From Comcast SportsNetJACKSONVILLE, Fla. (AP) -- The more Jacksonville Jaguars owner Shad Khan watched his team play, the more he realized one thing:"We needed a rebuild from the ground up," Khan said.So the Jaguars fired coach Mike Mularkey on Thursday after just one season, the worst in franchise history. The move came 10 days after Khan fired general manager Gene Smith.Khan also introduced new GM David Caldwell on Thursday, and by parting ways with Mularkey, gave him a clean slate heading into 2013."I've always been a part of a winner," said Caldwell, who signed a five-year deal. "I've never been a part of a losing team."But maybe the biggest news of the day came when Caldwell said New York Jets quarterback Tim Tebow, a Jacksonville native who starred at nearly Florida, is not in the team's plans."I can't imagine a scenario in which he'll be a Jacksonville Jaguar -- even if he's released," Caldwell said.Caldwell took slightly more time to decide on Mularkey.Mularkey, who went 2-14 this season, became the eighth head coach fired since the end of the regular season. He looked like he would be one and done when Khan parted ways with Smith last week and gave Mularkey's assistants permission to seek other jobs. Even though Khan ultimately hired Mularkey, Smith directed the coaching search last January that started and ended with the former Atlanta Falcons offensive coordinator."I felt like we needed a fresh start here," Caldwell said. "Coming in here as a first-time general manager, I'm looking for a co-builder of our team. When I talked to Shad in terms of a culture change along the football side, I felt like it was more of that. I felt like it was an atmosphere of change. I felt like that to do that, you've got to have a fresh start across the board."Mularkey's brief tenure -- he didn't even last a year -- was filled with mistakes. His biggest one may have been his loyalty to Smith, who assembled a roster that lacked talent on both sides of the ball.Mularkey probably stuck with Smith's franchise quarterback, Blaine Gabbert, longer than he should have. And the coach's insistence that the team was closer than outsiders thought and his strong stance that he had the roster to turn things around became comical as the losses mounted. The Jaguars lost eight games by at least 16 points, a staggering number of lopsided losses in a parity-filled league.Mularkey would have been better served had he said publicly what he voiced privately: that the Jaguars didn't have enough playmakers or a starting-caliber quarterback.Instead, he never conceded that Jacksonville was a rebuilding project that needed time.Now it is -- and Khan made that clear Thursday."A year ago, when I came here, the organizational judgment was we were a pretty good team, just a few players and a draft away from really competing for a playoff spot," Khan said. "As the year progressed, it was pretty obvious that was not the case, and we would need a fresh start and a rebuild from the ground up."Mularkey signed a three-year contract on Jan. 11, 2012, getting a second chance to be a head coach six years after resigning with the Buffalo Bills.His return was shaky from the start.His best player, running back Maurice Jones-Drew, skipped offseason workouts as well as training camp and the preseason in a contract dispute. His first draft pick, receiver Justin Blackmon, was arrested and charged with aggravated DUI in June. And his team was riddled with injuries, including key ones to linebacker Daryl Smith and Jones-Drew.Even things Mularkey had control over went awry.He had to backtrack after saying Chad Henne would compete with Gabbert for the starting job in March. He created a stir by threatening to fine players up to 10,000 for discussing injuries. He initially played rookie receiver Kevin Elliott over Cecil Shorts III early on. And he really irked some players with tough, padded practices late in a lost season.Throw in the way he handled injuries to receiver Laurent Robinson (four concussions before going on IR) and Jones-Drew (admittedly should have had foot surgery sooner), and there were reasons to doubt whether Mularkey was cut out to be a head coach. Dating back to his final season in Buffalo, Mularkey has lost 20 of his last 23 games.Caldwell and Mularkey spent four years together in Atlanta, getting to know each other well enough that Caldwell didn't need a sit down with Mularkey after he got the GM job Tuesday."It was tough," Caldwell said. "I have a ton of respect for Mike. ... It's never easy and that's probably the worst part of the business."Potential replacements for Mularkey include former Chicago Bears coach Lovie Smith, Indianapolis Colts offensive coordinator Bruce Arians, St. Louis Rams offensive coordinator Brian Schottenheimer and San Francisco 49ers offensive coordinator Greg Roman.Schottenheimer was up for the Jacksonville job last season, and Roman has been linked to the Jaguars since Caldwell became the leading candidate to replace Smith.Roman and Caldwell were teammates and roommates in the 1990's while attending John Carroll University."I think Greg is a heck of a coach," Caldwell said.
