A culture shift has Jaguars on verge of first Super Bowl appearance

A culture shift has Jaguars on verge of first Super Bowl appearance

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. (AP) — Jacksonville’s locker room was abuzz late last season. Four guys played table tennis while others crowded around a small table for dominoes. Two 80-inch televisions were tuned to a sports highlight show, and music blared from one corner of the room.

Doug Marrone, the team’s offensive line coach at the time, walked through and shook his head.

“Can you believe this?” Marrone whispered.

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The Jaguars were in the middle of a nine-game losing streak that would ultimately cost coach Gus Bradley his job. Marrone had watched from afar for two years, witnessing an atmosphere he felt was too loose, too laid-back and too lenient amid losing.

So when Marrone was hired to replace Bradley last January, high on his to-do list was to change the culture in Jacksonville. His success is one reason the Jaguars (12-6) are in the AFC championship game against New England (14-3).

The ping pong table was the first to go. Dominoes followed. The locker room stalls were overhauled, too, with Marrone mixing and matching position groups and putting certain players next to veteran leaders and/or NFL role models.

“We definitely threw a tantrum,” Pro Bowl defensive tackle Malik Jackson said. “Went in there and talked to him about it. Definitely wasn’t happy. I learned just to be quiet, you know, and go with the flow. He’s been at it longer than I have, and I’m just the football player. He says do this and I go do it. Just learn to follow him, and I’m glad I did.”

Marrone saved the most significant changes for the practice fields.

Marrone, top executive Tom Coughlin and general manager Dave Caldwell wanted a much tougher and more physical team. They drafted bruising running back Leonard Fournette and fiery left tackle Cam Robinson to complement a defense that was significantly beefed up in free agency with the addition of All-Pro pass-rusher Calais Campbell, Pro Bowl cornerback A.J. Bouye and veteran safety Barry Church.

They also designed an offseason program that was more grueling than most players had experienced. Marrone’s message was clear: Go hard or go home.

“You remember guys in camp talking about this took a few years off their lives,” Jackson said. “It’s pretty funny just to see us now. I guess he does know what he’s doing.”

The Jaguars were in full pads nearly every day during training camp, a tortuous stretch in draining heat and humidity that left rookies and veterans questioning the process and wondering if it would pay off. It was the NFL’s version of boot camp. Break them down, then build them up.

It ultimately brought players closer, making them accountable to each other and causing them to care more for each other. Winning was the final piece, and thumping Houston 29-7 in the season opener was all the proof players needed.

“It was the toughest training camp I’ve ever been a part of,” said linebacker Paul Posluszny, in his 11th season. “Coach Marrone would talk to us and say, ‘Listen, I have a plan and you have to trust me.’ With that, guys were able to say, ‘OK, we haven’t gotten what we wanted in years past doing things a certain way, so we have to buy in, trust the head man and know that that’ll bring us success when it’s time.’

“It was difficult just because of so many changes from what we were used to. I think the most important thing is we always said, ‘Well, if it helps us win, then it’s all good.’”

Jacksonville had lost 63 of 80 games over the previous five seasons — the worst record in the NFL during that span — and had been through two coaching changes.

Coughlin’s return was a key part of the team’s revival, and although the two-time Super Bowl-winning coach with the New York Giants gets much of the outside credit for the team’s turnaround, the reality is Marrone was the one pushing all the right buttons.

Marrone has been other places where players resisted, prompting personnel moves that would slow progress. That wasn’t the case in Jacksonville, and he credited his players for being open to change.

“They gave our staff the opportunity to say, ‘This is what we want to do. This is what we believe in as coaches or as an organization. This is how we want to handle ourselves,’” Marrone said. “We are still working toward that. It is not perfect by any means.”

It’s clearly working, though. The Jaguars are in the title game for the third time in franchise history, one victory away from their first Super Bowl appearance.

“They say (stuff) rolls downhill,” Jackson said. “Well, the good stuff rolls downhill, too. … It’s all worth it when you win.”

Source: https://www.foxsports.com/florida/story/jacksonville-jaguars-culture-change-011618

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Steelers owners reportedly lobbying Art Rooney to fire Mike Tomlin after playoff debacle

Steelers owners reportedly lobbying Art Rooney to fire Mike Tomlin after playoff debacle

Sunday afternoon was not the highest point of Mike Tomlin’s coaching career. Losing 45-42 to the Jaguars in an AFC divisional round game is bad enough just on the surface, but digging deeper it’s not hard to find multiple instances of the Steelers being outcoached by the Jags and unprepared for certain scenarios. And now some Steelers minority owners are reportedly getting in Art Rooney’s ear about firing Tomlin over the game.

