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Browns circle back in search of coach

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Browns circle back in search of coach

CLEVELAND (AP) The Browns have circled back in their coaching search after a wild weekend out West.

Now into their second week looking for the team's sixth full-time coach since 1999, Cleveland owner Jimmy Haslam and CEO Joe Banner are assessing the candidates they've already interviewed and setting up meetings with others on their radar.

On Sunday, the Browns eliminated Oregon coach Chip Kelly as a candidate because of his hesitancy about jumping to the pros, a person with knowledge of the team's meeting with the 49-year-old told the Associated Press. The Browns questioned whether Kelly ``was committed to coming to the NFL,'' said the person, who spoke on condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the search.

The Browns met for seven hours in Arizona on Friday with Kelly, and were closing in on a deal when he agreed to keep scheduled meetings with Buffalo and Philadelphia.

At the end of a whirlwind 48 hours, the Browns backed off from Kelly, who has decided to return to Oregon, two people with knowledge of his plans told the AP.

It's the second time in two years Kelly has flirted with leaving college before choosing to stay with his supersonic Ducks, who have gone 46-7 with a high-scoring, warp-speed offense he designed. He has taken the school to four straight BCS bowls.

At this point, there doesn't appear to be any front runner to fill Cleveland's coaching vacancy. Last week, the Browns are known to have interviewed former Arizona coach Ken Whisenhunt, Cardinals defensive coordinator Ray Horton, Syracuse coach Doug Marrone and Penn State coach Bill O'Brien.

Marrone, who had two meetings with the Browns and was believed to be high on their initial list, was introduced as Buffalo's coach Monday and O'Brien returned to Happy Valley.

The Browns could be expanding their search beyond U.S. borders.

The team is expected to interview Montreal Alouettes coach Marc Trestman, whose resume includes extensive time as an NFL offensive assistant, most recently with the Miami Dolphins in 2004. The 56-year-old has been with Montreal since 2008, leading the Alouettes to two CFL titles in his five seasons.

Trestman coached Cleveland's quarterbacks in 1988 and was the team's offensive coordinator in 1989.

The Browns have not scheduled an interview with Trestman.

Haslam said last week that he would be willing to wait a month to find the ``right person'' to coach the Browns, who fired Pat Shurmur last week after a 5-11 season. Cleveland has lost at least 11 games in each of the past five seasons - the second-longest run of futility in league history.

Haslam is determined to find a strong leader to take over his team, bring stability to the franchise and win championships. There's a chance the billionaire businessman will try to convince Alabama's Nick Saban to come to Cleveland and be that guy.

The 61-year-old Saban, who will lead the Crimson Tide in Monday night's BCS title game against Notre Dame, went 15-17 in two years with the Dolphins before taking over at Alabama. There's been speculation Saban would consider returning to the pros - for the right job.

``I don't have any unfinished business in the NFL,'' Saban said at Saturday's BCS title game media day. ``It's not something I'm concerned about. It's not even anything I want to do.''

Saban worked in Cleveland as an assistant under Bill Belichick from 1991-94.

There's another Kelly who could draw the Browns' interest - Fighting Irish coach Brian Kelly.

Kelly insisted he's not thinking about anything other than beating `Bama, but that could change once the season ends, and especially if he's hoisting a Waterford crystal football over his head amid a blizzard of confetti.

Kelly knows NFL teams may come knocking on his door, but he insisted he's content coaching the nation's No. 1 team.

``I think from my perspective I've got the best job in the country, NFL, college, high school, whatever,'' he said. ``I just look at the place that I'm at and thankful for the opportunity that I have.''

Indianapolis offensive coordinator Bruce Arians is believed to be among the candidates the Browns intend to interview.

The 60-year-old Arians remained in a Baltimore hospital on Monday after being admitted with an undisclosed illness before the Colts' playoff loss to the Ravens. Arians did not coach in the game after suffering flu-like symptoms a few hours before kickoff. Colts coach Chuck Pagano said tests on Arians have been negative.

The Colts went 9-3 under Arians, who served as the Colts' head coach after Pagano was diagnosed with leukemia. The Colts have already given permission to Chicago and Philadelphia to speak with Arians about their coaching vacancies. He was an assistant with the Browns (2001-03) and Haslam, a former minority owner with Pittsburgh, is familiar with him from his seasons working as the Steelers offensive coordinator (2007-11).

It's possible the Browns may approach other A-list candidates, including former NFL coaches Jon Gruden and Bill Cowher.

However, neither has given any indication they're ready to leave cushy jobs as TV analysts and return to the coaching grind. Gruden is under contract to stay on Monday Night Football, but his name always surfaces during the offseason and has long been attached to the Browns because of his Ohio roots.

Haslam was forced to deny a report in November that he tried to entice Gruden to take the coaching job at the University of Tennessee with the promise of an ownership stake in the Browns. Haslam is a graduate of the school and a booster.

The Browns also must hire a general manager or player personnel director, but won't do that until they find their next coach.

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

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Wizards release united statement in response to the death of George Floyd

Wizards release united statement in response to the death of George Floyd

While protests continue across the country following the death of George Floyd, the world's biggest sports figures, including Michael Jordan and LeBron James, have used their platforms to make it clear where they stand on the numerous social issues fueling the protests.

