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AP Sources: Syracuse's Marrone to take over Bills

AP Sources: Syracuse's Marrone to take over Bills

ORCHARD PARK, N.Y. (AP) Doug Marrone is set to try to turn around an NFL team after improving a college program down the road.

Marrone reached an agreement to become the Buffalo Bills' new coach Sunday, three people familiar with the negotiations told The Associated Press. One person said the sides were still putting the finishing touches on the contract for Marrone to sign.

The people spoke on the condition of anonymity because there has not been an official announcement.

Marrone will replace Chan Gailey, who was fired Dec. 31, a day after the Bills closed their second consecutive season with a 6-10 record and extended the NFL's longest active playoff drought to 13 seasons. The 48-year-old Marrone, who is from the Bronx, went 25-25 in four seasons at Syracuse.

ESPN.com first reported early Sunday that Marrone would be leaving the Orange to become the Bills' next coach.

Syracuse was 26-57 over a seven-year period before Marrone took over at his alma mater. The Orange finished this season 8-5, winning six of their last seven games, including a 38-14 victory over West Virginia in the Pinstripe Bowl.

A person who had a role in hiring Marrone in Syracuse, speaking on condition of anonymity because the move had not been announced, said Orange officials had been made aware the coach was leaving for the NFL.

Now, he's set for another challenge two hours down the New York State Thruway. He'll be taking over a team that has not had a winning record since 2004, is on its fifth head coach since 2001, and closed last season by losing seven of its final 10 games.

The Syracuse job was Marrone's first as a head coach. He has seven years of NFL experience; Marrone spent 2006-08 as the New Orleans Saints' offensive coordinator and was the New York Jets' offensive line coach from 2002-05.

Marrone's arrival in New Orleans coincided with the Saints' addition of Drew Brees. Though head coach Sean Payton called the plays on game day, Marrone helped oversee an offense that led the NFL in yards in 2006 and `08. In 2007, the Saints set a league record with 440 completions.

The Bills' perennially weak offense could certainly use a boost. And he's got work to do improving a high-priced but underachieving defense.

One of Marrone's first decisions on offense will be determining the future of quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick, who took a big step back in his third season as starter, and a year after signing a five-year, $59 million contract extension. Buffalo finished 19th in the NFL in yards gained and 21st in points scored this season.

Fitzpatrick, who shares the same agent as Marrone, is due a $3 million roster bonus in March.

General manager Buddy Nix has already said he plans to select a quarterback in the draft in April. He also hasn't ruled out the possibility of acquiring one in free agency or through a trade.

One draft candidate could be Syracuse senior Ryan Nassib, who is projected to be a second- or third-round pick.

The Bills defense performed well below the high expectations that were created in March, when Buffalo signed defensive end Mario Williams to a six-year, $100 million contract. The defense instead proved porous and incohesive in finishing among the NFL's worst. Buffalo allowed 435 points - the second-most in team history.

The Bills opened their coaching search Tuesday, when newly promoted President Russ Brandon and several executives traveled to Arizona, where they interviewed candidates. They met with former Cardinals coach Ken Whisenhunt and current Cardinals defensive coordinator Ray Horton. The Bills also interviewed Oregon coach Chip Kelly and former Bears coach Lovie Smith.

Marrone had also interviewed with the Cleveland Browns for their vacancy.

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AP Sports Writer John Kekis in Syracuse, N.Y., contributed to this report.

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Ted Leonsis maintains optimism amid harsh reality of John Wall injury

Ted Leonsis maintains optimism amid harsh reality of John Wall injury

CAPITAL ONE ARENA -- It might be quite a while before we see John Wall on the court playing for the Wizards again.

It was already well-known Wall will miss extended time as he recovers from a ruptured Achilles tendon, a rehab that usually takes at least 11 months. But it is starting to sound more and more like he won't play in the 2019-20 season at all.

Wizards managing partner Ted Leonsis shared that harsh reality on Monday during a press conference at Capital One Arena.