Mike Florio of Pro Football Talk reported on Tuesday he’s hearing “some of the team’s limited partners intend to lobby owner Art Rooney to fire of Tomlin and to hire a new coach.”

To be clear: these members of ownership, who bought into the team about a decade ago, do not have the authority to hire or fire anyone or to make any sort of management decisions. They are minority owners without a controlling interest; Florio lists “Rob Citrone, Paul Evanson, Larry Paul, Stephen Paul, Bruce Rauner, Paul Sams, John Stallworth, Benjamin Statler, Scott Swank, David Tepper, Thomas Tull, Peter Varischetti, and Mike Wilkins” as names involved. 

This group is particularly incensed about the final 47 seconds of the Steelers’ loss after the Jaguars kicked a field goal to go up 10 points. The Steelers had the ball in the red zone but moved in a slow fashion, melted a ton of clock without any clear urgency and ended up throwing a meaningless touchdown (unless you bet the second half line of Steelers -7.5) with mere seconds remaining on the clock.

“The source specifically pointed to those key 47 seconds, noting that the players were moving without any real sense of urgency as the clock was ticking and the Steelers needed two scores,” Florio writes.

It truly looked like the Steelers either didn’t know what to do or that they didn’t care, that they were assuming the game was basically over. It was not the best look for a playoff team, especially a playoff team that has not advanced to the Super Bowl since 2010. 

Tomlin is just 3-5 in the playoffs since that 2010 run to the Super Bowl in Dallas (a loss to the Packers), but it’s hard to argue with his consistent success. He’s won 11, 10, 11 and 13 games the last four years. 

The Titans just fired their coach hoping to land Josh McDaniels and it’s not going to happen because he’s already locked into the Colts. Pittsburgh would be a high-profile job and could potentially land a big fish, but it is late in the game. Plus, again, Tomlin’s won 45 games the last four years. 

You can never say never when it comes to something happening in the NFL, but it would be a massive stunner if the Steelers ended up parting ways with Tomlin, however it came to pass, in the middle of January coming off a 13-win season. 

Source: https://www.cbssports.com/nfl/news/steelers-owners-reportedly-lobbying-art-rooney-to-fire-mike-tomlin-after-playoff-debacle/

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Eagles fan charged with punching police horse after ejection from NFL playoff game

Eagles fan charged with punching police horse after ejection from NFL playoff game

Eagles fans and players, who cannot get a bit of respect, are doing the whole dog thing in a big way. But some fans are getting focused on horses. One of them got so focused on horses, or perhaps so belligerently inebriated, that after being thrown out of the Falcons-Eagles playoff game he punched a police horse and got arrested.

Imagine calling your parents — and that’s what a 22-year-old who goes to jail for punching a horse has to do inevitably — and letting them know that you punched a police horse after being thrown out of a football game and you’re in jail. It doesn’t pass the smell test or the say it test. 

But that’s what 22-year-old Eagles fan and noted horse puncher Taylor Hendricks probably had to do, because ABC 6 reported that the young man did indeed punch a police horse.

Let’s soak in the report from FOX:

Police say it all started when the 22-year-old Whitehall Township resident got ejected from the Eagles-Falcons game for being  intoxicated and not having a ticket. After he got tossed, police say Hendricks approached a mounted police officerpunching his horse repeatedly in the face and neck, then striking the officer in the legs.

Man, look. We’ve all done some dumb things in life. We’ve all gotten a little bit drunker than we wanted at various points. Maybe even watching a football game. But, dude, you PUNCHED A POLICE HORSE. Multiple times! Did he leave the game with some “Bleep the police” attitude and just start punching the nearest cop who happened to be on a horse? That wasn’t smart.

According to Fox Philly, he was charged with aggravated assault, illegally taunting a police horse, simple assault and defiant trespass and posted 10 percent of $5,000 bail early Sunday morning. He’ll be in court again Jan. 30 and could also face animal cruelty charges.

What did the horse do to you? This isn’t the first person to punch a horse, of course, of course, but the idea of punching a horse is still incredibly outrageous.

Even last year there was a jockey who punched his horse and got suspended.

Just don’t punch horses. Unless of course that horse is the famous Mr. Ed.

