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FAMU head coach Joe Taylor steps down immediately

FAMU head coach Joe Taylor steps down immediately

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (AP) Florida A&M coach Joe Taylor announced Thursday he's stepping down immediately.

Taylor leaves with two games remaining in his fifth season at the school in which was disappointing season for the Rattlers. Defensive coordinator Earl Holmes, a Tallahassee native, will be the acting head coach for Saturday's homecoming game against North Carolina Central and the season finale in Orlando on Nov. 17 against league-leading Bethune-Cookman.

Florida A&M (3-6, 3-3 Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference) is out of contention for a MEAC championship.

Taylor, 62, told his players last Saturday of his plans to retire at the end of the season, but subsequently changed his mind to leave immediately and eliminate any distraction to the team in its final two games.

``My life has really been enriched because of this profession,'' said Taylor, who spent 40 uninterrupted years coaching after his playing days at Western Illinois. ``It's the greatest profession in the world.''

One of the most successful coaches in the NCAA's Football Championship Subdivision, Taylor had experienced only two losing seasons in 25 years before he replaced Rubin Carter as Florida A&M's head coach on Dec. 31, 2007 when he signed a five-year contract at $225,000 per year. Carter was fired in November 2007 after a disappointing 3-8 season in his third year at the school.

Taylor concludes his coaching career with a 233-96-4 record that includes a 35-19 mark in five seasons at FAMU. He came to Florida A&M five years ago after spending 16 years at Hampton (Va.) where his teams were 136-49-1. He had previously also coached at Virginia Union and Howard University.

``You don't retire to look for a job,'' said Taylor, who plans to remain in Tallahassee.

Taylor has written an autobiography that is scheduled to be released at the end of the month and he already has three book tour stops scheduled to promote it.

Holmes, 39, starred at Florida A&M University High School before moving to Florida A&M. A middle linebacker, Holmes was drafted in the fourth round of the 1996 NFL draft by the Pittsburgh Steelers. He spent five seasons in Pittsburgh, two in Cleveland and three with Detroit as a playe. Holmes then spent two years as a high school coach in Lake Mary before joining Taylor's staff five years ago.

``This season hasn't turned been what we thought it would turn out to be,'' Holmes said Thursday. ``But that's adversity and you've got to play through that. At the end of the day the game must go on.''

Florida A&M athletic director Derek Horne said Holmes would be a strong candidate in the school's coaching search.

``We want to encourage him to go ahead and be a part of the program,'' Horne said.

The new next coach will be the school's ninth since the legendary Jake Gaither retired in 1969. Gaither's teams were 204-36-4 with six National Black College championships in 25 seasons.

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Was Columbus' travel a factor in the Caps' series comeback?

Was Columbus' travel a factor in the Caps' series comeback?

Whenever a playoff series ends, the analysis begins soon after. Why did this team win? Why did this team lose? Why did this player perform while this one did not?  This is an exercise performed by media, players and coaches alike, especially for teams that walk away from a series believing they let an opportunity slip away.

The Columbus Blue Jackets fell to the Washington Capitals in six games despite taking a 2-0 series lead by winning both opening games in Washington. Head coach John Tortorella will have all summer to think about what he could have done differently and what went wrong for his team, but it sounds like he already has at least one theory as to why they lost.

In a series that featured four overtime games, Game 4 stands out as being far more one-sided than the others. Washington turned in the most dominant performance of the series in a 4-1 win that knotted the teams at two wins apiece.

That game stood out to Tortorella too and he thinks he knows why the Blue jackets laid an egg that night: Travel.

"I think we should’ve stayed in Washington after that second overtime game, the second game there," Tortorella said. "I think that comes back and gets you later on in the series. We should’ve stayed in Washington and let them get a good night sleep. They got in here so late. I don’t think it affected us in Game 3. It comes the next days, so that falls on me."

When analyzing why the Caps won the series, chances are travel is not going to be a reason many people consider. Perhaps there is some merit to this. After all, as the father of an infant, I can certainly vouch for how much of a difference one good night of sleep can make.

