Redskins

Auburn fires Gene Chizik after 3-9 season

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Auburn fires Gene Chizik after 3-9 season

AUBURN, Ala. (AP) Gene Chizik led Auburn to perhaps the greatest season in the program's history, and two years later to maybe its worst.

The rapid fall from a national championship to 3-9 and the Southeastern Conference doormat led to Chizik's firing Sunday, the day after a humbling 49-0 loss to No. 2 Alabama that showed just how far the program has slipped.

The Tigers endured the worst slide within two years of winning a national championship of any team since the Associated Press poll started in 1936 and hadn't lost this many games since going 0-10 in 1950. The decision came 17 months after Auburn gave Chizik a contract worth some $3.5 million annually through 2015 with a hefty buyout.

Auburn athletic director Jay Jacobs said he informed Chizik Saturday night that he would recommend to President Jay Gogue the next morning that Chizik not be retained.

He said he had concerns with lopsided losses in 2011 but grew ``very concerned in our fundamental approach to the game'' after the Arkansas game.

``I had hoped our team would show some improvement this season,'' Jacobs said. ``Unfortunately it didn't. The competition in our league is fierce. I decided we could not risk falling further behind by waiting for another year and hoping for improvement.''

The players were informed in a team meeting Sunday.

``I'm extremely disappointed with the way this season turned out and I apologize to the Auburn family and our team for what they have had to endure,'' Chizik said in a statement released by Auburn. ``In my 27 years of coaching, I have gained an understanding of the high expectations in this profession. When expectations are not met, I understand changes must be made.''

The Tigers went from 14-0 with a perfect SEC record with Cam Newton leading the offense in 2010 to 3-9 and 0-8, losing their final three league games by a combined 150-21. Auburn was blown out by Texas A&M (63-21) and Georgia (38-0) but the finale was even more painful for Tigers fans.

The Crimson Tide cruised to a six-touchdown halftime lead and the second-most lopsided Iron Bowl victory in history, behind only the Tide's 55-0 win in 1948.

``While we experienced a tremendous low in 2012, I will always be proud of the incredible highs that we achieved, including three bowl victories, an SEC championship and a national championship,'' Chizik said.

He was 33-19 in four seasons and 15-17 in SEC games.

Auburn said the total buyout for Chizik and his assistant coaches is $11.09 million. Chizik's buyout is expected to total $7.5 million and will be paid in monthly installments for the next four years.

Six assistants are under contract through June 30, 2013 while defensive coordinator Brian VanGorder, offensive coordinator Scot Loeffler and wide receivers coach Trooper Taylor have deals extending another year beyond that.

The buyouts could be reduced if the coaches find other jobs.

Auburn joins Arkansas, Tennessee and Kentucky as SEC teams with job openings showing the huge divide in a league with six teams ranked in the Top 11.

Auburn tight end Philip Lutzenkirchen said players gave Chizik a warm ovation after the team meeting.

``I think we did what he deserved and we gave him a standing ovation and clapped for him,'' he said. ``There's so much love for coach Chizik on this team. Would we have loved to see him get another year, another opportunity? Yes, but at the same time we understand where Jay Jacobs is coming from. Three wins isn't going to cut it in our league.''

Defensive tackle Jeff Whitaker said, ``It's kind of crazy right now. I had a special bond with Coach Chizik.''

Chizik inserted tailback Tre Mason on the final play against Alabama to get him to 1,000 yards. The next day, Mason saw his coach get fired.

``It was a rough day for everybody,'' Mason said. ``It's tough. There are going to be a lot of tears shed because there are a lot of relationships that may be put on hold or come to an end today. I have nothing negative to say about coach Chizik. He's done a lot for me and this program. I wish him the best of luck in his future.''

Chizik had sandwiched two 8-5 seasons around the national title, but never approached the success of 2010, when Newton won the Heisman Trophy. The Tigers were 7-17 in SEC games outside of 2010 during his tenure.

His hiring was criticized by some fans after Chizik went 5-19 in two seasons at Iowa State and lost the last 10 games of his first head coaching job.

Jacobs was heckled at the airport after making the hire.

Chizik had been defensive coordinator on unbeaten teams at Auburn and Texas.

A search committee comprised of former Heisman Trophy winners Pat Sullivan and Bo Jackson and former Tigers fullback Mac Crawford will assist Jacobs, the school said.

Jacobs said he wants a proven winner - not necessarily an experienced head coach - who follows the rules and stresses academics.

