MELBOURNE, AUSTRALIA - MARCH 25: Luke Beveridge, Senior Coach of the Bulldogs is seen during the 2023 AFL Round 02 match between the Western Bulldogs and the St Kilda Saints at Marvel Stadium on March 25, 2023 in Melbourne, Australia. (Photo by Dylan Burns/AFL Photos via Getty Images)

Coaches being placed “under the pump” early in a season is a proud footy tradition.

A clutch of AFL teams will have poor starts to any given year and invariably out of that group, at least one head coach will have the heat turned up on them.

In 2023, it appears as though it's Western Bulldogs' mentor Luke Beveridge's turn to go under the microscope.

It's hard to remember a more credentialed or decorated coach to be placed under such scrutiny in recent times this early into a new season.

Frankly, it's quite surprising to see someone of Beveridge's standing having his job security questioned.

Yes, his team has made a horrendous start to the year, losing to Melbourne and St Kilda by a combined 101 points, but Beveridge was only just re-signed to a two-year contract extension last year, which ties him to the club (on paper at least) until the end of 2025.

Paying out a coach with one year left on his deal is commonplace, but two years? That's almost unheard of and the Bulldogs don't strike this writer as dysfunctional as St Kilda, who turfed Brett Ratten last year just months after re-signing him in favour of returning saviour Ross Lyon, or Essendon in 2010 when they jettisoned Matthew Knights to also welcome back their prodigal son James Hird.

The Bulldogs' loss to the Saints last weekend was particularly horrible, especially when one considers just how hard the St Kilda line-up was hit by injury, on top of the fact that not many view them as a top-eight contender.

It was a performance that seemingly ignited a groundswell of discontent among the Bulldogs supporter base and had some media talking heads querying whether re-signing Beveridge was the right thing to do at all.

Hang on a second. Sure, apply some much-needed criticism to Beveridge's last couple of performances in the coaches' box, but there's a reason why the Dogs were so keen to secure his services for three more seasons.

This is a guy who took the Bulldogs to a grand final a mere 18 months ago. And if memory serves correctly, they were leading that game by 19 points in the third quarter. Granted, the rest of that game was an unmitigated disaster for the Dogs, but the fact remains that with some 40 minutes left, they were looking like premiers.

And let's not forget Beveridge transformed the Bulldogs into a premiership side in 2016, ending their 62-year drought and breaking one of the longest barren runs in VFL/AFL history in the process.

It cannot be underestimated just how significant an effort it was to turn a perennially battling downtrodden club into a flag-winning heavyweight. It was an achievement of historic proportions. One for the ages.

This is a club that has featured in just four grand finals since entering the competition in 1925, and Beveridge has guided them to two of them in six years.

He is comfortably the Bulldogs' greatest ever coach, and is a Kevin Sheedy-type figure at Whitten Oval. After all, he has coached the Bulldogs in more finals (12) and finals wins (seven) than anyone else, and has the best winning percentage (56.2) of any coach to have been in charge of the Dogs for at least 75 games.

Only the legendary Ted Whitten (228) has coached the club in more matches than Beveridge (185). Assuming he sees out his current contract, Beveridge will overtake Whitten in that department as well.

And like Sheedy, Beveridge is a bit of a mad scientist when it comes to strategy. As recently as Round 1 he raised quite a few eyebrows when he took on Melbourne with a unique forward set-up that featured no fewer than four talls – Aaron Naughton, Rory Lobb, Jamarra Ugle-Hagan and Sam Darcy.

Do all of the aforementioned accolades make Beveridge immune from criticism? Of course not. Sheedy himself came close on more than one occasion to parting ways with the Bombers, before the curtain finally came down on his tenure after 27 years in 2007.

But let's also not forget that Beveridge is a notorious slow starter. In 2015 the Dogs started the year 5-5, in 2019 they were 4-7, in 2020 they were 5-6 and in 2022 they were 5-5. In each case they went on to make the finals that year.

Beveridge's list is overflowing with elite talent in 2023, and it seems as though he is still coming to grips with how best to harness its potential – in the process, his team has suffered a pair of frightful thumpings to start the year, looking confused and timid in doing so.

Against the Saints, it almost looked like they didn't know what to do when confronted by such ferocious pressure for long periods of time.

The Bulldogs have a massive task ahead of themselves as they aim to turn their season around on Thursday night when they face premiership contenders the Brisbane Lions at Marvel Stadium.

The Dogs haven't started a year 0-3 since 2012 and have never made the finals after kicking off a campaign with three losses in a row. So in many ways, this already looms as a massive match in the context of their season.

And with Richmond, Port Adelaide (away) and Fremantle (away) to follow, they had better start winning fast.

But even if the Bulldogs get done by the Lions this week, you'd still be a brave punter to back against Beveridge righting the ship. He has a proven record of turning things around when they look dire, and history suggests he is capable of doing so again if that is what is required.