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Are these Eagles attractive to coach candidates?

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Are these Eagles attractive to coach candidates?

PHILADELPHIA (AP) Playing for the Philadelphia Eagles was more appealing over the past decade than coaching them might be now.

With seven teams looking for a new coach, the Eagles might end up having to compete for a guy who will get multiple offers. Owner Jeffrey Lurie made quite a sales pitch after firing Andy Reid. He highlighted everything from the fans down to his hands-off approach.

``I'm very confident that this is the most attractive place for a head coach to work in the National Football League,'' Lurie said. ``We have an incredible fan base. This one's amazing. They want what we want and that's an obsession not just to be good, but to be great and that's big.''

There's no denying the Eagles have passionate fans who aren't afraid to express their opinion. They'll boo vociferously whenever they feel a player isn't giving his best effort and when the team plays poorly. They'll also demand the coach gets fired if he's not getting the job done. In Reid's case, they wanted him gone because he couldn't win a Super Bowl.

But Eagles fans also have a way of loving a guy unconditionally if he completely wins them over. Dick Vermeil led the Eagles to the Super Bowl in 1980 and also lost. Buddy Ryan never even won a playoff game in his five seasons as coach. Both men are still revered in this city, maybe more for their personalities than their accomplishments.

After lauding the fans, Lurie pointed to the fact Philadelphia is a ``huge'' media market.

``If you want to be at the forefront of NFL in America, this is a top-four, top-five media market. That's great,'' Lurie said.

Of course, he didn't mention the intense scrutiny that comes with coaching here.

Lurie called the team's practice site the ``best facilities'' in the league. The NovaCare complex certainly is top-notch, but Vermeil and Ryan worked successfully at the downtrodden offices at Veterans Stadium, and Reid started out there.

Perhaps Lurie's best selling point is that he stays out of the way and allows the coach and personnel department to make all the football decisions. He also is willing to spend the money it takes to get big-name players, though a few recently have underachieved.

``History of an owner-coach relationship, I think virtually unmatched,'' Lurie said. ``I think that the resources, any coach coming here knows there's no limitation on the resources in any direction, financial or otherwise, that's put towards the football program. Everyone knows that in the league.''

Lastly, Lurie talked about the winning culture Reid created. A new coach wouldn't have to infuse that into the franchise because it still exists, according to Lurie. Considering the last two seasons, that point can be argued.

``To come into an organization that is used to winning, used to winning big and it's part of the mantra and the culture in an organization, that's huge,'' Lurie said. ``When Andy came, we had to change the culture, turn it around and that's a much harder job. This job is taking a culture that exists. There's been some negative turns in the performance of the team, especially this season and last, and I think that it's ripe for a real smart, forward-thinking coach who wants to get his hand on a great situation.

``To me, this is the best situation for a coach to look at.''

Lurie builds a strong case to promote his team to candidates, but the one area where the Eagles lack most is talent. Everyone overevaluated the ``Dream Team'' that went 8-8 in 2011. The group that finished 4-12 this season was even worse.

On offense, there's no clear franchise quarterback. Veteran Michael Vick's days in Philadelphia are numbered. Rookie Nick Foles may be the answer, but he's still an unknown with potential.

The Eagles are set at running back with LeSean McCoy and Bryce Brown. That's about it. They must get a bigger, stronger wide receiver because DeSean Jackson and Jeremy Maclin can't handle the load. Their offensive line was a mess. Only Evan Mathis started every game and three starters are returning from season-ending injuries.

The defense has decent depth on the line, though it lacks a consistent pass-rusher. The secondary was awful and their linebackers were so-so. The Eagles forced just 13 turnovers, a sign they don't have playmakers on defense.

``I think we have a lot of good young players on the team,'' Lurie said. ``That doesn't mean we don't have significant holes as well.''

It's not just a matter of finding good players, either. The Eagles don't seem to have enough character guys. That was evidenced by the way Vick and McCoy criticized their teammates after the season.

``It's all about focus, dedication and commitment,'' Vick said. ``Until you get guys who are willing to better themselves week in and week out and want to win, you're not going to win. And I haven't played with guys like that. It's unfortunate for Coach things turned out the way they are. It could have been a lot better. This locker room could have dictated that.''

McCoy was equally critical.

``I think guys made a lot of excuses,'' he said. ``Guys maybe weren't playing up to par. Guys weren't focusing enough. Guys making money and not putting out. Guys were looking for excuses.''

Excuses won't cut it. The new coach has to make sure of that.

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Follow Rob Maaddi on Twitter:https://twitter.com/RobMaaddi

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

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Predicting the 2018-19 NBA awards and the NBA Finals: LeBron James will win MVP

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USA Today Sports

Predicting the 2018-19 NBA awards and the NBA Finals: LeBron James will win MVP

With the 2018-19 NBA season kicking off this week, it seems like a good time to put my predictions out into the universe. 

I am fortunate to be a voter for both the All-Star teams and the NBA Awards, but I can assure you of this: much of this is impossible to forecast. I decided to only include the first team selections for All-NBA, All-Defense and All-Rookie because the less I predict, the less I get wrong.

With that said, here is how I expect the major awards, plus the NBA Finals, to shake out... 

MVP: LeBron James, Lakers

Going to L.A. to play with such a bizarre supporting cast was all by design so he could win his fifth MVP award, right? Okay, maybe not. But if LeBron carries that team to even a fifth seed the trophy should be his.

