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The Canadian Press

On Football: The search for a new coach in several cities

Three NFL coaching jobs already are open, and another three or four soon could be. While it happens every year, coaching searches are different depending on the team seeking a new guy to take charge.Some clubs seek a veteran pro coach, like Washington and Dallas did after last season with Mike McCarthy and Ron Rivera. Others look to rising assistants and co-ordinators — the Giants’ Joe Judge and the Browns’ Kevin Stefanski fit there.Or NFL teams turn to the college ranks, which Carolina did for Matt Rhule, who was coveted by several other franchises, too.The league hopes more minority coaches get a shot at the openings in Houston and Atlanta, where coincidentally, African Americans Romeo Crennel and Raheem Morris currently are the interim coaches. It even has expanded the Rooney Rule designed to provide more opportunities for minority candidates for coaching, general manager and other executive positions.Most important, of course, is finding the right fit.“The biggest thing is can you get everyone on board with how you want to do things, or do you have to fit into how they do things,” Hall of Fame coach Tony Dungy says. “The biggest issue in Dallas, for example, there is a culture there you might not be able to change a lot about it because it is already set. Think back to Oakland when Al Davis was alive. He mostly didn’t hire people from outside, and when he did, with Mike Shanahan it didn’t go well. When he hired Jon Gruden, it didn’t go well at first.“So those are talks you have to have as a head coach going in.”Talks already have begun for the Texans, Falcons and Lions. Soon, we can expect the Jets to be done with Adam Gase and the Jaguars to release Doug Marrone. Two AFC West openings are possible if the Chargers part with Anthony Lynn and the Broncos dismiss Vic Fangio.Then there can be the surprises, with a coach stepping aside unexpectedly. Might Andy Reid look to retire should the Chiefs, right now the NFL’s best team, repeat as Super Bowl champions? Does Bill Belichick not relish the rebuilding job ahead in New England now that the Patriots are also-rans with Tom Brady in Tampa?As we close in on the conclusion of a pandemic-impacted 2020 season, here’s a look at the three teams on the coaching carousel, and the two most likely to jump aboard in early January.HOUSTONOne of the most disappointing teams this season, the Texans fired Bill O’Brien, by far their most successful coach, after an 0-4 start. O’Brien was sent packing as much for his failures as a general manager — who didn’t think the trade of DeAndre Hopkins to Arizona would backfire for Houston? — as his coaching struggles.The Texans have superb Deshaun Watson at quarterback. He doesn’t have nearly enough help, though, and the merry-go-round of roster changes hasn’t helped. Despite having J.J. Watt healthy and playing pretty well, the defence is a mess.Houston’s best route could be a defence-minded head coach who hires an imaginative offensive co-ordinator.ATLANTAThere’s loads of talent on offence, though signing Todd Gurley has not worked out well. Matt Ryan remains a solid quarterback and Calvin Ridley has emerged as a top receiver. But the O-line has been spotty (to be kind).Another team with defensive issues, the Falcons need a major upgrade in the secondary and the pass rush. Morris has done a good job in getting things upright, though Atlanta is very fragile in close games.Like in Houston, a defence-oriented head coach such as San Francisco’s Robert Saleh makes sense. But so did Dan Quinn, and the Falcons fell apart after their Super Bowl collapse.DETROITYou have to feel for Matthew Stafford, a real trouper who has been undone by mismanagement as much as poor coaching. Whether he is still in Detroit in 2021 or elsewhere, the Lions would be wise to find someone with NFL head coaching experience.Of course, that’s what they had in Jim Caldwell, who went 36-30 in four seasons. Matt Patricia was 13-29-1 before being canned last month.JACKSONVILLEDon’t laugh, but this is an attractive job. Yes, the Jaguars have hit rock bottom under the direction of Tom Coughlin (fired last December), Dave Caldwell and Marrone. They likely will have the No. 1 overall draft choice — Hello, Trevor Lawrence — and have tons of salary-cap room. There’s a nice base of young players.The Jags could go in several directions for a coach, and seeing them turn to a top college guy like Rhule would not be a surprise. But such top pro offensive assistants as Kansas City’s Eric Bieniemy, Seattle’s Brian Schottenheimer and Buffalo’s Brian Daboll would make sense.NEW YORK JETSGase’s two-year stint began with a 7-9 season in which the Jets and QB Sam Darnold made late strides. Then 2020 became a debacle in which the team has looked rudderless, Darnold has stagnated or regressed — it’s difficult to tell given all his injuries — and the talent base has shrunk significantly. Even the Jags seem to have a stronger roster.The Jets would be wise to turn to a former NFL head coach with a pedigree; no, we didn’t say Jim Harbaugh, who likely is not abandoning Michigan. They need a QB guru, too, and someone who can handle the, uh, complications that come with working for this organization.And, thanks to actually winning a game, Lawrence almost certainly is not on the way.___More AP NFL: and Wilner, The Associated Press

