Nationals

AP source: Colts hiring Stanford's Hamilton

AP source: Colts hiring Stanford's Hamilton

INDIANAPOLIS (AP) The Indianapolis Colts have their new offensive coordinator, and it's someone Andrew Luck already knows.

A person familiar with the decision said Stanford offensive coordinator Pep Hamilton has accepted the same position with the Indianapolis Colts, where he will be reunited with Luck.

The person spoke to The Associated Press on the condition of anonymity Friday because the deal has not yet officially been announced by the Colts. Team owner Jim Irsay tweeted that the Colts' offense ``could have some pep to it this fall.''

The Colts were hoping that a promised pay raise and a new job title would be enough to keep Bruce Arians in Indy.

But Arians, a longtime NFL assistant, had long dreamed about being an NFL head coach and couldn't say no when the Arizona Cardinals offered him the job Thursday.

Arians stepped in when Chuck Pagano was diagnosed with leukemia in September and went on to tie an NFL record for wins after a midseason coaching change. His 9-3 record not only made him a front-runner for coach of the year honors, but suddenly made him a hot commodity on the interview circuit, too.

Knowing that, Colts general manager Ryan Grigson said Tuesday that while he was hoping Arians would return for a second season as offensive coordinator, he was preparing for life without the 60-year-old Arians.

``I take it upon myself to always be prepared. Just like during the season, I always have a doomsday mindset,'' Grigson said Tuesday. ``I always have a deep reserve of players and people at the ready. That's my job. That's what I've been entrusted to do. I'm just doing my job. It's not cold or heartless, I'm just doing my job.''

Grigson played it coy earlier this week when he was asked whether Plan B would be promoting quarterbacks coach Clyde Christensen to offensive coordinator, a job he held under former coach Jim Caldwell.

But one thing the Colts wanted was continuity for Luck and his young teammates and Hamilton could help in that facet.

He'll have some familiar faces on the roster with Luck, last year's No. 1 overall pick out of Stanford, and tight end Coby Fleener.

Luck set NFL rookie records for attempts and yards passing and fell just short of the league's rookie marks for completions and touchdown passes. He tied the league's single-season record for most winning drives in the fourth quarter (seven) and produced a league-high nine wins in one-possession games.

Hamilton also has a solid supporting cast outside of the two ex-Cardinal players. Running back Vick Ballard, tight end Dwayne Allen and receivers T.Y. Hilton and LaVon Brazill combined with Fleener and others to give Indy (11-5) the highest combined total of yards rushing and receiving by rookies on one team since the 1970 AFL-NFL merger.

Hamilton joined Jim Harbaugh's staff at Stanford in 2010. He was promoted to offensive coordinator when Harbaugh left for the San Francisco 49ers two years ago and David Shaw took over as Stanford's head coach.

Last May, the university officially renamed the offensive coordinator position the ``Andrew Luck Director of Offense'' after an anonymous donor made what the school called a ``very generous'' gift to honor the record-setting quarterback.

Stanford has endowments for many positions in the athletic department, although most are reserved for head coaches and the athletic director.

Hamilton helped continue Stanford's renaissance behind a balanced offense - with and without Luck.

One of the Cardinal's key recruiters, Hamilton also discovered new quarterback Kevin Hogan out of McLean, Va. The strong-armed and quick-footed Hogan finished 5-0 - including beating four ranked teams en route to the Rose Bowl win over Wisconsin on Jan. 1 - since replacing Josh Nunes, who struggled to succeed Luck. Stanford had not won the Rose Bowl since 1972.

Stanford is one of only three schools - Oregon and Wisconsin being the others - who earned BCS bowl berths the past three seasons. The Cardinal routed Virginia Tech in the Orange Bowl two years ago and lost in overtime to Oklahoma State in the Fiesta Bowl in Luck's finale.

Stanford has won at least 11 games each of the past three years. The program had won 10 games only three times before (1992, 1940 and 1926).

Losing Arians is only part of Indy's transition.

Since losing a wild-card round game to Baltimore, the Colts have parted ways with special teams coordinator Marrwan Maalouf and watched vice president of football operations Tom Telesco leave to take the general manager job in San Diego.

Grigson replaced Telesco with Jimmy Raye, who had spent the past 16 years in San Diego's front office, and Pagano hired Tom McMahon as his new special teams coach this week.

Grigson said he expects no more major changes to the front office or coaching staff during the offseason.

