Nationals

Browns, Eagles vying for Oregon's Kelly

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Browns, Eagles vying for Oregon's Kelly

CLEVELAND (AP) The Browns figured they could close a deal with Chip Kelly over dinner.

That was before the Eagles took Oregon's coach to a lengthy lunch.

Cleveland owner Jimmy Haslam and CEO Joe Banner spent much of Saturday waiting for a second meeting with Kelly, the Ducks' offensive mastermind, to hopefully finalize an agreement to make him the Browns' sixth full-time coach since 1999.

However, Kelly decided to keep a scheduled interview with Philadelphia that lasted longer than expected and carried into the night, delaying the Browns' second chance at signing college football's hottest coach.

Kelly and his representatives had met Haslam and Banner for a reported seven hours in Arizona on Friday. They came close to reaching a deal, but the sides parted company without a financial agreement with signs pointing toward Kelly leaning toward joining the Browns.

Kelly also met with the Buffalo Bills on Friday, and he decided to keep his appointment with the Eagles, who had briefly pulled their interest in pursuing the 49-year-old after they learned a deal between Kelly and Cleveland was near. It's possible Kelly and his agent, David Dunn, are meeting with the other teams to gain leverage with the Browns and sweeten the coach's contract.

But there's also a chance Eagles owner Jeffrey Lurie and general manager Howie Roseman are making a hard push at Kelly to steal him away from the Browns.

Banner spent 19 seasons with Philadelphia, the past 12 as president, but left the club last year and has had a falling out with Lurie, a longtime friend.

Kelly nearly jumped to the pros last year with Tampa Bay but decided at the last minute to return to Oregon, where he has been coach since 2009.

As of 1 a.m. on Sunday, it was still unclear where Kelly wound wind up - Cleveland, Philadelphia or back at Oregon.

NFL.com reported that the Browns met with Syracuse's Doug Marrone for a second time on Saturday as the Eagles talked to Kelly. The report said the Browns are trying to decide if they prefer Kelly or Marrone.

It's still possible the Browns will get Kelly, but it may have been harder than they thought it would be 24 hours ago.

Haslam and Banner plan to hire a coach before they seek a general manager to pair with him. The Browns have also promised that their next coach will have final say and control over the club's 53-man roster, perks that will likely limit their talent pool when looking for a GM or pro personnel director.

Kelly went 46-7 in four years at Oregon, where his high-tempo, warp-speed offense averaged nearly 50 points per game this season. He has no pro coaching experience, but some of his offensive principles are being used by New England and Washington.

Patriots coach Bill Belichick met with Kelly in the offseason and has adopted a few of the Ducks' offensive wrinkles into his schemes this season.

Following Oregon's win over Kansas State in Thursday night's Fiesta Bowl, Kelly said he hoped to have the interview process ``wrapped up quickly and figure out where I'm going to be.''

All indications are that he's headed to Cleveland, where he'll inherit a young roster that showed some promise this season.

Haslam and Banner have been in Arizona all week. They camped out there early to get first crack at Kelly and conducted at least four other known interviews before meeting with him.

Cleveland has also spoken with former Arizona coach Ken Whisenhunt, Cardinals defensive coordinator Ray Horton, Marrone and Penn State's Bill O'Brien, who removed himself from consideration Thursday and said he would return for his second season with the Nittany Lions.

Marrone could be a solid fall-back candidate for the Browns if Kelly rejects them.

The 48-year-old restored Syracuse's program in his four seasons at the school, leading the Orange to a 25-25 record. After a slow start this season, Syracuse won six of its last seven games and defeated West Virginia in the Pinstripe Bowl.

Before he was at Syracuse, Marrone spent three seasons as the offensive coordinator at New Orleans, where he helped Saints quarterback Drew Brees throw for more than 4,000 yards in three straight seasons.

The Browns are not commenting on any candidates or interviews until they hire a successor for Pat Shurmur, who was fired after going 9-23 in two seasons.

Haslam and Banner believe Kelly can fix Cleveland's franchise, which has made just one playoff appearance in 14 years. Saturday was the 10th anniversary of the Browns' last postseason game, a 36-33 loss to the Pittsburgh Steelers. In the decade since, the Browns have had nine double-digit loss seasons and changed coaches four times.

Cleveland's current run of at least 11 losses in five straight seasons is the second-longest streak of futility in NFL history. Only the Oakland Raiders (2003-2009) have had one longer.