You can now add the Washington Wizards to that group. Early Monday morning, the Wizards posted a "united statement" on social media in response to Floyd's death and the protests that have followed.

Included in the post are four separate statements.

"We will no longer tolerate the assassination of people of color in this country."

"We will no longer accept the abuse of power from law enforcement."

"We will no longer accept ineffective government leaders who are tone-deaf, lack compassion or respect for communities of color."

"We will no longer shut up and dribble."

John Wall, Bradley Beal, Davis Bertans and Rui Hachimura were among players to share the same statements on Instagram.

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What if the Nationals faced the Yankees, not the Astros, in the World Series?

What if the Nationals faced the Yankees, not the Astros, in the World Series?

This week, NBC Sports Washington is taking a look at some of the biggest “What If” questions in Nationals history. First up, Matt Weyrich and Jim Scibilia examine what the 2019 World Series would’ve looked like had the Yankees faced Washington instead of the Astros.

The Houston Astros had a pretty brutal last few months of 2019.

They closed out the month of October by blowing leads in both Games 6 and 7 of the World Series, handing the Nationals one of the biggest upset victories in MLB history. In November, they were exposed for carrying out an illegal sign-stealing scheme that prompted a two-month investigation. Then, just before Christmas, they lost star pitcher Gerrit Cole in free agency.

Perhaps the only thing that could’ve made it worse? Losing to the New York Yankees in the American League Championship Series to fall short of winning the AL pennant.

In another timeline, the Yankees came back against the Astros in Game 6 of the ALCS before taking them down in a win-or-go-home Game 7. The matchup would’ve posed a very different challenge for the Nationals, who swept the St. Louis Cardinals in the NLCS before waiting four days to find out who they would be facing in the World Series.

The Yankees would’ve made their 41st appearance in the Fall Classic, an MLB record. Meanwhile, the Nationals were embarking on their first World Series run in franchise history—and D.C.’s first appearance since 1933. Even though the Astros posed a juggernaut-type threat as well, the Yankees’ history would’ve made the uphill battle appear even more steep for Washington.

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D.C. doesn’t get a lot of credit nationally for being a sports town, but there’s no better way for a fanbase to get in the spotlight than by facing a New York City team in a championship. How does the Nationals Park crowd fare against the Yankee Stadium faithful? What is each city doing to support its team? Have mayors Bill de Blasio and Muriel Bowser made a friendly wager on the outcome of the series?

As for the games themselves, the Nationals entered the World Series on seven days’ rest while the Yankees would’ve only had two days to prepare following their ALCS Game 7 win. Even though many debated whether they would be rusty after the break from playing, the Nationals jumped out to a 2-0 series lead against Houston; they would've been fresh and ready to take on a tired Yankees team.

Yankees manager Aaron Boone planned to use Luis Severino in Game 7 of the ALCS had they made it, which would’ve lined up the following pitching matchups in the World Series:

Game 1 – Masahiro Tanaka vs. Max Scherzer (with Corbin available out of the bullpen)

Game 2 – James Paxton vs. Stephen Strasburg

Game 3 – Luis Severino vs. Aníbal Sánchez

Game 4 – Yankees’ bullpen vs. Patrick Corbin

Game 5 – Masahiro Tanaka vs. Joe Ross (Scherzer woke up that morning with neck spasms)

Game 6 – James Paxton vs. Stephen Strasburg

Game 7 – Luis Severino vs. Max Scherzer

Just like the real Game 1 with Scherzer and Cole on the mound, this version would’ve featured a fantastic pitching matchup with three-time Cy Young winner Scherzer facing Tanaka and his 1.76 career postseason ERA. However, there was no Justin Verlander behind Tanaka like the Astros had behind Cole, pushing the advantage in starting pitching much farther over in favor of Washington.

Paxton and Severino combined to make five playoff starts last October and only once did one of them advance past the fifth inning (Paxton went six in ALCS Game 5). Strasburg, who won World Series MVP, would’ve been the difference maker with two matchups against Paxton while Severino would’ve been tasked with besting NLCS star Sánchez and Scherzer.

The most intriguing matchup, however, might have been Game 4. The Yankees entered the playoffs with one of the best bullpens in the majors, making it an easy choice for Boone to use his relief corps rather than give J.A. Happ or CC Sabathia a chance to start. On the other side, the Nationals would've been starting prized offseason addition Corbin. The runner-up for his services in free agency? The Yankees.

On offense, New York boasted an elite combination of star power and depth much like the Astros. Giancarlo Stanton would’ve been a player to watch, as his 34 home runs against the Nationals from his time with the Miami Marlins are his second-highest total against any team. Aaron Judge, DJ LeMahieu, Edwin Encarnacion and Gary Sanchez all presented power threats in the box as well.

Perhaps the two most fun players to watch in the series, however, would’ve been Gleyber Torres and Juan Soto. Both young stars from Latin America play with a flair and level of self-confidence that make them must-watch TV every time they step to the plate. Although each player had already built up a national reputation on their own, facing off on the World Series stage would’ve been a treat for fans everywhere.

Of course, the Yankees didn’t make the World Series, so we’ll never know what the outcome would’ve been had the Nationals faced them instead. But there’s no doubt such a matchup would’ve presented plenty of intrigue—both on and off the field.

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