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Toronto Blue Jays flex financial muscle to secure George Springer, the player they wanted all along – TSN



TORONTO — There was a time, not so long ago, that it would be hard to envision the Toronto Blue Jays as off-season heavyweights in the American League East.

Usually, the big splashes were reserved for the New York Yankees and Boston Red Sox, with the Jays just happy to pick through the leftovers, hoping to win 85 games and make a surprise run.

Not so much anymore.

For the second year in a row, general manager Ross Atkins and the Mark Shapiro-led front office have made a huge splash, one that will not only change the dynamic of the AL postseason race in 2021, but the way the franchise is viewed in the all-important lens that is the “power player” landscape.

They may not be the Evil Empire, but a strong player development system and a newfound ability to flex their financial muscle is both resonating with free agents and leaving the traditional AL East powerhouses with something to think about.

Thirteen months ago it was $80 million for Hyun-Jin Ryu.

Late Tuesday night, Atkins followed through on the front office’s promise to spend this winter by going the extra mile to secure the services of George Springer for the next six years, handing the 31-year-old centre fielder the biggest contract in franchise history at $25 million per year for a total of $150 million.

Anyone still doubting whether the Shapiro regime will spend Rogers’ money to win ballgames has all the proof they need, and there’s expected to be another payroll level coming next winter as the Jays are, philosophically, a year behind the Chicago White Sox and San Diego Padres’ all-in efforts this winter.

“A part of (last year’s) plan was this off-season and nothing has changed about that plan and our ability to make this team better, even with going through the pandemic,” Atkins said at the outset of the off-season. “We obviously realize that the best way to recovery and getting back to full steam is winning. We are united on that front.”

The contention window is fully open and the Jays are expected to pour significant resources into building a winner around the young, cheap core of Bo Bichette, Vladimir Guerrero Jr. and Cavan Biggio.

Springer fits perfectly into that puzzle.

As far back as a year ago, it was obvious centre field was not only a hole on the big-league roster, but within the organization, and they’d likely be on the hunt for an outside solution.

Springer, who the Astros took 11th overall in 2011, has a seven-season history of consistent production — trash cans or no trash cans — and can get on base at an above average clip, something the Jays front office has coveted.

The blueprint they used to lure Springer was the exact same as Ryu: Add an extra year at market value and force the player to say no to more money and term than he’d find anywhere else.

As usual, that didn’t happen.

With a career .270/.361/.491 slash line, 174 career homers and centre field defence that has graded out as above average in three of the past four seasons (per Defensive Runs Saved), Springer simply helps round out what could be one of the most potent lineups in the American League.

In 2020, the Jays already finished eighth in baseball in runs scored, crossing the plate 4.9 times per game.

Insert Springer’s power and his 11.1 per cent career walk rate into the middle of that lineup — or at the very top because he’s spent the majority of his Astros career leading off — and it suddenly becomes even more of a problem and a top five offence in baseball is not out of the question.

An outfield of Teoscar Hernandez, Springer and Lourdes Gurriel Jr. would give the Jays the Nos. 12, 13 and 15 outfielders in baseball if ordered by wRC+ at 146, 146 and 138, respectively.

