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Recapping NFL’s Coaching Vacancies and the Leading Replacement Candidates



For the first time in years, no NFL head coaches were fired on Black Monday, the day after the regular season concludes.

It’s not that impatient owners hung up their axes for the holidays. Rather, it’s because they’d already done their chopping by Monday morning.

Three clubs fired their head coaches well before the new year: the Los Angeles Rams with Jeff Fisher (Dec. 12), Jacksonville Jaguars with Gus Bradley (Dec. 18) and Buffalo Bills with Rex Ryan (last Tuesday).

Two other clubs on Sunday night, just hours after their miserable seasons concluded, made it five fired head coaches so far: the San Diego Chargers with Mike McCoy, and San Francisco 49ers with Chip Kelly (and GM Trent Baalke to boot).

One team on Monday did confirm weekend reports that its head coach is retiring: Denver Broncos with Gary Kubiak.

Other coaches on the hot seat — such as Chicago Bears’ John Fox and Indianapolis Colts’ Chuck Pagano — apparently are safe. For now.

So far, there are six head-coaching vacancies, roughly the annual average after Black Monday. Here’s a closer look at each vacancy, ranked in order of desirability:


At his teary news conference Monday, Kubiak confirmed he has stepped down after two years on the job in Denver (and one Super Bowl victory). Kubiak said he laments he no longer possesses the all-consuming energy to tackle an NFL coaching job, the only way he is “wired” to work one.

“Coaching is a very demanding business — a tough business,” Kubiak said. “And I’ve always taken a lot of pride in the fact that I can do all those things” necessary to be successful.

But this past season he could not, Kubiak said. His assistants had to pick up the slack.

“I struggled big-time this year, and these coaches have picked me up — amazing — to get me through,” Kubiak said.

It’s not that he’s ill, or anything like that, Kubiak added. Even though he missed a week with a “complex migraine condition.”

Kubiak’s boss, former Broncos teammate and long-time friend John Elway, said he has 3-4 replacement candidates in mind, none on the current staff.

Denver finished 9-7, just out of the playoffs. The Broncos have the best secondary in the league and excellent players all over the roster.


As the club waits for its snazzy new stadium, due for completion in 2019, moving on from the perennially disappointing Fisher was a must.

Now the club, which finished 4-12 and on a seven-game losing streak, needs to find a head coach who can develop 2016’s No. 1 overall draft pick, quarterback Jared Goff, and get more elite play out of a stacked defence, whose front is the envy of most of the NFL.

This team might not be far away from contending — if Goff can develop and if GM Les Snead can find better offensive linemen.


McCoy went 27-37 in four seasons. The Chargers were ravaged by injuries the past two seasons, with 26 players on injured reserve on a team that finished 5-11 in 2016.

“I take some responsibility in this too,” GM Tom Telesco said Monday. “When you let a coach go, it’s a reflection of the general manager as well. But the good thing is I think we have a good core group of players here.”

Starting with veteran quarterback Philip Rivers, despite his league-leading 21 interceptions.


The Jaguars possess one of the most talented young defences in the league, even if you wouldn’t know it by most scores in a disastrous 3-13 season. Owner Shad Khan was too patient with Bradley, who went 14-48 (.250).

The Jags need a new head coach who can try to turn QB Blake Bortles into something other than a frequent turnover machine. Some think interim HC Doug Marrone might get the job. Or Tom Coughlin, the club’s first head coach in the 1990s and two-time Super Bowl winner with the New York Giants.


The franchise is a mess, and just about everyone knows it but those inside the walls at One Bills Drive.

New owners Terry and Kim Pegula mean well but they’ve only continued and propagated the sad 21st-century legacy of losing established by stubborn, aging owner Ralph Wilson before his death in 2014.

But rather than clean house, the Pegulas have empowered GM Doug Whaley to lead the search for a new coach, the fourth since Whaley arrived in 2010 to help upgrade the roster.

Tyrod Taylor probably isn’t the answer at quarterback, although Whaley said Monday the new coaching staff will have input on whether the club decides to sink tens of millions more into the runs-better-than-he-throws quarterback.

Lots to scare off a good prospect. Interim head coach Anthony Lynn is only a candidate, not THE candidate, Whaley said.


This quickly has become the tire fire of all NFL franchises.

