The Jaguars' next coach will be...

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The Jaguars' next coach will be...

From Comcast SportsNetJACKSONVILLE, Fla. (AP) -- The Jacksonville Jaguars hired Seattle defensive coordinator Gus Bradley as head coach Thursday, the latest move in the team's rebuilding project.He joins general manager David Caldwell, who led the coaching search after being hired last week.Bradley spent the last four seasons in Seattle, where his defense improved each of the last three years and finished in the top 10 in points and yards the last two. This season, the Seahawks ranked first in the NFL in points allowed (15.3), fourth in yards (306.2) and tied for fourth in takeaways (31).The Jaguars were 30th in the league in total defense in 2012.Bradley began his NFL coaching career with Tampa Bay as a defensive quality control coach in 2006. He was the Buccaneers' linebackers coach the next two seasons before going to Seattle. Bradley coached in college from 1990-2005, including two stints at his alma mater, North Dakota State, and four years at Fort Lewis College (1992-95).But his rise through the NFL ranks had him on several teams' radar. He also interviewed for the head job in Philadelphia this week."He's got a brilliant football mind," Seahawks coach Peter Carroll said this week. "He's got a way of reaching people and touching people and getting the best out of them, coaches and players alike. He's got everything that you're looking for."The Jaguars interviewed defensive coordinator Mel Tucker, St. Louis Rams offensive coordinator Brian Schottenheimer and Cincinnati Bengals offensive coordinator Jay Gruden before striking a deal with Bradley.Bradley replaces Mike Mularkey, who went 2-14 in his only season in Jacksonville. Mularkey replaced fired coach Jack Del Rio last January and failed to make the team any better in his first season.Owner Shad Khan fired general manager Gene Smith, the architect of the roster the last four years, and charged Caldwell with turning around one of the league's worst franchises. Caldwell's first move was ousting Mularkey, saying the team "needed a fresh start.""I'm looking for a co-builder of our team," Caldwell said last week. "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."Many believed Caldwell would target close friend and college roommate Greg Roman, San Francisco's offensive coordinator.Instead, Caldwell and Bradley will team up in hope of getting the Jaguars back to the playoffs for the first time since 2007. Jacksonville has missed the postseason 11 times in the last 13 years."The relationship between the general manager and the coach is vital," Khan said last week. "It has to be a symbiotic relationship and they have to grow together and the coach has to be somebody that it's very, very important to win and very, very important for Jacksonville."Bradley inherits a team with few playmakers on either side of the ball.The Jaguars have running back Maurice Jones-Drew under contract for another year and have young and talented receivers Justin Blackmon and Cecil Shorts III. But the offensive line was a mess in 2012, adding to the team's quarterback woes.Jacksonville traded up to draft Blaine Gabbert with the 10th overall pick in 2010, but the former Missouri standout has made little progress in 24 starts. Gabbert completed 58 percent of his passes for 1,662 yards this season, with nine touchdowns and six interceptions. He also was sacked 22 times in 10 games.Gabbert was benched in favor of Chad Henne in mid-November. Henne started the final six games, finishing with 2,084 yards passing, 11 touchdowns and 11 interceptions. He was sacked 28 times.Neither quarterback had the benefit of having Jones-Drew for the entire season. Nonetheless, it was clear that neither was the answer.Caldwell said he had "others in mind" to compete for the starting job.Defensively, the Jaguars could lose linebacker Daryl Smith, defensive tackle Terrance Knighton and cornerbacks Derek Cox and Rashean Mathis to free agency. The more pressing issue will be how to generate more consistent pass rush.The Jaguars had a league-low 20 sacks this season. Philadelphia Eagles cast-off Jason Babin helped down the stretch, but the Jaguars are likely to use the No. 2 pick in April's NFL draft to find a pass rusher.Bradley helped develop rookie defensive end Bruce Irvin this season. Irvin, the 15th overall pick, led all rookies with eight sacks. His defense had other young stars, too.Linebacker Bobby Wagner, a second-round draft pick, ranked second among rookies in tackles with 140 and fourth with three interceptions. Safety Earl Thomas was voted to his second consecutive Pro Bowl. Second-year cornerback Richard Sherman led the team with eight interceptions, and defensive end Chris Clemons has a career-high 11 sacks.

Leicester City winning the Premier League is the biggest sports story of the year

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Leicester City winning the Premier League is the biggest sports story of the year

Leicester City just became the biggest sports story of the year.

