Redskins

Fired Kentucky coach: Team on verge of 'huge move'

Fired Kentucky coach: Team on verge of 'huge move'

LEXINGTON, Ky. (AP) Joker Phillips regrets he won't see firsthand what his young Kentucky squad will look like next season.

The outgoing Wildcats coach spoke Tuesday for the first time since Kentucky fired him. He said he had stressed to his staff the need for the team to show improvement and get to '13, ``because I thought '13 would be the year we have an opportunity to make a huge move.''

It didn't happen. He was fired Sunday effective at the end of season.

But after the 49-year-old Phillips initially resisted the option to coach the last two games after this week's bye, players urged him to finish out the season and get a glimpse of what might have been in 2013.

Kentucky (1-9, 0-8 Southeastern Conference) hosts Samford next and then plays at Tennessee.

``It was hard because I didn't want to be a distraction,'' Phillips said of his decision to return. ``I want it to be about those seniors. I sat in many of those guys' homes and told them I wanted them. I wanted to watch them grow up. I heard that from them, and that's the reason why I'm back.''

Phillips is 12-23 overall in his third season with the Wildcats. The end came after Saturday's 40-0 home loss to Vanderbilt, Kentucky's worst to the Commodores in 96 years.

The coach said he wasn't shocked or hurt by Barnhart's decision.

``I understand this,'' he said. ``We didn't get the necessary results. I understand that. I'm very appreciative of Mitch. I'm not bitter by any means, I appreciate the opportunity.''

Though Phillips took responsibility for Kentucky's record, he reiterated his belief that injuries set the team back in many areas. The injuries have forced the Wildcats to use 46 underclassmen including 26 freshmen against opponents with a combined record of 66-24 (.773).

Phillips said his hope was getting to next season and seeing if growth resulted from this year's struggles. That prospect became more difficult behind a string of blowout losses, including the last two games by a 73-10 margin.

He said the offense started the season well - before the injuries.

``In the first three games we showed improvement offensively and it's hard not to notice that,'' Phillips said. ``We made improvements on special teams and when we started showing improvement defensively, the injuries hit. And then it hit special teams. When (sophomore quarterback) Max (Smith) goes out, we go the other way offensively.

``Therefore, you don't get a chance to continue what you hope to do.''

Phillips said he had gotten everything he requested of Barnhart in regards to his players and didn't think more resources or better facilities would have helped. He believes his successor will be helped by getting a strong-armed quarterback and the deep upper class that he lacked.

In a letter on the Wildcats' web site announcing Phillips' dismissal, Barnhart said a nationwide search for his replacement would begin immediately.

Atlanta Falcons first-year offensive coordinator Dirk Koetter has been mentioned as a candidate, although Falcons coach Mike Smith said Monday he didn't know Kentucky even had an opening and no one had contacted him.

Whoever succeeds Phillips will likely bring a new staff and philosophy. That has some Kentucky players concerned about their futures, but for now they are focused on closing out the present on a high note for Phillips and themselves.

``Seeing Coach go was definitely a heartbreaker,'' redshirt freshman guard Zach West said. ``This program means everything to him and it's meant a lot to me. This team's young, but we're just going to do what we've done all year and just come back to work.''

Junior linebacker Avery Williamson said it was important to the team for Phillips to finish the season.

``We definitely wanted him to coach'' the last two games, Williamson said. ``He's been coaching us all year and we didn't want him to go out on that note.''

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In talking 2018 NFL draft, Doug Williams actually explained Redskins' free agency

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USA TODAY Sports

In talking 2018 NFL draft, Doug Williams actually explained Redskins' free agency

The Redskins spent modestly in 2018 free agency, and plenty of fans thought the team should have shelled out much bigger bucks. Talking with sources around the Ashburn facility, a prevaling notion became clear that the Washington brass believed they had a strong team in 2017, but they lost their chance to compete because of injuries. 

Well, the secret is out. Doug Williams said as much on Tuesday. 

"Coming out of Richmond last year, I liked this football team. I think we’ve got a tough football team, a smart football team. Some things you can’t control," Williams said Tuesday in a pre-draft media session. "We were very competitive up to a certain point, and when you have the injuries that we have, at a certain point, that competitive edge, you lose it because your best players are not playing."

Williams' words were true, and telling. 

First the true part:

  • In Washington's first five games of 2017, the team went 3-2. The Redskins only lost to eventual the Super Bowl champs Philadelphia and AFC West champs Kansas City. Washington only gave up more than 100 yards rushing once in those first five games, before rookie Jonathan Allen got hurt and the defense began to look much different. After Week 5, the Redskins only held one team under 100 yards rushing and finished the year dead last in rush defense.

Now the telling part:

  • The Redskins signed free agent WR Paul Richardson, and kept free agent LB Zach Brown. Beyond that, the team added inexpensive veterans in OLB Pernell McPhee and CB Orlando Scandrick. No splash moves, and recurring speculation that Washington was not offering top dollar to free agents. Bruce Allen acknowledged as much during NFL League Meetings when he explained that his team identified exactly how much they would offer free agents, their own and otherwise, and wouldn't go beyond that dollar figure. 

That means the focus of the offseason, at this point, is about this weekend's NFL Draft.

That also means the focus of the offseason, at this point, is not about Johnathan Hankins or any other free agent. 

"We’re going to deal with the draft now, and the second wave of free agents, if it’s somebody out there we feel like can help the Redskins,that’s what we’re going to do," Williams said. 

Throughout the offseason, Redskins fans wanted more action from their front office. It didn't happen, and Williams' basically explained why on Tuesday. The brass likes their team, and by default, expects better health and luck in 2018. 

When Williams talks about drafting the best player available, it's not just the typical NFL front office tripe. Right or wrong, the Redskins believe they have a team ready to compete in 2018, and any rookies that come in will only supplement that position.

"At the end of the day, I like this football team we’ve got. Like, last year when I walked out of camp, I thought we had a pretty good football team and I still feel the same way today," Williams said.

"At the end of the day, you get the best football player, and if that best football player is the guy that you want to plug and play, that’s all right. But if that’s the best football player that’s going to help your team overall, I think that’s the route you have to go."

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How the Caps won their first round series against the Columbus Blue Jackets

How the Caps won their first round series against the Columbus Blue Jackets

Things did not look good for the Capitals after two games.

Facing a 0-2 series hole after losing both games in Washington, it looked like it could be an early summer. The Caps were going to be the first team to ever lose a series in the playoffs to the Columbus Blue Jackets.

HOW DID THE CAPS WIN THEIR SERIES AGAINST COLUMBUS? FIND OUT HERE

But the Caps rallied.

Washington won the next four games and turned what looked like it would be another postseason disaster into a postseason triumph.

Only once in franchise history had the Caps rallied from a 0-2 deficit and only once had the Caps won four straight games to win a series. They managed both against the Blue Jackets.

Here's how the Caps were able to rally to a first-round victory over Columbus.