If you’re not familiar with that stat, just know that 100 is a league average offensive output, so the Jays would have some serious outfield pop and production on their hands.

The odd man out would clearly seem to be Randal Grichuk, but there are ways to find him at-bats as a fourth outfielder if that’s what it comes to.

The more likely scenario now is that one of Gurriel or Hernandez is used as trade bait to upgrade a rotation that’s currently Ryu, maybe Nate Pearson for a innings-capped half-season, and then a grab bag of Robbie Ray, Ross Stripling, Tanner Roark and unprovens.

The lineup is postseason calibre, but the rotation decidedly is not.

Overall, however, the talent accumulated by the Jays through various means over the last few years now looks like a carefully manicured plan that has left them in an enviable position.

“We feel that we’re on a good path towards having one of the stronger rosters in baseball,” Atkins said. “We’re not there yet, but we’ve made some steps towards that.”

And with pitchers and catchers scheduled to report next month around Feb. 18, the Jays aren’t done, either.

Impact in the rotation, more bullpen depth, and a versatile infielder who can handle second base, third base or both are all still on the shopping list.

But no matter who they end up with from here, patience has paid off for the Blue Jays and for the second straight winter they were able to close on a marquee free agent target.

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McIlroy hoping for ‘close to normal’ Ryder Cup



Ryder Cup

(Reuters) – Rory McIlroy said he is hopeful that a near-capacity crowd will be able to attend the Ryder Cup at Whistling Straits in Wisconsin in September.

McIlroy said organizers had made the right call by deciding not to stage the event without fans last year during the COVID-19 pandemic.

“I’m excited for the Ryder Cup,” McIlroy told the European Tour’s website.

“Hopefully, with how the vaccine is being rolled out, we are starting to see some light at the end the tunnel with this pandemic.

“It may not be the full, full capacity that a Ryder Cup usually is, but hopefully it will be very close to what a normal Ryder Cup is and I am excited for that.”

McIlroy, who is playing at the Abu Dhabi Championship this week, said he was in a good frame of mind.

“I’m raring to go after the Christmas break, I’ve done some good practice and you come into the new season with renewed optimism and a lot of goals,” McIlroy said. “I guess that has translated into some good golf here.

“I keep getting myself into contention and someone goes out and has a really good Sunday but I need to take the initiative and have one of those really good Sundays myself to get over the line.”

The Ryder Cup will be held from Sept. 24-26.


(Reporting by Hardik Vyas in Bengaluru; Editing by Peter Rutherford)

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Canadiens’ penalty killers simply perfect in Edmonton



“We had some good sticks tonight,” said Weber. “(The Oilers) were trying to hit seams and we were able to get sticks in lanes. (Goaltender Jake Allen) was able to make the first save and we were able to clear the puck after that.”

Julien rotated seven forwards on the PK to ensure there were fresh legs on the ice.

“Having more bodies allows us to be more aggressive,” said Weber. “Obviously, our forwards are trying to use their speed against the other team and that allows us to be more aggressive.”

Artturi Lehkonen completed the Montreal scoring with a short-handed goal. Not only did the Oilers go 0-for-10 on the power play in the two games in Edmonton, but they also gave up short-handed goals to Lehkonen and Jake Evans.

As good as the PK was, the fact that it had to work so hard indicates that the Canadiens have to do a better job of staying out of the box. It should also be noted that Weber and Romanov received cross-checking penalties. It might be a coincidence, but the penalties came in the wake of complaints that the Canadiens manhandled Auston Matthews last week in Toronto.

The Canadiens are bigger this year and they are playing bigger. They also outhit the Oilers 31-17 Monday.

“We were playing hard, we have many hits,” said Romanov. “We’re playing like a team, we’re playing like a family.”

It should be noted Allen deserved a shutout. He didn’t get one because Jonathan Drouin misplayed the puck at his own blue line and that led to a breakaway goal by Shore.

The nasty look Weber directed at Drouin told you everything you need to know about the play.

Source: – Montreal Gazette

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