A transition year in 2012 might have been expected.

Chizik had to replace the offensive and defensive coordinators after last season. Chizik made an ill-fated switch from Gus Malzahn's no-huddle, spread offense to a pro-style system with the hiring of former Temple offensive coordinator Scot Loeffler.

The Tigers struggled in the transition, partly because of shaky quarterback play and ended the season with freshman Jonathan Wallace under center.

Auburn ranked at or near the bottom of the SEC in every major statistical category offensively and defensively.

Chizik's tenure was marred by off-the-field problems, too, to the extent that he had employees of a private firm run curfew checks on players this season.

Four members of the 2010 national championship team were arrested on robbery charges in March 2011. Antonio Goodwin was convicted in April and sentenced to 15 years in prison. Dakota Mosley, Michael McNeil and Shaun Kitchens are awaiting trial.

Two-time 1,000-yard rusher Mike Dyer transferred to Arkansas State with Malzahn after being indefinitely suspended before the bowl game.

Freshman quarterback Zeke Pike was arrested in June for public intoxication and later dismissed from the team. Starting center Reese Dismukes was suspended for the opener against Clemson following a public intoxication arrest.

Auburn is also the subject of an NCAA investigation that includes the recruitment of Memphis running back Jovon Robinson, who was ruled ineligible after a guidance counselor admitted to creating a fake transcript.

Chizik's contract includes a clause that it wouldn't owe the buyout money if he is fired for cause, including findings of major rules violations or significant or repetitive violations'' involving him or his program.

Chizik and Auburn have weathered past NCAA scrutiny. The governing body closed investigations into the recruitment of Newton and allegations from four former players that they were paid thousands of dollars during their college careers.

``I've got the utmost confidence in our NCAA compliance,'' Jacobs said. ``Basically it boils down to winning and losing. Winning three games is unacceptable.''

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5 questions facing the Redskins as the Case Keenum/Dwayne Haskins QB battle begins

5 questions facing the Redskins as the Case Keenum/Dwayne Haskins QB battle begins

The Redskins have a quarterback battle. Repeat, the Redskins have a quarterback battle. This is not a drill. It is an open competition. 

When the team gathers in Ashburn on Monday for offseason training activities, it will be the first time that veteran passer Case Keenum and first-round rookie Dwayne Haskins will be on the field at the same time. Incumbent backup QB Colt McCoy should be present as well, but not active as he works back from multiple leg surgeries this offseason. 

The team has plenty of questions for the 2019 season, and the answers will start coming as early as this week. No question is bigger than the signal caller though.

  1. QB Battle - Every major factor in the Redskins organization has been clear that Haskins will get a chance to compete for the starting job. That means every throw between Keenum, the presumed starter after the 'Skins traded for him in February, and the Ohio State rookie will be over analyzed. If McCoy was healthy, he would have a jump start in the competition because he knows head coach Jay Gruden's offense. McCoy isn't healthy though, and that means more reps and work for Keenum and Haskins. This battle will be ongoing throughout the summer, but on Monday with the media present, it will be very interesting to see what player gets more work with the first-team offense.
  2. Who's still hurt - Speaking of the first-team offense, a number of players will be working back from offseason surgery. Will Paul Richardson be out there? Trent Williams? How healthy is Jordan Reed, and what about Derrius Guice? Brandon Scherff? There are a lot  of questions, and some of them will be answered simply by seeing guys run around. Second-year wideouts Cam Sims and Trey Quinn both finished the 2018 season on the injured reserve; will they be ready to go? There are a lot of people to watch out for. 
  3. STARTING DEFENSE (LATIMER VOICE*) - Landon Collins was the prize of free agency, and Monday he will be on the field barking directions at teammates. How will he fit in with Josh Norman, and how does Quinton Dunbar look? When Dunbar went down with a leg nerve injury last season, the Washington defense fell apart. If he is all the way back would be big news for Greg Manusky's defense. There's also Reuben Foster. This will be the first time for the media to see Foster on the field in a Redskins uniform after his controversial acquisition last November. Presumably Foster will answer questions after the OTA session, stay tuned for that.
  4. Camp is over for the rookies - Beyond Haskins, the Redskins have nine other draft picks taking part in OTAs. The rookies went through their own private minicamp last week, but this will be quite different. Rookie minicamp is about letting the new players get acclimated to the new facility and team; OTAs are about real work. Will Montez Sweat take the field with the Redskins first-team defense? What about the two rookie receivers in Terry McLaurin and Kelvin Harmon? There will be hiccups for the rookies, that's inevitable, but now is the time to prove they belong. With all the injuries on the offensive line, Wes Martin has the inside track on a starting job. 
  5. Absent, but not hurt - Never forget that OTAs are voluntary for players, and usually a handful of guys don't show up. That will likely happen tomorrow and some fans might react negatively. Don't be one of them. 