But perhaps there is another message being sent here by Tortorella.

Tortorella is a master at using the media to his advantage. He uses the media to send messages to his team or draw attention on himself and away from the players.

Tortorella just saw his young team give up a 2-0 series lead and lose four straight games. Those are the kind of losses that can stick with a player and create doubt in the mind of a team the next time they reach a tough spot in the postseason.

So what did Tortorella do? He came out and put the worst loss of the series on his own shoulders. Why was it his fault? Uh...travel? Yeah, let's go with travel.

The Blue Jackets are not the first team to play overtime on the road or the first team to deal with travel concerns. To hear a coach say it was a reason they lost a game and not even the next game after the travel? Well, that's a first.

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Need to Know: Alex Smith will need to be a fast learner for the Redskins to be successful

Need to Know: Alex Smith will need to be a fast learner for the Redskins to be successful

Here is what you need to know on this Tuesday, April 24, two days before the 2018 NFL draft.  

Smith will need support for the Redskins to be successful early

There are high expectations for new Redskins quarterback Alex Smith. He needs to replace Kirk Cousins, who was one of the league’s most productive passers over the past three years. Smith, of course, has been a solid performer himself. Since 2015, the first year that both were starters, Cousins has passed for more yard but primarily because he attempted 225 more passes. Their adjusted yards per attempt and passer ratings over that time are nearly identical. 

Smith will be expected to be at peak production right out of the box. With 151 starts in 12 NFL seasons, he knows what is expected of him as the leader of the offense. 

However, he may have another issue, one we’ve seen from him before. He was traded from the 49ers to the Chiefs following the 2012 season. Smith got off to a rocky start in Andy Reid’s offense. In the first seven games, Smith threw seven touchdowns and four interceptions, posting 6.1 adjusted yards per attempt and a passer rating of 79.2. 

After that, he got rolling. In the final nine games, he threw 16 TD’s and three interceptions and improved his adjusted yard per attempt to 7.5 and his passer rating to 98.7.

Will it take him that long to pick up the Redskins offense? 

It needs to be noted that the Chiefs went 7-0 during the Smith’s bad start. They were able to support him with a running game that went over 100 yards every week (121 per game average) and a defense that didn’t allow over 17 points in any game and let up single-digit point totals in three of them. 

Looking at the history of the last three years, the Redskins would have more trouble winning if their quarterback was struggling as much as Smith was in his early Chiefs days. In fact, during Cousins’ three years as the starter, the Redskins went 2-17 in games where he posted a passer rating of 90 or lower. 

In his five seasons with the Chiefs, the team went 17-17 when Smith posted a passer rating of lower than 90. While that may say something about the relative abilities of the two quarterbacks to scuffle to a win when things aren’t going as well as planned, it says much more about the teams surrounding Smith and Cousins. 

Unless the Redskins’ defense and running game improve significantly—and that’s certainly possible—they won’t be able to prosper in wins column if Smith needs an extended adjustment period to get comfortable in Jay Gruden’s offense. 

He has a chance of doing so, based on the 2017 performances of the pass defenses he and the Redskins face in the first half of the season. In terms of pass defense DVOA, the Redskins face only on that ranked in the top 10, the No. 5 Saints. Also above average were the Panthers (10th) and the Cardinals (11th). Five of the opponents were in the lower half including the Cowboys (18th), Falcons (19th), Giants (20th), Packers (26th), and Colts (32nd). 

Stay up to date on the Redskins. Rich Tandler covers the team 365 days a year. Like his Facebook page, Facebook.com/TandlerNBCSand follow him on Twitter  @TandlerNBCS.

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Sent out as the Caps were holding on to a fourth-quarter lead over Columbus.

Timeline  

Today’s schedule: Pre-draft press conference with Doug Williams at Redskins Park, noon.

Days until:

—Rookie minicamp (5/11) 17
—OTAs start (5/22) 28
—Training camp starts (7/26) 93

The Redskins last played a game 114 days ago. They will open the 2018 NFL season at the Cardinals in 138 days. 

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