Mike Jacobs: Nashville SC needed “a new voice and a fresher perspective”

NASHVILLE, TN – Nashville SC have a coaching vacancy for the first time in their history. As soon as seven-year head coach Gary Smith was fired on Thursday morning, the search for a new permanent manager began. It’s a world Nashville SC, and General Manager Mike Jacobs, have never experienced.

After a 1-1 draw with Atlanta United on Saturday, Jacobs spoke about the decision to part ways with Smith after 239 games, as well as what’s next for the future of Nashville SC.

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A consistent downward trend

It’s no secret that Nashville have struggled in the last 10 months. After a hot start to 2023, on pace to contend for the Supporters’ Shield during the first half of the season, they fell off significantly in the second half, and won just five of their final 27 MLS matches under Smith.

“We talk a lot with our group, be it the players, the coaching staff, the support staff, about process versus outcome. Outcome is literally wins and losses. Process is how we win and what things we have to do to work hard, not to lose,” Jacobs said.

“… Something like this, a decision like that goes over a period of time… You think about a group that was second place Supporters’ Shield in Eastern Conference this time last year. Obviously, it really struggled toward the end of last season. And to look at something like this as less one game or one week as much as maybe over the last 30 plus games over the last year, we just felt that there were some trends that we had hoped maybe would reverse or change, but didn’t happen.”

A string of high-profile attackers struggled in Nashville under Smith. Designated Players Jhonder Cádiz and Aké Loba failed to live up to their potential, and high-potential young winger Rodrigo Piñeiro completely stagnated, falling out publicly with Smith in a disastrous year that saw him on the field for just 16 minutes.

“As we move into 2.0 and the evolution of our club on the field, we have to take advantage of the things that our league allows us to do,” he noted. “Whether that’s utilizing players in the U-22 initiative, whether it’s being able to identify players from areas of the country and parts of the world that will generate high resale value, you know, we have to make sure that we’re malleable and we’re flexible ourselves.”

“There’s lessons learned for all of us to keep getting better, including myself.”

The right time for a change

Seven years is an eternity in professional soccer. Although Nashville are the third-youngest club in MLS, Smith was the fourth-longest tenured manager in the league. Even outside a discussion of quality or fit, a manager’s message can simply become stale.

“When we first started this whole project, Gary was absolutely the right coach to take us into the start of this process,” Jacobs said. “It got to a certain point where we needed to have a new voice and a fresher perspective.”

Jacobs was adamant that Nashville aren’t making the change because the season is lost. In fact, with 21 matches left to play and still on the cusp of the playoffs, he believes making a change now gives the Coyotes the best chance to still fight for silverware in 2024.

“We feel strong enough about the personnel that we have, that making a move like this and doing it 12 games in, it gives a group that we believe has the personnel to compete and continue to do what the expectations of this club to advance in the playoffs and pursue a Cup,” he said. “That’s one of the big reasons that we made the move when we did, you know, to do it when there’s still plenty of season left where this group has a chance to, uh, to embrace the situation right now and to work towards pushing forward and pursue a playoff spot. So we believe we can do that with this group for sure.”

What next?

Jacobs didn’t give a timeline for the hiring of a new manager, although his comments about making a change early seem to support the idea of hiring quickly. Nashville aren’t publicly putting any limitations on their candidate pool.

“We’re being open-minded. We’re not going to box ourselves in a corner and say it’s got to be somebody from a certain part of the world or with certain experiences,” he said. “… When we do announce the manager, it’s not going to be a knee-jerk type reaction, and just a rash hiring. It’s going to be someone that went through a lot of thought and decision-making about what’s the best interest, not only who’s the best manager, but really, it’s who’s the best manager for Nashville.”

Author: Ben Wrightis the Director of Soccer Content and a Senior MLS Contributor for Broadway Sports covering Nashville SC and the US National Team. Previously Ben was the editor and a founder of Speedway Soccer, where he has covered Nashville SC and their time in USL before journeying to Major League Soccer since 2018. Raised in Louisville, KY Ben grew up playing before a knee injury ended his competitive career. When he is not talking soccer he is probably producing music, drinking coffee or hanging out with his wife and kids. Mastodon

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