Source: https://www.cbssports.com/nfl/news/eagles-fan-charged-with-punching-police-horse-after-ejection-from-nfl-playoff-game/

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NFL Playoff odds, picks, lines: Advanced computer model loving under in Jaguars-Patriots

NFL Playoff odds, picks, lines: Advanced computer model loving under in Jaguars-Patriots

The NFC and AFC Championship Games in the NFL playoffs on Sunday will attract bets from average Joes to professional bettors. The Patriots are 9.5-point favorites over the Jaguars and the Vikings are 3.5-point favorites over the Eagles. The over-under, or total number of points Vegas think will be scored, is 38 for Vikings-Eagles and 46.5 for Jaguars-Patriots.

With two eye-popping games and NFL odds already on the move, you need to know what SportsLine’s advanced computer model is picking.

With a 181-83 record, SportsLine is beating nearly every expert tracked on NFLPickWatch for the second straight season.

And after finishing the regular season on a blistering 74-22 run, it’s fresh off a week in which it nailed the Eagles’ upset over the Falcons and went 3-1 overall. It was the second straight week in which the model correctly predicted an outright upset. Anyone who has followed its advice is up big.

With the conference title games here, the computer simulated both games 10,000 times and came up with some surprising results.

We can tell you this week that the model is loving the under (46.5) in Jaguars-Patriots.

Early money has pushed that total down half-a-point, but the model says you can still bank on the final score going under 46.5  in 63 percent of simulations. That’s in stark contrast to the general public, which is backing the under only 40 percent of the time.

Both teams put up big offensive numbers during the divisional round, with the Patriots scoring 35 against the Titans and the Jags dropping 45 on Pittsburgh.

But you can expect tamer numbers Sunday with a trip to the Super Bowl on the line. Jacksonville finished the regular season second in the league in both scoring and total defense.

Jacksonville gave up 42 points to the Steelers, but that number is deceiving. Twenty-one of them came in the fourth quarter when the Jags were playing a more conservative defense to protect their lead. Jacksonville gave up just three points on Wild Card Weekend to Buffalo and allowed an average of just 16.8 points in the regular season.

The Patriots, meanwhile, gave up just 14 points to the Titans last week, and one of those touchdowns came in garbage time. Since Week 4, they have given up more than 20 points just twice and haven’t allowed more than 27 in a game during that span.

SportsLine’s advanced model says you can expect 42 points to be scored in Jags-Patriots, easily clearing the under.

The model also has strong against-the-spread picks for both championship games that you absolutely need to see and is calling for a team with strong Super Bowl aspirations to go down hard. You can only get those picks at SportsLine.

What NFL picks can you make with confidence for the AFC and NFC Championship Games? Check out the NFL odds below and then visit SportsLine to see which NFL teams are winning more than 50 percent of simulations, plus find out which team with strong Super Bowl aspirations goes down hard, all from the model that nailed the Eagles’ upset of the Falcons, plus get NFL picks from 20 experts.

Jacksonville Jaguars at New England Patriots (-9.5, 46.5)
Minnesota Vikings at Philadelphia Eagles (+3.5, 38)

Source: https://www.cbssports.com/nfl/news/nfl-playoff-odds-picks-lines-advanced-computer-model-loving-under-in-jaguars-patriots/

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Bentley’s women’s basketball coach on cusp of 1,000 wins

Bentley’s women’s basketball coach on cusp of 1,000 wins

NEW YORK (AP) Barbara Stevens couldn’t imagine being mentioned in the same conversation with Geno Auriemma and Pat Summitt.

Yet Bentley’s longtime women’s basketball coach has a chance to join those two icons in the 1,000-victory club on Wednesday. A win over Adelphi, which has beaten Bentley four straight times, would give Stevens 1,000 wins, making her the fifth women’s college basketball coach to reach that milestone. Tara VanDerveer and Sylvia Hatchell are the others.

”You look at all those coaches. They are huge names in the sport,” Stevens told The Associated Press by phone. ”I don’t see the connection with me and them. I found my niche and I don’t need any limelight. I don’t need anything like that. What I’m trying to do in a small way is create a program that can be successful and that’s it.”

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Stevens has been remarkably successful at the Division II school nestled 12 miles outside Boston. She has 842 of her wins at the school since becoming coach in 1986. She’s had only one losing season in her 32 years there and went 35-0 in 2014. Her coaching career started at Clark when she was 23 years old. She then went to UMass for three seasons before joining Bentley.

”It’s very meaningful to me to have continuity at Bentley,” Stevens said. ”I loved my job at Clark University, loved the people I worked with. I left because I thought that careerwise you’re supposed to move up if you have the opportunity. It’s what you’re supposed to do so. If people want you, I had those visions in my head. I left Clark to go to UMass-Amherst. It was difficult, those were three unsuccessful seasons. I was glad to go to Bentley.”