If you're a soccer fan, you knew that already. If not, let me explain why the club from the Midlands in England shocked everyone, even the sportsbooks across the Atlantic, by winning the English Premier League title this season.

Those sportsbooks are a good place to start. Leicester City was a 5,000-to-1 favorite to win the Premier League this season. You won't find a professional sports team in this country that has odds that long to win a title.

The longest odds to win the World Series this year were the Philadelphia Phillies and Atlanta Braves at 500-to-1. The NBA's Philadelphia 76ers were 350-to-1, and that team won 10 games. Hockey's longshot was the Arizona Coyotes at 250-to-1. You can't get an NFL team at longer than 200-to-1 to win the Super Bowl right now. That makes Leicester 10 times less likely than any underdog champion this country can provide.

The upset title was such a shock to the sportsbooks in England that they were offering to cash out bettors at a discount price before Leicester clinched the title. In the end, England's biggest sports books combined to lose more than $11 million.

As ESPN's Paul Carr pointed out, 15-seed Cal State Bakersfield was 5,000-to-1 to win the NCAA Tournament this year. A 15-seed has never made it past the Sweet 16 and with all respect to how bonkers it would be if a 15-seed was to win the NCAA Tournament, that's just six games. Leicester City did this over 38 games.

By the time the Foxes play out the last two games, they clinched the title early for an extra ounce of insanity, they will have played each team twice, once home and once away. This isn't a miraculous play like a Hail Mary or a massive one-off upset like the Miracle on Ice. This is a full season where a team that was expected to finish towards the bottom of the league won the championship and led the league for most of the season.

There have probably been more incredible moments and more incredible games in sports, but maybe never a more incredible season than what Leicester accomplished this year.

The reason the odds were so long is because there is no salary cap and there is no draft. Each team is truly on its own when it comes to creating a good team and the playing field is not even.

Imagine the New York Yankees and the Tampa Bay Rays fighting as division rivals in a world where instead of having a draft where the worst teams picked first, all amateur players entering the pros were free agents. Most of the players who would have been first round picks would wind up with the Yankees, Red Sox, Dodgers, etc. The poor Rays would have a lower payroll and no built in mechanic to keep them competitive. That's what Leicester has to go up against when competing with the likes of Manchester United, Chelsea, Arsenal and Manchester City.

Then there's the promotion and relegation system most of the world uses in soccer. Leicester City wasn't even in the Premier League from 2004-2014. Last season the team returned to the Premier League and barely survived relegation. They even had a stint in the third tier in the 2008-2009 season.

In the Premier League era, which started in 1992, no team has ever been lower than third the year before going on to win the title. Leicester was 14th last season.

The mesmerizing stats are countless, but to close it out it's worth noting that Leicester is a 132-year-old club. It had never won the top league in England. Even Cubs fans think that's a long time.

Joe Maddon vents frustrations with tensions already rising in Cubs vs. Pirates

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Joe Maddon vents frustrations with tensions already rising in Cubs vs. Pirates

PITTSBURGH — “Still smells like champagne,” said one wise guy walking through the visiting clubhouse at PNC Park late Monday night.

The Cubs had just beaten the Pittsburgh Pirates, with some of the same raw emotions from last year’s wild-card win resurfacing during a 7-2 win in early May. There’s that much at stake in the National League Central that maybe we shouldn’t spend so much time fixating on the St. Louis Cardinals.

The eye-for-an-eye moment came in the seventh inning, with Pittsburgh reliever Kyle Lobstein drilling Ben Zobrist with his first pitch. Home plate umpire Laz Diaz had already watched Cubs starter Jason Hammel hit Starling Marte with a pitch in the sixth inning and issued a warning to both benches.

Manager Joe Maddon yelled at Lobstein and Pirates catcher Francisco Cervelli screamed at the visiting dugout, and it felt like October all over again.

“I was able to vent a little bit,” Maddon said. “It’s always fun to vent, isn’t it? I mean, we’ve all been there. You have to vent on occasion. That’s the worst thing you could possibly do for your health long-term — to hold that stuff in. I want to get it out.”

Maddon spent part of his pregame media session talking up Cervelli, calling him a “good dude” who worked out at his wife’s boxing gym in Tampa, Fla., during the offseason: “He came to my Gasparilla party, dressed as a pirate of all things.”

“It’s just a matter of judging intentions,” said Zobrist, who’s new to this emerging rivalry after earning a World Series ring with the Kansas City Royals last year. “As a team, you’re trying to think: ‘Well, was that intentional? Was it not?’ But I think in that situation it was pretty clear.

