NFL head coaches get their walking papers


NFL head coaches get their walking papers

From Comcast SportsNetTAMPA, Florida (AP) -- The Tampa Bay Buccaneers fired head coach Raheem Morris on Monday after he posted a 17-31 record over three years, including a 10-game losing streak to end the current season. The team announced the change one day after the Bucs lost their final game of the season to the Atlanta Falcons, 45-24. The 10-game winless streak was the longest in a single season since 1977, when the Bucs lost 12 in a row to extend the longest losing streak in National Football League history to 26 consecutive games over two years. At 32 years old, Morris was the league's youngest coach when he was hired in January 2009, replacing Jon Gruden after Tampa Bay lost the final four games of 2008 to miss the playoffs following a 9-3 start. Morris guided the team to a 10-6 mark in 2010, with the Bucs narrowly missing the playoffs. The team also had a strong start to the current season, posting a 4-2 record with wins over playoff-bound Atlanta and New Orleans, before collapsing. "In these things it is not just one thing, but I will point to just the progress of the team and where we're at," Bucs co-chairman Joel Glazer said at a news conference. "Again, you can't point to one thing or another. You look at totality of the situation when making your decision." While injuries did contribute to the season-ending slide, so did inconsistent play -- starting with quarterback Josh Freeman. He threw for 16 touchdowns and 22 interceptions after tossing 25 TD passes and being intercepted just six times in 2010. The Bucs turned the ball over a league-leading 40 times compared to 19 last season. The defense also surrendered a franchise-record and league-high 494 points and the Bucs lost eight games by double-digit margins and allowed 31 points or more seven times during the season-ending skid. Glazer said there's no timetable for naming a successor.

Rams fire coach Spagnuolo, GM Devaney
ST. LOUIS (AP) -- The St. Louis Rams fired coach Steve Spagnuolo and general manager Billy Devaney on Monday, a day after the team wrapped up a 2-14 season that matched the worst record in the National Football League. The Rams made a six-win improvement last season and played for the NFC West title in the finale, but were just 10-38 overall in three seasons with Spagnuolo and Devaney calling the shots. Devaney had joined the front office a year earlier in 2008; the Rams were 12-52 in his four years as GM. He said in a statement Monday that while the record was disappointing, "I wouldn't trade that time for anything." Owner Stan Kroenke fired both men with one year remaining on their contracts, and with fan interest dwindling. The Edward Jones Dome in St. Louis was little more than half full in the later part of the season. "No one individual is to blame for this disappointing season and we all must hold ourselves accountable," Kroenke said in a statement. "However, we believe it's in the best interest of the St. Louis Rams to make these changes as we continue our quest to build a team that consistently competes for playoffs and championships." Kevin Demoff, vice president and chief operating officer, said the search for both positions should be concluded in the next few weeks and that it didn't necessarily matter which position was filed first. Names of potential replacements for Spagnuolo began to surface weeks ago as the season unraveled, with former Tennessee Titans coach Jeff Fisher and former Tampa Bay Buccaneers coach Jon Gruden mentioned as natural fits. Demoff said a report that Fisher had already been scheduled for the first interview was "100 percent false." But he added that Fisher was a "potentially attractive candidate." The Rams will have the second pick of the NFL draft in April, the fourth time in five seasons the team has had the No. 1 or 2 selection.

Why Joe Maddon chose Albert Almora Jr. over Jason Heyward in huge Game 6 for Cubs

Why Joe Maddon chose Albert Almora Jr. over Jason Heyward in huge Game 6 for Cubs

With the chance to book their first trip to the World Series since 1945, the Cubs benched the player with the biggest contract in franchise history and started a 22-year-old rookie who began this season at Triple-A Iowa.

Now that says something about Clayton Kershaw’s overall brilliance and Albert Almora Jr.’s precocious nature, but it also again spotlights Jason Heyward’s offensive spiral during the first year of that $184 million megadeal.  

Heyward’s Gold Glove defense in right field, well-rounded skills and clubhouse intangibles certainly helped the Cubs get to this point – up 3-2 on the Los Angeles Dodgers in the National League Championship Series – but manager Joe Maddon wanted to go in a different direction for Saturday’s Game 6 at Wrigley Field.   

“Kershaw’s pretty good,” Maddon said. “You look at his numbers, he’s been absurd versus lefties, (so you) get another right-handed bat out there and the way Albert can play defense really makes it a little bit easier.

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“If we didn’t have the opportunity to do something differently tonight I wouldn’t have. But we do. Albert just presents well at the plate – and well on defense – to the point where I thought we needed to give it a go.”

Almora – the first player the Theo Epstein regime drafted here with the sixth overall pick in 2012 – could be the 2017 Opening Day starter in center field if Dexter Fowler cashes in elsewhere as a free agent.

After posting career lows in homers (seven) and OPS (.631) during the regular season, Heyward has gone 2-for-28 (.071 average) in the playoffs and will probably need to reboot during the winter.

“I’m sure there’s going to be a lot of internal work done in the offseason with him, no question,” Maddon said. “You know he’s not satisfied with the year. (But) he was a big part of our 100-plus wins this year.

“It is something that he has to work on – and he will work on it – but by no means is anybody giving up on him. He just needs to probably clear his mind a little bit when this is all said and done and get back to the drawing board.”

Huskers stay unbeaten with comeback win over Purdue


Huskers stay unbeaten with comeback win over Purdue

At halftime Saturday, Nebraska, the No. 8 team in the country, was trailing Purdue, which just fired its coach.

Uh, what?

Order was soon restored, but the Huskers needed to bounce back from a halftime deficit to grab a 27-14 win over the lowly Boilermakers on Saturday in Lincoln.

Purdue threw an interception on the game's opening drive, and Nebraska turned that into a touchdown, something that looked very much like how everyone expected this one to go. But quarterback David Blough retaliated with the first of two first-half touchdown passes, while the Huskers mustered only a field goal on the next drive and then went silent the rest of the opening 30 minutes, punting three times and Tommy Armstrong throwing an interception right before the break. In there, Blough threw his second touchdown, an 88-yard monster to DeAngelo Yancey that gave the Boilers a lead.

That lead didn't last too long, though, as after going three and out on their first drive of the third quarter, the Huskers scored on each of their next three possessions: an Armstrong pass to De'Mornay Pierson-El, a 24-yard run by Alonzo Moore and a 51-yard field goal by Drew Brown. Meanwhile, the Nebraska defense clamped down, and Purdue had just one drive that lasted more than five plays in the second half, with that drive ending in a turnover on downs and Blough adding an interception.

All in all, the Huskers out-gained the Boilers, 409-333, and had the ball for about seven more minutes, avoiding a repeat of last year's matchup, when Purdue scored its lone Big Ten win over Nebraska.

Armstrong threw for 252 yards, one touchdown and one interception and added 51 yards and a touchdown on the ground. Terrell Newby had 82 yards rushing.

Blough threw for 309 yards, but the Boilers managed just 24 rushing yards.

The win sent Nebraska to a perfect 7-0 ahead of next weekend's huge Big Ten West Division showdown with Wisconsin.

The loss dropped Purdue to 3-4. The Boilers take on Penn State next weekend.