She’s had offers from Division I schools but is happy to stay where she’s had unprecedented success.

”I had some people reach out to me as I’ve been here at Bentley. It would have to take something really special. Not that those places weren’t special. They were very enticing,” Stevens recalled. ”What I learned from being at UMass and at Clark was that for me personally it’s not about being a Division I coach, it’s not about the ego. It’s about my happiness, feeling that I could make a difference.”

Stevens remembers the players she coached more than the wins. Her first came against Western New England on Dec. 1, 1977.

She feels uneasy with the spotlight as she approaches No. 1,000.

”All of us, if you’re involved in a team sport, it’s all about the team,” she said. ”The focus on one person, me, is really uncomfortable. I think part of the pressure comes with the fact that the school is putting some things together.”

Stevens said she addressed it with her team at practice on Monday, apologizing for the distraction.

”I’m sensitive to how they feel, sensitive to prepare them the exact same way. I don’t want them to feel this is all on their shoulders,” she said.

At 16-1 this season, Stevens knows the milestone will come soon if not Wednesday. She just wants it to be over so she can focus on the next game.

Stevens is already linked to Auriemma. The two entered the Women’s Basketball Hall of Fame together in 2006. She also worked with him at the USA Basketball Olympic Festival in the early 1990s. UConn’s coach is thrilled Stevens is about to join him in the 1,000-win club.

”I have found her to be one of my favorite people in the profession,” Auriemma said. ”The way she runs her program is impressive, but the most impressive aspect of her program is how consistently they compete for and win championships. I think, regardless of what division we are talking about, Barb is one of the best coaches in the country and I am so thrilled for her.”

Follow Doug on Twitter at http://www.twitter.com/dougfeinberg

Source: https://www.foxsports.com/womens-college-basketball/story/bentley-s-women-s-basketball-coach-on-cusp-of-1-000-wins-011618

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Saints QB Brees: No plans to field offers from other teams

Saints QB Brees: No plans to field offers from other teams

METAIRIE, La. (AP) — Drew Brees says he still expects to remain with the New Orleans Saints as long as they’ll have him.

The quarterback says he knows he’d have leverage to shop around if the Saints don’t reach an extension with him before the new league year starts in March. However, the 39-year-old Brees says he doesn’t plan on that.

Because of the way Brees’ contract is structured, the Saints would lose $18 million in salary cap space if they fail to reach an extension with Brees, who says he sees potential for New Orleans to build on a season that was on the brink of continuing to the NFC title game until a stunning, last-second Minnesota touchdown Sunday.

Meanwhile, veteran right tackle Zach Strief, a Week 1 starter who spent most of the season on injured reserve, says he hasn’t yet decided whether he’ll retire.

Source: https://www.foxsports.com/southwest/story/saints-qb-brees-no-plans-to-field-offers-from-other-teams-011618

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Minneapolis improves connectivity to prepare for Super Bowl

Minneapolis improves connectivity to prepare for Super Bowl

MINNEAPOLIS (AP) A wireless coverage mapping company says Minneapolis has the signal strength, data speed and reliability to handle the onslaught of service demands that come with hosting a Super Bowl.

KSTP-TV reports that OpenSignal says the metro area has been performing well in similar studies for years.

Efforts to improve connectivity in preparation for the Super Bowl began more than a year ago. Major wireless carriers have been working to boost small-cell and other technologies to increase wireless capacity.

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The Xcel Energy Center, the Minneapolis Convention Center and the Mall of America have also been working to improve their distributed antenna systems.

The city expects to see about 1 million visitors during the week of the Super Bowl. Super Bowl Opening Night is on Jan. 29.

Source: https://www.foxsports.com/nfl/story/minneapolis-improves-connectivity-to-prepare-for-super-bowl-011618

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Saints QB Brees: No plans to field offers from other teams

Saints QB Brees: No plans to field offers from other teams

METAIRIE, La. (AP) Drew Brees says he still expects to remain with the New Orleans Saints as long as they’ll have him.

The quarterback says he knows he’d have leverage to shop around if the Saints don’t reach an extension with him before the new league year starts in March. However, the 39-year-old Brees says he doesn’t plan on that.

Because of the way Brees’ contract is structured, the Saints would lose $18 million in salary cap space if they fail to reach an extension with Brees, who says he sees potential for New Orleans to build on a season that was on the brink of continuing to the NFC title game until a stunning, last-second Minnesota touchdown Sunday.