For the third consecutive January, 49ers CEO Jed York is leading the search for a new head coach after firing Jim Harbaugh, Jim Tomsula and now Kelly 12 months apart.

What candidate with another option would take this job and work for York? At his Monday news conference, he seemed clueless that he’s the entire problem with the franchise since running Harbaugh out of town in 2014, following three years of NFC championship-game appearances.

Why does he keep firing coaches, and finally GM Baalke, but not himself?

“I own this football team, and you don’t dismiss owners,” York said Monday.

“This is a re-establishment of culture … We’re going to have the opportunity with a lot of draft picks, with a lot of salary-cap room (and) some pieces that we can build around … It’s got to be a partnership, a collaboration, between me, the head coach and the general manager so that we can get this thing right.”

Why is he taking part in making football decisions?

“I don’t make football decisions,” York said.


“I owe (fans) so much more than we have given them. And we will give it to them.

“I’m embarrassed where we are now, and I’m going to do everything that we can to get us back.”


Here are the top NFL head-coach candidates, according to reports from NFL Network, ESPN and local media in the six cities whose teams have vacancies:

ANTHONY LYNN (Interim Buffalo head coach and offensive coordinator)

Was a career running-backs coach until mid-September, when the Bills fired OC Greg Roman. Well-liked and respected by players. Seen as future coaching star.

Interviews done or lined up: Buffalo, Denver, San Francisco.

HAROLD GOODWIN (Arizona offensive coordinator)

His boss, Cardinals head coach Bruce Arians, on Monday confirmed that three teams have asked to interview Goodwin.

Interviews done or lined up: Buffalo, LA and Jacksonville.

JOSH McDANIELS (New England offensive coordinator)

Failed in his first head-coach gig in Denver (2009-2010). Working magic again with Tom Brady. What he did with Jimmy Garoppolo and Jacoby Brissett during Brady’s suspension: impressive.

Interviews done or lined up: San Francisco, LA, possibly Jacksonville to start.

MATT PATRICIA (New England defensive coordinator)

Has held this role since 2012, after serving as a Pats position-group assistant since 2004. He’s the heavy, heavily bearded guy you see on TV during games. Sure gets the job done, though.

Interviews done or lined up: probably Los Angeles to start.

MIKE SMITH (Tampa Bay defensive coordinator)

The former long-time Atlanta head coach (2008-14) has impressed the league with how he has turned around the Buccaneers’ defence this season.

Interviews done or lined up: probably Jacksonville.

KYLE SHANAHAN (Atlanta offensive coordinator)

After OC stints in Washington and Cleveland, and a tough 2015 season in Atlanta, turned all his impressive Falcon parts into one of the most prolific offences the NFL has seen this decade.

Interviews done or lined up: Jacksonville, LA, Denver.

VANCE JOSEPH (Miami defensive coordinator)

Buzz is building for the Dolphins’ defensive coordinator. Kinda strange. Miami’s run defence ranks among league’s worst in 2016.

Interviews done or lined up: possibly Denver.

SEAN McDERMOTT (Carolina defensive coordinator)

Helped head coach Ron Rivera draw up one of the league’s best defences in 2014 and 2015, before a green secondary undermined this year’s unit.

Interviews done or lined up: Buffalo.

SEAN McVAY (Washington offensive coordinator)

Has helped Redskins head coach Jay Gruden get more out of Kirk Cousins than most thought possible.

Interviews done or lined up: probably LA.

TOM COUGHLIN (Former Jacksonville and NY Giants head coach)

Two Super Bowl rings sure must look good in a job interview. But at age 70 would he still have the fire and patience to turn a team’s fortunes around? Maybe an executive role would be better.

Interviews done or lined up: Jacksonville.

DOUG MARRONE (Interim Jacksonville head coach, offensive line coach)

Professor Punt went 15-17 as head coach in Buffalo from 2013-14 and 1-1 as Gus Bradley’s interim replacement the past two weeks. Some think he’d be a top candidate if Sean Payton leaves Saints.

Interviews done or lined up: Jacksonville.

SEAN PAYTON (New Orleans head coach)

Buzz won’t go away that his current employer, the New Orleans Saints, would consider trading him for the right price. If true, NFL Network says LA would be likeliest destination. But Payton on Monday denied talking Sunday night to Saints GM Mickey Loomis about it.

Interviews done or lined up: None reported.

