YOU don't need to be an American football aficionado to have heard the quote: "There's two types of coaches. Them that's fired, and them that's gonna be fired."
The man who delivered that immortal one-liner was the colourfully named Texan "Bum" Phillips, who presided over a host of high school, college and NFL teams during a career spanning 34 seasons.
And while in the vast majority of cases it is impossible to argue with his logic, Phillips presumably had never heard of Craig Bellamy, if indeed he had any knowledge of the code called rugby league.
By the time Phillips had died in 2013, aged 90, Bellamy was in his 11th season at Melbourne Storm and already established as the NRL's premier tactician.
Nine years later, the man they call "Bellyache" is still going strong, and by the time he hangs up his clipboard, there seems little doubt he will have provided more cast-iron evidence to refute Phillips' time-honoured theory.
Bellamy has never been fired as a coach, and in all likelihood he never will be.
Bellamy, of course, is an outlier. A man who has not only survived 20 years in a cut-throat industry, but who has changed the way in which the game is played.
Along the journey, as well as winning multiple grand finals and minor premierships and steering the Storm into the play-offs in every season except one - when they were stripped of all their points for salary-cap rorting - he has nurtured another generation of coaches.
Among those to have served an apprenticeship at Melbourne are Michael Maguire, Stephen Kearney, Brad Arthur, Kevin Walters, Dean Pay and Adam O'Brien, currently in his third season at the helm of the Newcastle Knights.
O'Brien spent a decade on Bellamy's staff, then a premiership-winning season under Trent Robinson at Sydney Roosters, before securing his first head-coaching role with Newcastle.
Initially signed for a three-year term, that was extended by a further two seasons after he steered the Knights into the finals at the first attempt, ending the club's seven-year exile in the play-off wilderness.
He repeated that last season, when Newcastle again finished seventh and were bundled out after their first post-season assignment.
Before a ball was kicked in this campaign, O'Brien declared: "We won't be content with finishing seventh and falling out in week one [of the finals], I can tell you that. I honestly believe top four is well within our capabilities, but at the moment, it's a pipedream. We need to make it happen."
Easier said than done.
Fourteen games into their 2022 crusade, any Knights fans still clinging to the pipedream would appear delusional.
After four wins and 10 losses, Newcastle are 12th on the ladder - 13th if you take away the two points they received recently for the bye - and have 11 teams in front of them with at least three more wins to their name.
In their past five home games, they have been embarrassed 30-6 by Manly, 39-2 by Parramatta, 50-2 by Melbourne, 36-12 by Brisbane and 42-6 by Penrith - an unprecedented run of outs in their own backyard.
No team in the NRL has scored fewer points than Newcastle (184) this season. Indeed, they have conceded almost twice as many points (362) as they have scored.
This would appear the continuation of a downward trend. Since O'Brien's first campaign in 2020, the Knights have declined in all the basic metrics - winning percentage, points for and points against - season by season.
All of which brings me to comments from Wests Group chairman Owen Kilpatrick in an interview last week with my colleague Barry Toohey. Asked if O'Brien was in an danger of joining "them that's been fired", Kilpatrick replied: "That won't be happening. We've got to stick with Adam, support him and work our way out of this."
Moreover, Kilpatrick revealed the Wests board requested a briefing from O'Brien and football manager Danny Buderus as "a regular monthly thing".
A few questions spring to mind. Firstly, is O'Brien being judged, like most coaches, on his results, or on the sales pitch he delivers to the board each month?
Secondly, how much expertise is there inside that boardroom?
Perhaps even more pertinently, are the Wests directors - who notoriously don't like to waste a single dollar - motivated primarily by their desire to avoid a payout for O'Brien, who has two more seasons to run on his contract?
We can only hazard a guess. What can be said without any doubt is that stability is vital to success.
In the NRL, the likes of Robinson, Arthur, Ricky Stuart and even reigning premiership-winning coach Ivan Cleary have endured lean seasons, but their clubs have backed them in.
Other clubs such as the Warriors, Wests Tigers, Canterbury and Gold Coast have churned through coaches with no change in fortunes.
As one trusted source, who knows more than I ever will about football and the lie of the land inside Knights HQ, told me this week: "Weak organisations target the coach in these circumstances. That's the easy option ... don't just sack the coach. Adam O'Brien can coach."
Maybe so, but by the same token I'm assuming Bum Phillips had more going for him than just a knack for producing memorable quotes.
For coaches in the firing line, there is nowhere to hide.
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