Here are some of the top Chicago sports stories from a busy Sunday:
MESA, Ariz. – The Cubs turned Theo Epstein’s “Baseball is Better” speech from his first Wrigley Field press conference into a marketing pitch that might distract fans for a moment from an awful big-league product.
The 2017 “That’s Cub” ad campaign actually uses what started organically years ago within the farm system, two words that recognized a great at-bat or a heads-up play or a defensive stop.
Business vs. baseball is no longer the dominant storyline it had been during the early phases of the Wrigleyvile rebuild. Business and baseball are booming for what’s become Major League Baseball’s version of the Golden State Warriors.
It’s just interesting that a franchise valued at north of $2 billion has found so much inspiration on the back fields of this spring-training complex, where staffers you wouldn’t recognize get to work before dawn and players you’ve never heard of dream about their big break.
It’s not just drafting Kris Bryant and Kyle Schwarber. And trading for Anthony Rizzo, Jake Arrieta, Kyle Hendricks and Addison Russell. And hiring a manager obsessed with T-shirts. Baseball operations became a marketing department, selling prospects to Cub fans, the Chicago media and the gurus putting together the rankings – and trying to get buy-in from players who all think they belong in The Show.
Minor-league field coordinator Tim Cossins gets credit for “When It Happens,” a theme that didn’t simply revolve around 1908 and the championship drought. Jason McLeod, the senior vice president who oversees scouting and player development, suggested pairing the W flag with that phrase, and it became this ubiquitous idea around the team.
“We tied everything into it,” McLeod said Sunday at Sloan Park. “When that time comes, when it happens, can you lay the bunt down? When it happens, can you execute a pitch? Can you go in and pinch-run, steal the base when the time comes?
“The big ‘When It Happens’ is when we win, of course, but for us in (player development), it was about everything that we’re going to be asked to do in that moment: Are you going to be ready when it happens?”
Now what? The defending World Series champs are going with: “Where It Happens.”
A bullet point from Epstein’s bio in this year’s media guide references how his first three first-round draft picks with the Cubs “combined to set up the go-ahead run in the top of the 10th inning of Game 7 of the 2016 World Series when Schwarber singled and (Albert) Almora pinch-ran, moved to second on Bryant’s deep fly to center, and scored on Ben Zobrist’s double.”
“We’re never going to forget about the importance of young players,” Epstein said. “There’s definitely a lot of talented, interesting prospects still in the system and sometimes they get a little overshadowed because of the star young players we have at the big-league level and how quickly some of those guys moved through the system. But there’s a lot of talent there.
“We’re going to lean on young players beyond our prospects, not just in trades, but also to provide organizational depth and also to serve as the next generation, the next infusion of talent at the appropriate time.
“But it’s a process. There’s going to be a lot of ups and downs in development for all these guys. And we have a ton of faith in our player development operation to help these guys along the way.”
So Ian Happ will start the season one phone call away at Triple-A Iowa and see if some combination of injuries and his switch-hitting skills and defensive versatility gets him to the North Side at some point. Or used as a trade chip for pitching, the way third baseman Jeimer Candelario and catcher Victor Caratini appear to be blocked.
Joe Maddon already compared Eloy Jimenez – who can’t legally buy a beer in Wrigleyville yet – to a young Miguel Cabrera or Edgar Martinez. The Cubs are practically begging for someone like Eddie Butler to pitch his way into the 2018 rotation.
By Monday morning, when the full squad reconvenes after a weekend trip to Las Vegas, the Cubs could start making cuts and shaping their Opening Night roster. But the Cubs are going to need so much more than the 25 players who will be introduced next Sunday at Busch Stadium. Maddon used 26 pitchers and 149 different lineups last season. This is “Where It Happens.”
“If this particular group of youngsters were in a different organization that had a greater need right now, you’d probably hear a lot more about these guys,” Maddon said. “But the fact that they’re stuck behind a Bryant and a Russell and a Javy (Baez) and a Rizzo and a (Willson) Contreras and a Schwarber, et cetera, et cetera, it becomes more difficult to really push or project upon these guys.
“But I think these young guys have gone about their business really well. If it’s bothering them or if they’re concerned about that, they’re not showing that. I think they’ve put their best foot forward.”