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Up and Coming Sports Stars to Look Out for in 2020



Every year, a raft of exciting new players come onto the scene across all of the major US sports. With the MLS season getting underway and the NFL and MLB drafts not too far away, now is a great time to look at the young sports stars that could have a very bright future ahead of them, and the ones that are already proving they are destined for greatness.

Theo Bair (MLS)

This MLS season is looking like it could be one of the best yet, with David Beckham’s Inter Miami team adding some extra dazzle to the league. Whilst Beckham might be able to attract a lot of new players to his MLS team, there are a lot of young stars on their way through such as Theo Bair at Vancouver Whitecaps. Bair has already made an impact on the first team and after impressing at under-20 and under-23 level for the national team, he has made two appearances for the senior team, well before his 21st birthday. This year could see Bair make a real name for himself in the MLS.

Source: Pixabay

Vladimir Guerrero Jr. (MLB)

Montreal-born Vladimir Guerrero Jr has one MLB season under his belt but it looks like the best is still yet to come from him at the Blue Jays. He was heavily backed to take the league by storm but he failed to live up to the hype that surrounded him. Without the pressure of being the top-ranked prospect, this season could see Guerrero play with some weight lifted off his shoulders. He has been working very hard on his fitness over the offseason, something that his manager Montoyo has been quick to comment upon.

Baseball by andrewmalone, on Flickr

Baseball” (CC BY 2.0) by andrewmalone

Connor McDavid (NHL)

McDavid has already established him as a top hockey player but at 23, he has the potential to go on to do so much more. The player was born in Ontario and was the first overall draft pick, showing how much expectation was already on him at that stage but he has gone on to prove that he is one of the best players in the NHL. McDavid could go on to be one the NHL’s best-ever hockey players and this season could be the year that he shows the world, not just the NHL.

Chuba Hubbard (College Football)

The Oklahoma State Cowboys running back has been making the headlines for several years now. He continues to improve and grab more attention for his impressive stats and performances. He was close to being a sprinter and nearly made the Canadian Olympic team before switching over to football. He is passing up the 2020 NFL draft to play his senior season at Cowboys. He should give them a good chance of winning the College Football Championship, though they’re trailing at the seventh spot in the latest American football odds at +2400.00, with Clemson as the current betting favorites.

2020 will definitely be a very exciting time with some of these young stars looking to breakthrough in their respective sports and show the world what they are capable of.

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Bob Baffert is back at the Kentucky Derby – and looking to break the Curse of Apollo



Bob Baffert is back at the Kentucky Derby with early favourite Justify after watching the race from his sofa in Southern California last year.

The Hall of Fame trainer’s ability to produce Derby contenders year after year is an enviable feat and why his absence a year ago stood out. It was just his second since 2009 and occurred because his lone candidate got hurt.

Baffert will saddle Justify and 30-to-1 shot Solomini in Saturday’s Derby.

Justify is one of the greenest colts Baffert has brought to Churchill Downs. He’s won all three of his starts by a combined 19 lengths. If Justify wins, he’d be the first to do so since Apollo in 1882 without racing as a two-year-old.

“The thing about the Kentucky Derby, you have to have the right horse. It just happens. You can’t force it,” Baffert said. “All of a sudden, you have good horses and you’re there. So I’ve been really fortunate to have some really good horses.”

Baffert’s four victories are tied for second-most in Derby history. He’s finished second three times, too, including in 2012 with Bodemeister, also the last time he had two starters in the same year.

Like Justify, Bodemeister didn’t race as a two-year-old. He set a blistering pace and led the Derby until the final 150 yards when I’ll Have Another overtook him to win by 1 1/2 lengths.

Magnum Moon, the 6-to-1 third choice, also is unbeaten and didn’t run as a two-year-old.

“It’s going to happen,” Baffert said, referring to the curse being broken. “Whether it happens this year or whatever, but it will happen because Bodemeister almost got away with it. But I don’t really worry about that.”

Baffert almost had a third starter this year until McKinzie developed a hind-end issue that knocked him off the Derby trail.

“When McKinzie got hurt, I wanted to throw up,” he said. “I really think McKinzie would probably be second choice here. We’d really have a 1-2 here.”

Justify cleared the biggest pre-Derby hurdle by drawing the No. 7 post. Jockey Mike Smith can use the colt’s early speed to position him well for the long run to the chaotic first turn. Solomini ended up in the No. 17 post; no horse has ever won from there.