“Our whole team’s going to stick up for each other. Obviously, Joe took exception to it. I think a lot of other guys did, too. I’ve been around long enough — I’ve been hit before. I took my base and scored a run. That’s the way I look at it.”

Maddon had even more fun with the Pirates and the replay system in the seventh inning after Pittsburgh manager Clint Hurdle erased a double play with a successful challenge at first base. Maddon responded by using Major League Baseball’s new takeout rule to challenge Jordy Mercer’s slide into second base.

“I had no clue what I was doing,” Maddon said. “I just knew I could challenge. At that particular juncture, why not? Give it a roll. Bottom of the seventh inning, who knows what they’re going to think?”

Maddon kept rolling and filibustering during his postgame news conference, saying how much he loved the Pirates’ uniforms as a kid growing up in Pennsylvania and comparing this rivalry to his high-school quarterback days and Hazleton vs. West Hazleton.

“People in Pittsburgh can enjoy that,” Maddon said. “They can identify with ‘Friday Night Lights,’ ‘All the Right Moves,’ all of the above. I’m being this way specifically so I don’t comment on the hit by batter.”

Cubs top Pirates to stay baseball's best, but Theo Epstein won't stop making moves

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Cubs top Pirates to stay baseball's best, but Theo Epstein won't stop making moves

PITTSBURGH — Relentless is the word the Cubs keep using to describe a lineup that knocked out Gerrit Cole on Monday night with the bases loaded and two outs in the fifth inning and the Pittsburgh Pirates already trailing by two runs at PNC Park.

Relentless could also be a label for Theo Epstein’s front office, even after spending almost $290 million on free agents and even with an 18-6 record that’s the best in baseball following a 7-2 win over the Pirates.

The Cubs want nothing to do with the randomness of another elimination game and can’t take anything for granted with 85 percent of the schedule still remaining. They’ve already lost playoff hero Kyle Schwarber for the season, and the outfield picture is clouded with Jason Heyward dealing with a sore right wrist since early April and Matt Szczur scheduled to get an MRI on his right hamstring on Tuesday morning.

Not that Epstein needed a reminder, but the president of baseball operations flashed back to last year’s National League wild-card game when he flew into Pittsburgh, checked into the team’s downtown hotel across the Roberto Clemente Bridge and went running along the Allegheny River.

From his hotel room, Epstein could sort of see where Schwarber’s two-run homer off Cole flew out of PNC Park last October, giving this franchise a runaway sense of momentum.

“We’ve played really well,” Epstein said, “but I don’t think we’ve completely locked in yet or clicked in all facets of the game. Our pitching staff’s really been carrying us. It’s been the most consistent part of our team yet. As it warms up here, I think the bats will get going and they’ll probably carry us for a while.

“But as far as needs that we might have, or ways that we can get better, we’re always assessing that. I think there’s lots of different ways we could potentially improve the club before the end of the season.”

The Cubs will watch Tim Lincecum’s upcoming showcase in Arizona because they always check in on potential impact players at that level. Lincecum — a two-time Cy Young Award winner who helped the San Francisco Giants win three World Series titles — is making a comeback after hip surgery.

While the Cubs should have big-picture concerns about their rotation and a farm system that hasn’t developed the arms yet, Jason Hammel (4-0, 1.24 ERA) is making his own comeback.

Even if manager Joe Maddon doesn’t seem to completely trust Hammel, who gave up two runs across five innings and got pulled after throwing 89 pitches and accidentally hitting Starling Marte to lead off the sixth. Four different relievers combined to shut down the Pirates (15-11) the rest of the night.

Epstein — who is in the fifth and final year of his contract and used “status quo” to describe his extension talks with chairman Tom Ricketts — will have the position-player prospects to bundle if the Cubs do need a frontline pitcher this summer. A franchise-record payroll in the neighborhood of $150 million was also projected to have some room for in-season additions.

After beating up on the division’s have-nots and going 8-1 against the Cincinnati Reds and Milwaukee Brewers, the Cubs should have a better idea of where they stand after Maddon’s “Minimalist Zany” road trip to Pittsburgh and a four-game showdown against the Washington Nationals at Wrigley Field.

“There’s always the threat of somehow playing to the level of your competition in a negative way,” Maddon said. “I’m not denigrating any team that we’ve played to this point. That is not my point. But if you play teams with less-than (.500) records and maybe they’re not playing as well, you don’t turn that dimmer switch up to the full velocity. But when you’re playing really good teams, I think that naturally brings out the best in you.”