann would be a mistake. He is not a good game manager. The further we get from 2006, the more clear it becomes that his assistant and current Germany manager Joachim Low supplied the tactical vision for that squad.
As head of the U.S., Klinsmann frequently talks about the coaching job essentially ending when the kickoff whistle sounds. While he's not entirely wrong about the importance of attitude and self-belief, the American squad too often appears off kilter and out of whack, a collective lacking cohesion. The Klinsmann plan of "put 11 guys on the field, give them a ball and an opponent and tell them to play" is not a strategy that's worked all that well for the U.S. It's not what England need now, either.
England need a change. The country might even benefit from an outsider, someone who could come in with a fresh perspective, without preconceived alliances and ideas, and tweak the nation's soccer program in creative ways. (So long, farewell, Wayne Rooney.)
But, more importantly, England need someone who can succeed now, who can take an impressive roster of individual talents and mould them into more than the sum of their parts, a group desperate to fight for their flag at the 2018 World Cup in Russia. England need a leader more attuned to everyday detail than he is to the bigger picture. Ogden, Carragher and the rest can opine all they want, but the fact remains that "The Baker from Goppingen" is not the man with the recipe to fix what's rotten at the core of the English national team.
Noah Davis is a Brooklyn-based correspondent for ESPN FC and deputy editor at American Soccer Now. Twitter: @Noahedavis.