Patriots

Ozzie lands in the unemployment line

728578.jpg

Ozzie lands in the unemployment line

From Comcast SportsNetMIAMI (AP) -- The lingering backlash caused by Ozzie Guillen's praise of Fidel Castro contributed to another Miami Marlins managerial shakeup Tuesday.Guillen was fired after only one year with the team, undone by too many losses and one too many ill-advised remarks.A promising season began to derail in April with his laudatory comments about Cuba's former leader. Six months later, the episode was a factor in the decision to fire Guillen, Marlins officials said."Let's face it. It was not a positive for the team; it was not a positive for Ozzie," president of baseball operations Larry Beinfest said. "It was a disappointment, no doubt about it."A lousy team didn't help, either. The Marlins took high hopes into their new ballpark following an offseason spending spree but finished last in the NL East at 69-93, their worst record since 1999.Miami's next manager will be the fifth for owner Jeffrey Loria since early 2010. The latest change comes even though Marlins still owe Guillen 7.5 million for the three years remaining on his contract."We all felt we had a pretty good ballclub coming out of spring training, and we just didn't play well," Beinfest said. "We all share in this. This is not a fun day for me, certainly not for Ozzie or Jeffrey or anybody involved. This is an organizational failure. But we felt like we needed to make this change so we could move forward."There had speculation that Beinfest's job might also be in jeopardy, but he'll continue in his current role. The search for a new manager has just begun, he said."We could definitely use some stability in the dugout," said Beinfest, who has been with the Marlins since Loria bought the team in 2002. "We're looking for a winner. At times we've done a better job of identifying that individual. Other times we haven't. We're going to try to find the right guy this time."On Twitter, Guillen said the firing left him with "my head held up high, real high.""To the fans that support me and for those who are happy as well my love and respect to you," Guillen tweeted. "In life there are worse things and I have experienced them. I have lived through bad moments and I will get through this with support."In spring training, Guillen touted his team as well balanced and ready to win. But a dismal June took the Marlins out of contention for good, and management dismantled the roster in July.The season went sour from the start. Guillen's comments praising Castro in a magazine interview angered Cuban Americans, who make up a large segment of the Marlins' fan base. The Venezuelan manager apologized repeatedly at a news conference for his remarks, then began serving a five-game suspension only five games into his stay with the team."That was a very, very hard situation for me and the people around me," Guillen said in September. "It was maybe the worst thing I ever did."Marlins officials believe the damage was lasting. They blame disappointing attendance at the new ballpark in part over lingering fan resentment about the Castro comments.The decision to fire Guillen came on the eve of the World Series, nearly three weeks after the Marlins' final game, following a lengthy assessment of what went wrong this year."Everybody wanted to take a step back," Beinfest said. "It was really an organizational decision."Guillen was returning Tuesday from a vacation in Spain and was informed of his dismissal by phone by Beinfest in a brief conversation.Guillen left the Chicago White Sox a year ago after eight seasons. Some 24 hours later he sealed a four-year deal with the Marlins, where he was a third-base coach for the 2003 World Series championship team."I feel like I'm back home," he said at the time.Loria traded two minor league players to obtain Guillen and gave him a team-record 10 million, four-year deal. But by June, the Marlins had fallen below .500 for good.Despite the frustrations of losing, the talkative, opinionated, profane Guillen kept his cool for the most part, and he repeatedly accepted responsibility for the team's performance. Mindful of speculation his job might be in jeopardy, he said two weeks before the end of the season he was glad he rented a house in Miami rather than buying when he took the job."With the job I did this year, do you think I deserve to be back here?" Guillen said on the final day of the season. "Of course not. But I'm not the only one. ... Let's start from the top. The front office failed, Ozzie failed, the coaching staff failed, the players failed, everybody failed."In December, the Marlins signed All-Stars Jose Reyes, Mark Buehrle and Heath Bell to contracts worth a combined 191 million. But Bell was a bust as the closer, and the Marlins were plagued by poor hitting, especially in the clutch.Bell was traded last week to Arizona.In the Marlins' 20 seasons they have reached the postseason only twice, as wild-card teams in 1997 and 2003. Both times they won the World Series.Under Loria they have usually been among baseball's thriftiest teams. With attendance and revenue falling short of projections this year, the spending binge of last offseason ago is unlikely to be repeated."We need to spend some time redefining ourselves in conjunction with a new manager," Beinfest said. "I can't tell you exactly what the Marlin way is today."

'Man, why do we continue to do this?' Patriots FG block work finally pays off

'Man, why do we continue to do this?' Patriots FG block work finally pays off

FOXBORO -- Stay low. Drive off the tight end's inside shoulder. And whatever you do, keep your feet. You don't want to be falling into kicker and picking up a penalty. 

