Nationals

Bills interview 3 candidates, including Chip Kelly

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Bills interview 3 candidates, including Chip Kelly

BUFFALO, N.Y. (AP) The Buffalo Bills coaching search went into overdrive Friday, when team officials interviewed three candidates, including Oregon's Chip Kelly, one of college football's hottest prospects.

The Bills announced just before midnight that newly promoted president Russ Brandon and his top executives also interviewed recently fired Chicago Bears coach Lovie Smith and Syracuse coach Doug Marrone. The Bills, stationed in Arizona for much of this week, didn't provide details regarding where the interviews took place or how long they lasted.

Next up for Buffalo is a trip to Denver on Saturday, when the team is scheduled to interview Broncos offensive coordinator Mike McCoy, according to a person familiar with Buffalo's plans. The person spoke on the condition of anonymity because the team has not revealed who they've lined up to meet.

The Bills are in the midst of their fifth coaching search since 2001 after Chan Gailey was fired on Monday.

It was a busy day for Kelly, as well. He also interviewed with Cleveland on Friday, and a person familiar with those negotiations said the Browns are nearing a deal with Oregon's offensive mastermind. Kelly's interviews were conducted a day after he led the fifth-ranked Ducks (12-1) to a 35-17 victory over No. 7 Kansas State in the Fiesta Bowl in Arizona.

Following the win, the 49-year-old Kelly said he wanted to get the interview process over ``quickly.''

Kelly was also supposed to meet with Philadelphia. However, a person familiar with the interviews says the Eagles are ``heading in another direction.''

The person spoke to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity because the team isn't discussing its negotiations publicly. The person added the Eagles planned to interview several other candidates regardless of any conversations with Kelly.

The Eagles were granted permission Friday to interview Colts offensive coordinator Bruce Arians and Seahawks defensive coordinator Gus Bradley and are scheduled to meet with McCoy in Denver on Sunday, as well.

The Bills are coming off their second consecutive 6-10 season and have not enjoyed a winning record since a 9-7 finish in 2004. They own the NFL's longest active playoff drought that's now at 13 consecutive seasons.

Buffalo has already interviewed former Cardinals coach Ken Whisenhunt, who was fired on Monday, as well as Cardinals defensive coordinator Ray Horton.

The Bills' meeting with Smith did not come as a surprise. Several reports surfaced over the past few days that the former Bears coach was interested in the Buffalo job since he was fired by the Bears on Monday. Smith has indirect ties to the Bills through former Bears defensive assistant coach Gill Byrd, who is the father of Buffalo safety Jairus Byrd.

Smith is a defensive-minded coach, who would have an opportunity to put his stamp on Buffalo's revamped but under-achieving defense, which struggled last year. The unit was among the NFL's worst despite the addition of defensive end Mario Williams, who signed a six-year, $100 million contract in free agency in March.

Marrone has been credited for turning around the Orange in four seasons. Syracuse rolled to an 8-5 finish by winning six of its last seven games this season, including a 38-14 win over West Virginia in the Pinstripe Bowl last weekend.

McCoy has become a hot prospect in his fourth season with the Broncos. He's played a key role in helping speed Peyton Manning's transition after the star quarterback signed with the team in free agency last offseason. McCoy has 13 years of NFL experience as an assistant, and previously spent eight seasons working under Broncos coach John Fox in Carolina.

Over his career, McCoy had quarterbacks reach 3,000 yards passing seven times. That includes Manning, who finished sixth in the NFL this season with 4,659 yards.

As the AFC's top seed, the Broncos are off until opening the playoffs on Jan. 12. They've allotted time for interested teams to interview McCoy in Denver this weekend. McCoy has also been linked as a candidate for coaching vacancies in Arizona and Chicago.

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AP Football Writer Rob Maaddi in Philadelphia, and AP Sports Writer Tom Withers in Cleveland, contributed to this report.

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Ryan Zimmerman’s return to the Nationals is finally happening

Ryan Zimmerman’s return to the Nationals is finally happening

If Ryan Zimmerman did not return to the Nationals, he at least would have a future teaching how not to negotiate.

