Geelong coach Chris Scott admits up to a third, and possibly more, of his AFL team is performing below expectations but has ruled out axing players just to send a message.
The Cats were on top of the ladder last month but are sixth heading into round 17 on the back of losses to St Kilda and Sydney.
"In our situation at the moment we probably feel like we've got six or seven guys, maybe even a couple more, who are playing below expectations," Scott said on Fox Footy's AFL 360.
"Now that's a lot in a team if you want to compete with the best.
"The question that we ask is 'Is it best for them to go back and play in the VFL for a period ... are they still contributing enough to the team to play week to week even though they're not playing to their level?'
"I'm not a believer in players going back (to the VFL) as punishment or compromising the team's chances of winning in any given week because we think it might help that player to get a kick up the bum.
"We tend to take a little bit more of a supportive approach and maybe our flaw is that we do back our key players for too long."
Out-of-sorts full-forward Tom Hawkins would appear one of the chief beneficiaries of that approach right now.
The two-time premiership forward hasn't disgraced himself this season but, by his own admission, he hasn't reached the lofty heights of 2012 when he was an All Australian.
Hawkins said over the weekend he felt he hadn't played his best footy for the past 18 months and isn't having the influence he would like on games.
"I think he articulated his position as well as I could at the moment," Scott said.
"I try to be pretty clear in my messages with Tom - he's really aware of what makes him a good player."