Those were the kinds of things that were bouncing around somewhere in Cassius Marsh's subconscious as he lined up to try to block Falcons kicker Matt Bryant's field-goal attempt from 37 yards away at the end of the first quarter. Swimming past his blocker off the snap, Marsh got both arms extended and into the path of Bryant's kick, knocking it down and giving his team a boost. 

MORE: 

"Guys work hard on that every week," Bill Belichick said after his team's 23-7 win. "Cassius has gotten some opportunities in practice. It’s hard to block Steve [Gostkowski]. Steve gets good height on the ball, gets the ball off quickly. I think this one with not quite as much height maybe as Steve's ball, or at least what Steve's balls were in practice, Cassius got a hand on it. 

"It was a big play for us because, again, we worked so hard on that and that’s everybody across the board. That’s all 11 guys, not just the guy that blocks it. The other guys have to do their job and if they block Cassius and take him away then that gives somebody else an opportunity so we never know how that’s going to go. We just want everybody to come hard and do their job right and wherever the opening is it is. That was a big play for us . . . 

"You can see the whole team – we were all excited. Sideline, players, guys on the field. That was a big moment for us. Our special teams units work very hard. They take a lot of pride in their job. The return teams, the coverage teams, the field goal and the field goal block team. It’s good to see that hard work pay off in a big play like that."

It was a big enough play that it earned Marsh a high-five from his coach. Marsh laughed about his reception on the sideline, remembering that the last time he got that kind of recognition from Belichick it came after a Week 4 sack.

"That's pretty much it that I can remember," Marsh said, beaming. "He only really smiles in situations like that so you've gotta cherish those moments."

The Patriots recovered at their own 26-yard line and embarked on an eight-play, 75-yard touchdown drive to get them on the scoreboard.

"With the defense playing as well as they were, to be able to preserve the shutout at the time was big," said special teams captain Matthew Slater. "Those are huge momentum plays when you're able to block a kick. It's not a traditional play that happens every game. Huge play. A UCLA guy stepping up, who would've thought? 

"You gotta tip your hat to those guys because they coach that, they work that and sometimes it seems like, 'Man, why do we continue to do this?' But it paid off for us tonight. You tip your cap to not only Cash but the rest of the guys on that unit." 

While Marsh's block was the highlight, it was a strong night overall for New England's special teams units. Every Falcons drive started inside their own 30-yard line, and Gostkowski had kicks returned to the 12, 19 and 18 before they were stopped.

Slater called it the most complementary game the Patriots played all season. Offense, defense, special teams. They all worked together to make Sunday perhaps their most dominating performance of the year. 

"That's the effort that we've been looking for and striving for all year," Slater said. "I think that's a good starting point for us. Lot of football left. Nine games left so we're going to have to continue to do it and be consistent week in and week out."

NBC SPORTS BOSTON SCHEDULE

Butler credits improved Patriots defense for 'playing smarter'

Butler credits improved Patriots defense for 'playing smarter'

As safety Duron Harmon emerged from the showers following the Patriots 23-7 win over the Falcons, he noticed a crowd gathered by his locker. As one of the captains of the team - and a man nicknamed by teammates as “The Voice” because of his ability to articulate the right words at the right time, the affable safety is a must listen postgame. But for a change, Harmon knew the mass gathering of media wasn’t there for him - at least not yet. We were there for Malcolm Butler, who had just played his best game of the season.

“You all want to talk to Malcolm?” Harmon sang. “I’d want to talk to Malcolm too.”

Devin McCourty got in on the act as well with some good-natured chirping in Butler’s direction. Both safeties were energized by the victory but also, it seemed, by the performance of a player they’ve come to rely on in games just like this. 

MORE: 

“Awww man, Malcolm. . . Malcolm was great for us,” said Harmon later. “We need that.”

It's hard not to draw the parallel between Butler having his best performance of the season a week after making two of the biggest plays in the game against the Jets. He did all this while the man who indirectly caused so much of the 28-year old’s troubles - Stephon Gilmore - hasn’t been able to play because of a concussion. Meanwhile, an undrafted player in his 6th year, Johnson Bademosi, has emerged opposite Butler to play very sound football.

“Communication,” said Butler of the team’s defensive improvements. “Just playing smarter and better. That’s all.”

Butler himself didn’t want to spend much time analyzing his own performance. That’s usually not his thing. And it wasn’t as if that performance was perfect. Far from it. But Butler’s energy was evident right from the jump. He stuck his nose in there on running plays to his side, including a terrific submarine tackle of Tevin Coleman in the opening quarter. Butler also got his fair share of Julio Jones over the course of the night. Even though he surrendered that late touchdown to the Falcons wideout, he showed not only a willingness to play the big dog, but to go right at him. That is - after all - a Butler trademark. 

“Just competing,” said Butler. “Great player; you just got to compete.”

It’s not just competing, but it’s playing with confidence, something Butler said was an issue for him in the aftermath of his snap reduction in New Orleans. But now? That seems long gone and hard to find.

NBC SPORTS BOSTON SCHEDULE