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Jaguars fire GM Gene Smith after 4 seasons

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Jaguars fire GM Gene Smith after 4 seasons

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. (AP) After four years of futility, the Jacksonville Jaguars are heading in a different direction.

Coach Mike Mularkey might not be around for the move.

The Jaguars fired general manager Gene Smith on Monday after four disappointing seasons, including the worst year in franchise history.

Mularkey could be next.

Owner Shad Khan is waiting to decide Mularkey's fate until he hires a new general manager, which could happen this week.

Mularkey failed to make the Jaguars (2-14) better in his first season, setting a team record for losses and dropping eight games by 16 or more points.

Smith was the architect of the roster. He had been with the team since its inception in 1994, working his way up from regional scout to general manager. He has been GM since 2009, compiling a 22-42 record. Not one player he acquired made the Pro Bowl.

``Now it is time for the Jacksonville Jaguars to begin a new chapter,'' Khan said in a statement. ``We're not looking back. I've made it clear from Day One that we pledge nothing less than to deliver the first Super Bowl championship to Jacksonville. Our fans have been remarkably loyal over the years, and they were truly outstanding this past season. We simply must do better for our fans.''

Khan said the search for a new GM will begin immediately.

Arizona director of player personnel Jason Licht, San Francisco director of player personnel Tom Gamble, and Atlanta director of player personnel David Caldwell have been mentioned as potential replacements.

``I'm determined to find the right man to lead our football operations, someone who shares my vision, understands the commitment we will demand and is qualified and ready to seize this opportunity,'' Khan said.

Khan informed Smith of his decision Monday morning and then delivered the news to Mularkey.

Mularkey said he received no assurances he would be retained for a second season.

``It was a conversation about Gene's status,'' said Mularkey, the former Buffalo Bills head coach who now has lost 20 of his last 23 games. ``My status was not discussed, and I won't go into detail what was. But until I'm told otherwise, I'm the head coach of this team.''

So the Jaguars are in limbo again, much like they were late last season when Khan bought the team from Wayne Weaver for $770 million. Weaver fired coach Jack Del Rio the same day he gave Smith a three-year extension despite Smith's numerous mistakes in the draft and in free agency.

Smith handled the coaching search, which started and ended with Mularkey.

But the Jaguars made no progress under Mularkey, finishing the year ranked 29th in offense and 30th in defense.

``You knew something was going to happen,'' defensive tackle Terrance Knighton said. ``You didn't know where it was going to start. It obviously started from the top and it will probably make its way down.''

Knighton is one of numerous free agents who could make the Jacksonville job enticing for prospective GMs. The new GM would be able to rebuild the roster, and the Jaguars have plenty of room under the salary cap and few dead-money contracts.

Nonetheless, changes are never easy inside a locker room.

``With a year like this, you can point fingers everywhere,'' tight end Marcedes Lewis said. ``I'm not sure what the final straw was, but it happened. Kind of got to move forward and do what you do.''

Smith changed the way Jacksonville approached personnel moves. He made character as important as ability, but it never paid off the way he envisioned.

Finding talent seemed to be the main issue.

Smith whiffed on offensive tackle Eben Britton (39th overall pick in 2009), defensive tackle Tyson Alualu (10th pick in 2010) and quarterback Blaine Gabbert (10th pick in 2011). Smith traded up to select Gabbert even though several teams with quarterback needs passed on the former Missouri starter.

He also drafted a punter in the third round in April, a move that was mocked locally and nationally.

Equally alarming for Khan had to be Smith's penchant for overpaying in free agency: Torry Holt, Aaron Kampman, Paul Posluszny, Clint Session, Dawan Landry, Laurent Robinson and Aaron Ross.

Smith did hit on some players, including left tackle Eugene Monroe (eighth pick in 2009), cornerback Derek Cox (73rd pick in 2009) and receivers Cecil Shorts (114th pick in 2011) and Justin Blackmon (fifth pick in 2012). But none of those starters has become a star. And Smith gave up a second-round pick to get Cox and a fourth-rounder to trade up and get Blackmon.

Smith's most controversial act came in April, when he chose punter Bryan Anger in the third round (70th pick). Anger was terrific as a rookie, but adding him never seemed like the best call for a team that needed talent and depth at so many other positions.

Smith defended the pick by saying he would ``rather take a starter over a backup.'' Terry McDonough, the team's personnel director, challenged reporters to compare Anger to other third-rounders in four years and see who has been more productive.

Eight months later, quarterback Russell Wilson (75th pick) has Seattle in the playoffs. The Jaguars, meanwhile, are out of the postseason for the 11th time in the last 13 years. And they're looking for a new GM and maybe a new coach.

``Obviously, 2-14 isn't the season you want to kind of hang your hat on,'' running back Maurice Jones-Drew said. ``When you don't produce, this is what happens.''