Defensive player of the year: Anthony Davis, Pelicans

This always goes to a big man and Davis finished second last year. He's probably going to have a monster season overall.

All-NBA first team: G Stephen Curry, G James Harden, F LeBron James, F Giannis Antetokounmpo, C Anthony Davis

All of these guys are going to make the All-NBA team, it's just a matter of which tier. The toughest one to leave off was Joel Embiid, but you can only pick five.

Rookie of the year: Deandre Ayton, Suns

Luka Doncic has become a popular pick here, but Ayton averaged 18.2 points and 10.0 rebounds per game in the preseason. If that is any precursor whatsoever, he's going to be tough to beat.

Sixth man award: Austin Rivers, Wizards

Rivers is a starting-caliber guard now back to playing off the bench. He should help John Wall and Bradley Beal a ton this year and we know he will get buckets. If he can maintain anything close to his scoring average from last season (15.1), he will be on the short-list for sure.

Most improved: Brandon Ingram, Lakers

Though L.A. has a lot of questions, Ingram seems most likely to benefit from James' ability to make those around him better. He should thrive in a secondary scoring role.

Coach of the year: Billy Donovan, Thunder

The Thunder won 48 games last season, but could improve a lot in Year 2 with Paul George. They have loads of talent and Dennis Schroder will fit nicely on their bench.

Executive of the year: Sam Presti, Thunder

You may be sensing a theme here. I see the Thunder becoming the clear-cut No. 3 team in the West and Presti will get plenty of praise for retaining George and getting something legitimate back for Carmelo Anthony.

All-rookie team: Luka Doncic (Mavs), Miles Bridges (Hornets), Marvin Bagley III (Kings), Jaren Jackson Jr. (Grizzlies), Deandre Ayton (Suns)

This is shaping up to be a really good class. Guys like Mo Bamba (great song), Kevin Knox, Shai Gilgeous-Alexander and Wendell Carter Jr. will likely be in the mix as well. 

All-defensive team: G Chris Paul, G Klay Thompson, F Draymond Green, F Anthony Davis, C Joel Embiid

Thompson should finally get his due this year. He is clearly one of the best defenders at his position, but hasn't received the proper recognition for it.

NBA Finals: Warriors over Celtics, 4-2

Picking the champion of the 2018-19 season is too easy and no one should feel good about that. Sports are better when they aren't predictable. But who will finish second is where it gets interesting. I see the Celtics being that team and winning two games in the Finals, though it won't be a close series.

 

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Peter King awards two Ravens with weekly honors for defensive performance vs. Titans

Peter King awards two Ravens with weekly honors for defensive performance vs. Titans

The Baltimore Ravens' Week 6 dominate performance over the Tennessee Titans is gaining national attention. 

A historic game that displayed the offense and defense firing on all cylinders, it's hard to pinpoint who had the biggest impact. 

So in his latest edition of Football Morning in America, NBC Sports' Peter King awarded not one, but two Ravens with weekly honors.

DEFENSIVE PLAYER OF THE WEEK: Za'Darius Smith

Against the Titans, Smith led the Ravens defense with three sacks and five tackles in their historic 11-sack game. On of three Defensive Players of the Week, King explained why Smith's performance stood out.

In the most dominant defensive performance of this ultra-offensive season, the Ravens shut out Tennessee 21-0 and had 11 sacks. Another one of GM Ozzie Newsome’s draft gifts that keeps on giving, Smith (2015, round four, Kentucky) contributed three sacks of Marcus Mariota and five tackles in a virtuoso game. Net passing yards for Mariota: 51.

Smith, who's entering the final year of his rookie NFL contract, has shown over six games he deserves to get paid in the offseason. So far this season the 26-year-old has 20 combined tackles, 5.5 sacks and one forced fumble. 

COACH OF THE WEEK: Don "Wink" Martindale

In his first season as defensive coordinator, Don "Wink" Martindale has seamlessly made the transition from linebackers coach to leading the NFL's No. 1 scoring defense (12.8). But what impressed King the most from the 21-0 shutout was how Martindale's squad got to Mariota from every direction. 

When a unit records more sacks (11) than completions allowed (10), the leader gets an award. Those are the rules. Martindale’s pass rushers got to Marcus Mariota every possible way—up the middle, around the edges, in the pocket, on bootlegs, you name it. The total set a new franchise record and was one short of the single-game NFL mark of 12. And it came with a familiar face watching: Titans defensive coordinator Dean Pees used to hold the same position in Baltimore. Shout out to the Ravens social media team for renaming the account RavenSSSSSSSSSSS, one ‘S’ for each sack.

This Ravens defense, who has always been known for its dominance, is ranked first in points allowed (12.8), first in yards allowed (270.8), second in passing yards allowed (188.0) and third in rushing yards allowed (82.8) heading into Week 7. In addition, they have yet to surrender a second half touchdown all season. Trusting of the talent this roster holds, the respect "Wink" has for his players is equally reciprocated. 

"It was really emotional when they told us we had 11 sacks," linebacker Patrick Onwuasor said postgame. "We just went out there and we were like, ‘We have to get Coach Wink . We have to put the Gatorade on him.’ So, we tried to turn him around so he couldn’t see it coming, and we had to get him real good."

Martindale will now face the No. 1 scoring offense in the New Orleans Saints on Sunday. 

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