American sports fans, especially those who follow college sports, are used to contract insanity for head coaches. In the Premier League, though, where jobs turn over as often as a restless sleeper, giving a manager an eight-year contract extends past incredulity and pushes all the way to rampant stupidity.
Even in the best of circumstances, a manager not named Sir Alex or Arsene isn't coming close to living up to that timeframe, and if things go sour – especially at a club where funds are a bit more limited – you can suddenly find yourself in a Kirk Ferentz-type situation where the economics make it very difficult to move on, even if you want to or have to.
Thus is the situation at Newcastle, where under-fire Alan Pardew sees his Magpies sitting dead last in the table on just two points after four matches. How long can the club hold out until Pardew's (and its overall) position is so untenable that it has to eat the deal? This was far from the board's thoughts when it gave Pardew an initial five-and-half-year contract fresh off his departure from then-League 1 Southampton in 2010.
With savvy pickups like Yohan Cabaye, Demba Ba and Papiss Cisse, Pardew led Newcastle to a fifth-place finish in 2012. The club responded by giving Pardew a new deal through 2020. Oops.
Despite a run to the Europa League quarterfinals the following season, Pardew's team finished a woeful 16th in the league. Last year, after an excellent first few months of the campaign, Newcastle started to stumble in January and then sold Cabaye to Paris St. Germain right as the January transfer window was closing.
The Magpies were flat awful after that, finishing the season with a very unflattering -16 goal differential for a side that finished on 49 points (after Cabaye was sold, Newcastle went 4-11-0 with a -20 GD). Pardew headbutting Hull City player David Meyler during a March match was the manager's personal lowlight in a calendar year that hasn't yet stopped providing them.
Newcastle tried to upgrade over the summer, cashing in on defender Mathieu Debuchy to bring on attacking talents like Siem de Jong, Remy Cabella and Emmanuel Riviere, but nothing's cooking right now. The club looks short of goals after losing de Jong to a long-term injury and offloading out-of-favor Hatem ben Arfa via loan to Hull City at the transfer deadline.
The Magpies have been shut out in three of their four league matches so far, and the 4-0 away loss to Southampton this past weekend was alarmingly easy for the hosts. For the season, according to WhoScored.com, Newcastle is allowing opponents to take a whopping 60 percent of their shots from inside the 18. Given that they've played low-wattage Aston Villa and Crystal Palace already, that's not a good sign.
In SI.com's best/worst-case scenarios season preview, Newcastle wasn't billed as a relegation contender despite last year's finish because of its summer dealings and, mostly, because you couldn't imagine the board would allow this to continue long enough with Pardew for Newcastle to find itself in legitimate danger. The club already suffered a shock relegation a few years back; there's no way they want to risk another one.
So, it's still early days, but with unrest growing exponentially at St. James' Park and results on the field not looking much more encouraging, Newcastle might end up swallowing hard and paying out a lot of money to part ways with Pardew much sooner than they ever thought likely. Somewhere, Ferentz's miracle worker/agent, Neil Cornrich, nods in approval.