``Just because we've won one season we're not going to let people just raid the hen house,'' Grigson said. ``I've been on the other side of it myself, it's tough but guys are in contracts and if you're offered a head coaching job or a GM position I have to let you out, but otherwise, I don't.''

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Online:http://pro32.ap.org/poll andhttp://twitter.com/AP-NFL

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AP Sports Writer Antonio Gonzalez contributed to this report.

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Nats' offense needs to get going to maintain control in NL Wild Card race

Nats' offense needs to get going to maintain control in NL Wild Card race

Playoff prediction formulas have the Nationals at above 90 percent to qualify, but at the moment it doesn't exactly feel that way. 

With their 4-2 loss to the Cardinals on Monday night and the Brewers' win over the Padres, the Nats are now only 1 1/2 games up in the NL Wild Card race. Milwaukee erased two games in four days.

The Nats are just a half-game ahead of the Cubs for the first spot. They want that for home field advantage.

The schedule has been unforgiving with this series against St. Louis the Nats' fourth straight against a division-leading foe. The Cardinals are in the drivers seat in the NL Central with an 84-66 record overall and a 26-11 mark since Aug. 7.

Offense has been the Nats' most glaring issue of late. Their two runs on Monday gave them only 10 total in their last four games. The lone win came Sunday when the offense broke out for seven runs to avoid a sweep against the Braves.

The Nationals are going to need to get their bats going to close the deal on a postseason berth. They have only 13 games remaining and all but three are against clubs with winning records. They have two games to go against the Cardinals, who boast the NL's second-best ERA.

Several Nats players have stood out recently for their shortcomings at the plate. Trea Turner, who went 0-for-4 on Monday, is now 5-for-31 (.161) in his last eight games. He's sporting a .284 on-base percentage in his last 17 outings.

Adam Eaton also went 0-for-4 against the Cardinals and is currently 2-for-15 going back to the start of the Braves series on Friday night. He's batting .163 in his last 16 games with a .229 OBP.

That's just the top of the order. Ryan Zimmerman is now hitless in three straight games. Gerardo Parra, who for most of this season has been a plus off the bench, is 3-for-46 (.065) going back to Aug. 13.

Then there's Yan Gomes, who despite getting a hit on Monday is now 3-for-20 (.150) in his last six games. Gomes has done an admirable job by catching nine of the last 10 games, but Kurt Suzuki's bat has been missed. Suzuki, who has 16 homers and 58 RBI in only 81 games, has been sidelined due to right elbow inflammation. 

The lack of offense has put undue pressure on the pitching staff. Stephen Strasburg wasn't sharp on Monday, but managed to get through five innings with only two runs allowed. The Nats' bullpen then gave up a pair of runs split between Sean Doolittle and Hunter Strickland in the seventh.

It wasn't pretty, but allowing four runs is manageable. Scoring only two runs is a major problem. The Nats are now 5-24 this season when they score two or fewer runs.

Scoring is what got the Nationals to this point, currently holding a playoff spot. Since May 24, when they began their turnaround at 19-31, the Nats have scored more runs than any other NL team. 

They have to get back to that and soon. A lot can happen in the next 13 games.

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Steelers bolster secondary by trading for disgruntled Minkah Fitzpatrick

Steelers bolster secondary by trading for disgruntled Minkah Fitzpatrick

According to a report from Ian Rapoport, the Ravens will have to deal with Minkah Fitzpatrick two more times this season.

The Steelers boosted their secondary by adding Fitzpatrick in a trade with the Dolphins on Monday night. The Steelers sent their 2020 first-round pick to the Dolphins in exchange for the cornerback.

The Dolphins, after their opening week loss to the Ravens, gave permission for Fitzpatrick to seek a trade. Then the Steelers came calling. 

Fitzpatrick is a second-year defensive back who was a 2018 first-round pick out of Alabama. He expressed frustration in recent weeks about playing out of position and the team's lack of direction. 

Against the Ravens, Fitzpatrick was torched in the secondary that allowed Lamar Jackson to throw for five touchdowns in a 59-10 win. 

The Steelers will most likely have Fitzpatrick fully integrated to the lineup by the time they host the Ravens on Oct. 6. They'll head to Baltimore on Dec. 29 in Week 17.

At 0-2, the Steelers are making a big gamble on Fitzpatrick and his future in the league considering what their 2020 draft pick could be.

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