"Our highest-paid player, our five-time All-Star, may not play at all next year. He probably won't play at all next year," Leonsis said.

If Wall follows the general timeline for the surgery, he could come back sometime early in 2020. A 12-month recovery would have him return in early February.

If Wall missed all of next season, he would return to start the 2020-21 campaign after a 20-month recovery. That would be nearly double the rehab time many players have taken for the same injury over the years. He would be 30 years old by then.

But Wall and the Wizards have reason to be extra patient. He is entering the first season of a four-year, $170 million supermax contract. Punting the first year, even if he is making $38 million, could be worth it in the long run if it means he returns to his All-Star form.

The Wizards are also likely to have a gap year of sorts anyways. They retooled their roster with young, inexperienced players. The odds they make the playoffs this season are lower than they have been in years. The Wizards are taking the long view and they know getting Wall's rehab right is paramount.

Leonsis and team officials currently get daily reports on Wall's progress. After making the supermax investment, they are taking extra measures to ensure he is holding up his end of the bargain. The Wizards closely monitor his weight and have a rotation of physical therapists working with him every day.

If it were up to Wall, he would be more likely to return next season. The team is the side taking extra caution.

"Trust me, nobody wants to get back to the court more than John Wall," GM Tommy Sheppard told NBC Sports Washington. 

"But I've tried to manage this with him and say there is no calendar or clock that is going to tell you to come back. You're going to come back when you're 100 percent healthy. Anybody who has watched him in the playoffs play with broken hands and all of the aches and pains he's had over the years and he still showed up and played at a high, high level. You know you need to monitor him a little more than most. That's the kind of player that is going to try to sneak back on the court any time he can."

What Leonsis said publicly has been the belief behind the scenes in the Wizards organization for quite some time. They are preparing for next season as if he won't play, 

"We have to see if John Wall comes back and how he looks and how he plays," Leonsis told NBC Sports Washington. "If John Wall can come back at 80 percent the year after [in 2020-21], I would be really happy because then we would have a great, great backcourt."

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Redskins365 Episode 1: The Future Starts Now

Redskins365 Episode 1: The Future Starts Now

Over the 2019 offseason, the Washington Redskins periodically released episodes to a new series called "Redskins 365". Here, viewers can get an all-access look into all the important moments leading up to the 2019-20 season. In episode 1 titled "The Future Starts Now" the Redskins begin their journey toward improvement following the conclusion of the 2018-19 campaign.

The episode begins immediately following the disappointing end to Washington's season as players participated in locker cleanout day. A somewhat somber atmosphere, the likes of Shaun Dion Hamilton, Adrian Peterson, Ryan Kerrigan and Trent Williams reflect on the season and look ahead to 2019.

Following that, it's on to the additions and changes on the coaching staff. Head coach Jay Gruden gives his thoughts on new defensive staff hirings Ray Horton and Rob Ryan as well as Kevin O'Connell's jump to offensive coordinator. Ryan and O'Connell also explain their excitement for next season in their respective roles.

With the coaching staff puzzle becoming clear, the episode transitions to the NFL Combine. Gruden along with Senior Vice President of Player Personnel Doug Williams, President Bruce Allen and Director of College Scouting Kyle Smith take you through the Combine process. Discussions about the interview process and what the Redskins are looking for in players give insight into how evaluations are done. 

The Combine portion has a heavy focus on players Kyler Murray, D.K. Metcalf and Montez Sweat among others. Released on March 20, one can see and hear from Sweat before the idea of him becoming a Redskin came to fruition and listen to Metcalf's thoughts on Jay Gruden.

Head Strength and Conditioning Coach Chad Englehart also makes an appearance, discussing his viral moment with Ed Oliver at the combine and the fraternity-type bond conditioning coaches in the NFL share.

Washington's journey toward success in 2019 began the moment the clock ran out on the 2018 season. Episode 1 of "Redskins365" picks up right in that preliminary stage.

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