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3 reasons why the Caps lost to the Lightning

3 reasons why the Caps lost to the Lightning

After a rough start, the Caps battled back to make a game of it against Tampa Bay, but ultimately fell 4-2 to the Lightning. Here's why.

The first period

To put it simply, this game was lost in the opening period. Washington was the better team for the second and third but they could not overcome the 3-0 lead they spotted the Lightning in the first. Beyond the goals, the Caps just did not play well. Even the simplest of plays looked difficult as Washington struggled to get the puck out of their own zone, gave up numerous turnovers and scoring chances and just looked overmatched. Braden Holtby also looked shaky allowing three goals on just eight shots. Usually he is able to cover up some of the mistakes the defense makes it front of him, but he was not there to bail the team out on Tuesday in what was a really rocky start.

RELATED: CHECK OUT THE 3 STARS FROM CAPS-LIGHTNING

Taking a penalty 34 seconds into the game

Entering Tuesday’s game, Tampa Bay boasted the second best power play unit in the league. Playing a disciplined game is part of every game plan, but that is especially true against such a dominant unit. Giving up a penalty just 34 seconds into the game was not an ideal start. The call itself was debatable. Brett Connolly was called for interference when he knocked over Dan Girardi in the offensive zone. The puck was just behind Girardi as he had lost control of it in his skates. The sticking point here is that Girardi no longer had possession and Connolly could have played the puck instead of the player. Most referees would probably let that go with the puck so close, but Connolly was not so lucky. Whether it was a good call or not, the Caps found themselves down a man and down a goal soon after as Brayden Point scored the power play tally.

A missed opportunity from Kuznetsov on one end, a goal for Nikita Kucherov on the other

Even after spotting the Lightning a 3-0 lead, the Caps made a game of it. Lars Eller struck on the power play in the second period and Alex Ovechkin pulled Washington to within one with about nine minutes left to play. Just over a minute later, Evgeny Kuznetsov stole the puck away from Nikita Kucherov, the frontrunner for league MVP this season, at the Tampa blue line giving the Caps a short 2-on-1. Defenseman Andrej Sustr was textbook on the play forcing Kuznetsov as far wide as he could go while still covering the passing lane and Kuznetsov elected to shoot from the faceoff dot rather than attempt the pass to T.J. Oshie.Andrei Vasilevskiy made a routine blocker save to deny what looked like a great opportunity to tie the game. As always happens in hockey, a failed opportunity on one end led to an opportunity in the other direction. Less than a minute later, Kucherov made up for his mistake by scoring a breakaway goal to put the game out of reach at 4-2.

MORE CAPITALS: KEMPNY EXCITED TO MOVE FROM LAST PLACE CHICAGO TO FIRST PLACE WASHINGTON

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3 stars of the game: Lightning strike 3 times in the first to burn Caps

3 stars of the game: Lightning strike 3 times in the first to burn Caps

The first 20 minutes of Tuesday's game did not go well for Washington. The Tampa Bay Lightning scored three times in the opening frame and rode that lead all the way to the 4-2 win.

With the game heading towards a repeat of their blowout loss to Chicago, the Capitals rebounded in the second period to make a game of it as Lars Eller scored on a power play. Alex Ovechkin pulled Washington within one in the third period, but Nikita Kucherov slammed the door shut with a breakaway goal to extend the lead back to 2.

Here are the three stars of the game:

1. Brayden Point: Tampa Bay won this game in the first period when they took a 3-0 lead. Point scored two of those three goals. His first came only 2:30 into the game. He retreated to the blue line on the power play believing Jay Beagle would clear the puck. When Beagle turned the puck over, he recognized it and immediately crashed the net, taking a Ryan Callahan pass in the slot and shooting it through the five-hole of Braden Holtby.

On his second goal, Anton Stralman saw an opportunity on the Caps’ line change and passed the puck up to Point at the blue line. Point turned on the jets to get behind the defense and went five-hole again on Holtby to make the score 3-0.

2. Alex Ovechkin: After the first period, Washington slowly took this game over for much of the remaining 40 minutes. Ovechkin was a big part of that as he totaled an incredible 19 shot attempts for the game. Nine of those shots were on goal and he found the back of the net in the third period for career goal No. 594.

3. Tom Wilson: Through the first period, the Caps looked well on their way to a repeat of the 7-1 debacle they suffered Saturday in Chicago. They had nothing going in this game until Wilson drew a trip from Vladislav Namestnikov in the second period. Eller would score on the resulting power play giving Washington some much-needed life.

The Namestnikov penalty was the 29th drawn penalty of the season for Wilson, which moves him into a tie with Matthew Tkachuk for the most drawn penalties in the NHL.