Zimmerman openly drove down his bargaining leverage for almost a year before signing a one-year deal on Friday to return to the only professional team he’s known, a source confirmed. The deal is reported at $2 million.

Throughout the season, Zimmerman openly discussed his interest in returning and understanding it would be at a low rate. As if his stance wasn’t already clear, Zimmerman explained at a screening of the Nationals’ championship video he would return or play more golf.

“So, we’ll be good to go,” Zimmerman said.

It’s baseball for now. Zimmerman rejoins the defending World Series champions to play his 16th season. He’s a 35-year-old platoon player this season. Zimmerman’s money and legacy have been established. He’s back in the fold to pursue another title. 

And he makes an already old Nationals team older. Zimmerman turns 36 years old the day after the 2020 regular season ends. Howie Kendrick will be 37 years old by midseason. Asdrúbal Cabrera is 34 years old. Eric Thames is 33 years old. Will Harris is 35, Daniel Hudson 32, Sean Doolittle 33, Max Scherzer 35, Kurt Suzuki 36. Yan Gomes will be 33 just after the All-Star break. 

Zimmerman will share first base with Thames and, occasionally, Howie Kendrick. They provide an intriguing splits-based platoon. Thames hits right-handers well -- 23 of his 25 2019 home runs came against them, as did much of his opportunity in Milwaukee -- and Zimmerman has a .917 career OPS against left-handed pitchers. Zimmerman is the much better defender.

He’s back because he -- and the Nationals -- believe Zimmerman’s production remains directly tied to his health. His September and postseason work showed Zimmerman’s bat speed remains intact. He is quietly one of the better defensive first baseman in the league. They think they can protect him. Overall, the Nationals are so comfortable with an expanse of older players because they plan to shield them with limited usage. Also, Josh Donaldson went to Minnesota, clearing the cash and providing a need for Zimmerman. 

Kendrick, Cabrera and Starlin Castro can play various infield spots. Thames and Zimmerman will reduce the other’s role, as well as pinch-hit when not starting. Davey Martinez has options. He also has the challenge of rotating players. One thing on his side: older players know they are just that. Grousing about playing time should not be an issue with the group, the majority of which played as role players last year on the way to a World Series title. 

One other thing to note about Zimmerman: he’s 30 home runs short of 300. Can he get there with another two years on the field? He has at least one more to add to his total, assuring his driver has another lonely summer.

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Alex Ovechkin named to NHL's All-Decade first team for 2010-19

Alex Ovechkin named to NHL's All-Decade first team for 2010-19

Alex Ovechkin once again was named to one of the NHL's All-Decade teams.

This go-around, Ovechkin was named to the first-team for the All-Decade Team spanning 2010-2019. 

During those 10 seasons, there was no one that totaled more than Ovi's 437 goals. Only two others had more than his 730 points.

Through our eyes, we saw him mature from a unique superstar to a once-in-a-generation athlete. Ovechkin won his first Stanley Cup in the decade after years of heartbreak and dominant Capitals teams that could never escape the second round. 

Now, he's a mere eight goals away from reaching 700 and further etching his name in the fabric of the sport. 

He is joined with fellow forward Patrick Kane and Duncan Keith of the Blackhawks. Sidney Crosby of the Penguins, Drew Doughty of the Kings and Marc-Andre Fleury of the Golden Knights rounded out the six-player first team. 

NHL ALL-DECADE FIRST TEAM

Alex Ovechkin - F - Capitals
Patrick Kane - F - Blackhawks
Sidney Crosby - C - Penguins
Duncan Keith - D - Blackhawks
Drew Doughty - D - Kings
Marc-Andre Fleury - G- Golden Knights

NHL ALL-DECADE SECOND TEAM

Evgeni Malkin - F - Penguins
Patrice Bergeron - F - Bruins
Steven Stamkos - F - Lightning
Erik Karlsson - D - Sharks
Zdeno Chara - D - Bruins
Henrik Lundqvist - G - Rangers

The Great 8 was also named to the All-Decade team in 2000-10. Only Zdeno Chara and Sidney Crosby, named to the second team for the last decade, received the recognition last decade as well. 

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