* If you don't get that reference, go watch The Program. 

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Potential coaching staff changes rocket into discussion for Wizards

Potential coaching staff changes rocket into discussion for Wizards

We can begin free agent watch with the Washington Wizards way before July 1.

This isn’t about players. Coaching changes can happen whenever.

News broke Saturday out of Houston that the Rockets would not retain associate head coach Jeff Bzdelik. Considered one of the league’s top defensive minds, Bzdelik’s relationship with Scott Brooks along with comments made by the Wizards head coach at the NBA Combine makes this transaction interesting.

Bzdelik, 66, gave Brooks his first NBA coaching job when the then Denver Nuggets head coach hired the former player in 2003.

"I'm thankful for coach Bzdelik," Brooks told the Houston Chronicle in 2016.  "He gave me my first NBA coaching start. One of the best coaches I've ever been around. He has great understanding of the game, both ends of the floor.”

Fast forward to Thursday inside Chicago’s Quest Multisport facility. Amid 5-on-5 games involving 2019 draft prospects, players holding court with media members and the general convention vibe that comes with the NBA Combine, Brooks spent a few minutes chatting with reporters.

Among the non-draft or general manager search topics, whether any changes to the coaching staff were forthcoming.

"I’ve talked to Ted. I definitely talked Ted,” Brooks began his reply, referencing Wizards owner Ted Leonsis. “I have a lot of respect for our organization. I have to get better, first and foremost…Will the staff remain the same? Every year, staffs change. Every year staffs change. We're probably going to make some changes. I don't know if it's for sure. Everything is still up in the air.”

Brooks also noted change could come from members of his staff seeking opportunities elsewhere. Tony Brown, Brooks’ lead assistant during his three seasons with the Wizards, became a coaching free agent following Washington’s 32-50 season, according to NBC Sports Washington’s Chris Miller.

Two days after Brooks’ comments came news of Bzdelik’s exit in Houston.

Bzdelik, a former Bullets assistant from 1988-94 and three-time college head coach, retired following the 2017-18 season. He returned to the Rockets in November following Houston’s slow start. The associate head coach is credited with guiding the team’s defensive improvement as the Rockets rose up the Western Conference standings.

The Houston Chronicle reported Bzdelik, whose contract expired after this season, remained uncommitted to returning. The Rockets announced Saturday they would not renew his deal.

The Wizards do not want a repeat of their defensive struggles. Only the Atlanta Hawks allowed more points per game than the 116.9 Washington surrendered last season. The Wizards ranked 28th in opponent field goal percentage (48.0) and 27th in 3-point shooting percentage (37.0).

It’s unclear how the Wizards fix those defensive concerns based solely on personnel. The current roster with five healthy players does not include any forwards or mobile big men. Point guard John Wall is expected to miss the majority of the upcoming season following February’s surgery for a ruptured Achilles. Wall, an erratic defensive presence in recent seasons, was previously selected to the NBA’s all-defensive team in 2015.

Coaching strategies could become the primary driver of change on the defensive end. The man who brought Brooks into the coaching fraternity would make for an obvious addition if both sides are interested.

"The accountability that [Jeff] taught me with the coaching staff and the players is second to none,” Brooks told the Chronicle in 2016. “I learned about work. I learned how to transfer my playing career into a coaching career with his help."

News of the next front office leader likely comes before coaching staff tweaks.

Nuggets President of Basketball Operations Tim Connelly was offered the same position with the Wizards Saturday after Denver granted Washington permission to meet. In the interim, the Wizards sent a contingent of scouting personnel along with Brooks to Chicago as the team conducted player interviews and watched scrimmages.

“Ted is going to make a decision and I trust that I going to be the best for the program moving forward,” Brooks said Thursday. “As of right now, (interim GM Tommy Sheppard) is doing a great job leading the group. We all feel comfortable with what’s going on. Hopefully, things work out and we move forward as an organization. We all have to get better, myself included.”

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