Here's why Sir John Kirwan should stay as coach of the Blues, even after what happened against the Hurricanes.
Kirwan didn't just take over the Blues, he also inherited years of dysfunction. The phrase 'poisoned chalice' comes to mind.
There is similarly no doubt Kirwan has not helped himself at times. There have been mistakes and his words of defiance this week sounded like empty rhetoric to frustrated fans. It was a time for cold reality, not bluster, and he paid the price with an avalanche of bile.
But this is what he has had to confront:
The Blues have won Super Rugby three times but, infamously, not since 2003. The only consistently successful coach has been Sir Graham Henry (two titles and a runner-up), although the 2003 title came under Peter Sloane. They last made the playoffs in 2007 (under David Nucifora) and 2011 (Pat Lam).
The Blues development system has struggled to recover from a systemic failure to produce enough consistently good players in key positions. Some put that down to an over-reliance on schoolboys with size and hardness of muscle at an early age but who are sometimes found out in Super Rugby. A top-class first-five has yet to be unearthed in Auckland since Carlos Spencer (and he was from Horowhenua Kapiti).
Issues 1 and 2 have helped create a self-fulfilling prophecy at the Blues. They have earned a reputation as a team to stay away from and the difficulty in attracting players has been damaging. The vicious circle has been completed by the perception that coaching teams, before and during Kirwan's tenure, were unable to fix things.
From that has stemmed the Blues' biggest problem - a lack of real generalship at first-five, a key element of any championship team. Ihaia West is talented but not yet ready to lead the Blues to a title. Kirwan has tried to recruit Dan Carter, Beauden Barrett and Tom Taylor. In a perfect illustration, of issue 3, Taylor (a capable general) stayed at the Crusaders and found himself behind Carter and Slade there as well as Aaron Cruden and Barrett nationally. Now he's off overseas.
The Blues pack is competitive, at least when all the All Blacks are playing but, with the possible exception of Charles Piutau, there doesn't seem to be much leadership, generalship or a cool head in the backline. That maybe leads to the poor decisions and errors, which cost them so much. When Kirwan took over, his squad had 14 Super Rugby virgins. Sometimes it seems he still does.
Auckland has a rugby academy, so does North Harbour. The two unions have never satisfactorily meshed. Why not have one Blues academy in which the cream of the region can rise to the top? Nope, the Blues are off to a new multi-million dollar facility at Alexandra Park - but Auckland rugby is staying behind at Eden Park. Huh? Even more division? Go figure.
Kirwan has to take some responsibility - the defence has been poor so far and tries softer than baby's hair have been scored against them. He is regularly caned for selection mistakes like Malakai Fekitoa and first-five Gareth Anscombe. The former may not have made a significant amount of difference, the latter might have.
Jimmy Cowan looks a bit ponderous at halfback - still a warrior, he was obviously selected to help with Issue 5 but may be falling short. Bryn Hall looked to be coming on strong last year - he has a good running game - but seems to be third in the pecking order so far.
There is also a limit to how many times Kirwan can say all they need to do is get their execution right. It wasn't Kirwan who missed a key touch, missed the lineout target, pushed the pass or missed the tackles leading to his team being unable to take the chances to win the game. But that stuff tends to be ramped back to the coach, especially when his charges look a bit bewildered and short on belief.
If they are to replace Kirwan this season, his successor will likely have to come from within the Blues existing coaching ranks. That looks improbable. If he is to be ditched at the end of the year, they will be drawing up possible contenders now. The list of potential acceptors may not be long nor include many big names.
Kirwan may well be right; still the man for the job, even if by default at this time. But it doesn't matter whether the coach is Sir John, Sir Graham or the archangel Gabriel - Blues rugby is still a long-term fix.