Baffert turned 65 in January, making him eligible for Medicare and retirement at most other jobs. However, he entertains no such thoughts.

“I work hard at it. I just don’t give up,” the white-haired trainer said. “I’m constantly meeting people. They’re sending me horses. If you don’t have success, you’re not going to get those opportunities.”

After a successful run in the quarter horse ranks, Baffert switched to thoroughbreds. He started with one horse.

“After 25 years, I’m finally getting horses that I don’t have to buy,” he said. “The big guys are sending me horses.”

None was bigger than American Pharoah in 2015. The colt swept the Derby, Preakness and Belmont to become racing’s first Triple Crown winner in 37 years.

Baffert has compared Justify to American Pharoah, citing the colt’s imposing physical presence and big stride. Still, Justify has yet to encounter the kind of traffic the Derby’s 20-horse stampede creates and the talent as he’ll run against on Saturday.

“I’d rather have a really talented horse than one who’s seasoned and just on par with the rest of them,” Baffert said.

Early on, Baffert knew Justify had the goods.

“The first time I worked him at Santa Anita, I knew he was a really good horse,” he said. “The track was really deep that morning, and he went around there effortlessly. His first race, he ran incredibly and showed how special he was.”

That kind of intuition is what separates Baffert from his rivals, fellow Hall of Famer trainer D. Wayne Lukas said.

“Bob’s got a great feel for it,” he said.

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Matthews ready to return to Maple Leafs lineup after missing a month



NASHVILLE — The hurtin’ tune that Auston Matthews has been singing for the past four weeks finally can be put in the remainder bin in Music City.

The Maple Leafs’ top centre on Wednesday declared himself set to return to the lineup after recovering from a right shoulder injury.

Wonderful timing, of course, considering the Leafs will take on the No. 1 club in the National Hockey League, the Nashville Predators, on Thursday night.

“In my mind, I think I’m ready to go and taking it as I’m getting ready to play (Thursday),” Matthews said after resuming his normal role, between William Nylander and Zach Hyman, during practice at Bridgestone Arena.

“It felt good, nice to get in all the reps and everything. (Wednesday) was a good step forward in that process, going through the line rushes.”

It seemed probable that the Leafs also will have defenceman Nikita Zaitsev, who missed the past five games as he recovered from an illness, against Nashville. Zaitsev was paired with Jake Gardiner, his regular partner, at practice.

For Matthews, it has been 10 games as a spectator with his latest injury, his third of the 2017-18 regular season after he missed four games in November with a back issue and then sat for six in December because of a concussion.

Thursday will mark four weeks since Matthews was hurt when he was sandwiched by the New York Islanders’ Cal Clutterbuck and Adam Pelech in a game at the Air Canada Centre.

A major bonus for Matthews in his recovery has been the fact he has been able to skate though much of his recuperation. That was not the case when he was out with his previous two injuries.

It’s worth noting that Matthews scored two goals versus the Montreal Canadiens upon returning on Nov. 18 from his back injury; in his first two games upon coming back from a concussion, he scored a goal in each.

Mike Babcock said a final decision on the participation of Matthews and Zaitsev against the Predators would be made on Thursday morning, but the Leafs coach was talking as though it would be a rubber stamp.

“This is going to be the best opportunity for (Matthews) because he has been able to skate and compete,” Babcock said. “The other times he was not able to do anything.

“To get him back … it’s still going to be going way faster than he has been practising, so there is going to be an adjustment period, but he’s a good player and he will figure it out.”

Defenceman Morgan Rielly didn’t think Matthews will take long to find his footing. Rielly missed six games in late January/early February with an arm injury, so knows what Matthews could be feeling.

“You’re nervous and you just want to get back into it,” Rielly said. “You play your first shift a bit hesitant, but after that it’s important you get back to yourself.

“It’s never easy, but Auston is one of those guys that I will imagine it won’t take long for him to get back into a rhythm.”

And there’s the trickle-down effect through the forward lines with Matthews in uniform.

“Guys are used to playing with certain players and when everyone is healthy, I think you get better chemistry throughout the entire lineup,” centre Nazem Kadri said. “Certain guys don’t have to play with different guys constantly and it’s just more of a set group, so I think it’s going to help us.”

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