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Meanwhile, veteran right tackle Zach Strief, a Week 1 starter who spent most of the season on injured reserve, says he hasn’t yet decided whether he’ll retire.

For more NFL coverage: http://www.pro32.ap.org and http://www.twitter.com/AP-NFL

Source: https://www.foxsports.com/nfl/story/saints-qb-brees-no-plans-to-field-offers-from-other-teams-011618-2

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Jags ‘threw a tantrum’ when Marrone started making changes

Jags ‘threw a tantrum’ when Marrone started making changes

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. (AP) Jacksonville’s locker room was abuzz late last season. Four guys played table tennis while others crowded around a small table for dominoes. Two 80-inch televisions were tuned to a sports highlight show, and music blared from one corner of the room.

Doug Marrone, the team’s offensive line coach at the time, walked through and shook his head.

”Can you believe this?” Marrone whispered.

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The Jaguars were in the middle of a nine-game losing streak that would ultimately cost coach Gus Bradley his job. Marrone had watched from afar for two years, witnessing an atmosphere he felt was too loose, too laid-back and too lenient amid losing.

So when Marrone was hired to replace Bradley last January, high on his to-do list was to change the culture in Jacksonville. His success is one reason the Jaguars (12-6) are in the AFC championship game against New England (14-3).

The ping pong table was the first to go. Dominoes followed. The locker room stalls were overhauled, too, with Marrone mixing and matching position groups and putting certain players next to veteran leaders and/or NFL role models.

”We definitely threw a tantrum,” Pro Bowl defensive tackle Malik Jackson said. ”Went in there and talked to him about it. Definitely wasn’t happy. I learned just to be quiet, you know, and go with the flow. He’s been at it longer than I have, and I’m just the football player. He says do this and I go do it. Just learn to follow him, and I’m glad I did.”

Marrone saved the most significant changes for the practice fields.

Marrone, top executive Tom Coughlin and general manager Dave Caldwell wanted a much tougher and more physical team. They drafted bruising running back Leonard Fournette and fiery left tackle Cam Robinson to complement a defense that was significantly beefed up in free agency with the addition of All-Pro pass-rusher Calais Campbell, Pro Bowl cornerback A.J. Bouye and veteran safety Barry Church.

They also designed an offseason program that was more grueling than most players had experienced. Marrone’s message was clear: Go hard or go home.

”You remember guys in camp talking about this took a few years off their lives,” Jackson said. ”It’s pretty funny just to see us now. I guess he does know what he’s doing.”

The Jaguars were in full pads nearly every day during training camp, a tortuous stretch in draining heat and humidity that left rookies and veterans questioning the process and wondering if it would pay off. It was the NFL’s version of boot camp. Break them down, then build them up.

It ultimately brought players closer, making them accountable to each other and causing them to care more for each other. Winning was the final piece, and thumping Houston 29-7 in the season opener was all the proof players needed.

”It was the toughest training camp I’ve ever been a part of,” said linebacker Paul Posluszny, in his 11th season. ”Coach Marrone would talk to us and say, `Listen, I have a plan and you have to trust me.’ With that, guys were able to say, `OK, we haven’t gotten what we wanted in years past doing things a certain way, so we have to buy in, trust the head man and know that that’ll bring us success when it’s time.’

”It was difficult just because of so many changes from what we were used to. I think the most important thing is we always said, `Well, if it helps us win, then it’s all good.’”

Jacksonville had lost 63 of 80 games over the previous five seasons – the worst record in the NFL during that span – and had been through two coaching changes.

Coughlin’s return was a key part of the team’s revival, and although the two-time Super Bowl-winning coach with the New York Giants gets much of the outside credit for the team’s turnaround, the reality is Marrone was the one pushing all the right buttons.

Marrone has been other places where players resisted, prompting personnel moves that would slow progress. That wasn’t the case in Jacksonville, and he credited his players for being open to change.

”They gave our staff the opportunity to say, `This is what we want to do. This is what we believe in as coaches or as an organization. This is how we want to handle ourselves,”’ Marrone said. ”We are still working toward that. It is not perfect by any means.”

It’s clearly working, though. The Jaguars are in the title game for the third time in franchise history, one victory away from their first Super Bowl appearance.

”They say (stuff) rolls downhill,” Jackson said. ”Well, the good stuff rolls downhill, too. … It’s all worth it when you win.”

For more NFL coverage: http://www.pro32.ap.org and http://www.twitter.com/AP-NFL

Source: https://www.foxsports.com/nfl/story/jags-threw-a-tantrum-when-marrone-started-making-changes-011618

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