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5 things you should know about new Nationals' pitcher Kelvin Herrera

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USA TODAY Sports

5 things you should know about new Nationals' pitcher Kelvin Herrera

The Nationals traded for Royals' pitcher Kelvin Herrera this evening. 

Not only did the Nationals trade for Kelvin Herrera, but they did so without losing Juan Soto, Victor Robles, or Andrew Stevenson. The first two were never in any real danger of being traded for a relief pitcher who will be a free agent at year's end, but the Nats escaped only giving up their 10th and 11th ranked prospects:

On the surface, this deal looks exceptional for the Nationals. Herrera is another back-of-the-bullpen type that only further deepens the Nats' options in that department. Here are a handful of things you should know about the Nationals' newest pitcher:

1. Herrera's strikeout "issue" is complicated 

Herrera, like many other closers over the last half-decade, has made his name in strikeouts. He topped out at a 30.4 percent strikeout rate in 2016, and has a 23.4 percent clip for his career. His K% this season sits at 23.2 percent, which is both higher than last season and lower than his career average. 

People will look at his dramatic K/9 drop as a red flag, but "per/9" stats are flawed and not generally a worthwhile stat to build an argument around. A pitcher who gets knocked around for five runs in an inning -- but gets three strikeouts -- can have the same K/9 of a different (much more efficient) pitcher who strikes out the side in order. 

2. Herrera has basically stopped walking batters 

His career BB% sits at 7.1 percent. His highest clip is nine percent (2014, 2015) and his lowest was a shade over four percent (2016). 

This season, he's walking batters at a two percent  rate. In 27 games this season, he's walked two batters. Two! 

3. The jury seems to still be out on how good of a year he's had so far

Analytics are frustrating. On one hand, they can serve wonderfully as tools to help peel back the curtains and tell a deeper story - or dispel lazy narratives. On the other hand, they can be contradictory, confusing, and at times downright misleading. 

Take, for instance, Herrera's baseline pitching stats. His ERA sits at 1.05, while his FIP sits at 2.62. On their own, both numbers are impressive. On their own, both numbers are All-Star level stats. 

When you stack them against each other, however, the picture turns negative. While ERA is the more common stat, it's widely accepted that FIP more accurately represents a pitcher's true value (ERA's calculation makes the same per/9 mistakes that were mentioned above). 

More often than not, when a pitcher's ERA is lower than his FIP, that indicates said pitcher has benefited from luck. 

Throw in a 3.51 xFIP (which is the same as FIP, but park-adjusted) and we suddenly have a real mess on our hands. Is he the pitcher with the great ERA, the pitcher with the Very Good FIP, or the pitcher with the medicore xFIP? 

4. He was a fastball pitcher, and then he wasn't, and now he is again

Take a look at Herrera's pitch usage over his career in Kansas City:

In only three years, he's gone from throwing a sinker 31 percent of the time to completely giving up on the pitch. That's pretty wild. 

Since 2014, he's gone to the slider more and more in every year. 

His current fastball usage would be the highest of his career. He only appeared in two games during the 2011 season, so those numbers aren't reliable. Going away from the sinker probably helps explain why his Ground Ball rate has dropped 10 percentage points, too. 

5. The Nats finally have the bullpen they've been dreaming about for years

Doolittle, Herrera, Kintzler, and Madson is about as deep and talented as any bullpen in baseball.

Justin Miller, Sammy Solis, and Wander Suero all have flashed serious potential at points throughout the year. Austin Voth is waiting for roster expansion in September. 

The Nats have been trying to build this type of bullpen for the better part of the last decade. Health obviously remains an important factor, but Rizzo's got the deepest pen of his time in D.C. 

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MacLellan: Reirden will get the first crack at replacing Trotz

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USA TODAY Sports

MacLellan: Reirden will get the first crack at replacing Trotz

Will Todd Reirden replace Barry Trotz as head coach of the Washington Capitals?

Based on what GM Brian MacLellan said Monday, it certainly sounds like it’s Reirden’s job to lose.

“We’re going to start with Todd here,” MacLellan said. “I think we’ve been grooming him to be a head coach, whether for us or someone else.”

“We’ll see how the talk goes with him and we’ll make a decision based on that,” MacLellan added. “If it goes well, we’ll pursue Todd. And if it doesn’t, we’ll open it up a little bit.”

MacLellan said he isn’t sure exactly when the interview with Reirden will take place. The front office needs a few days to regroup. It’s also a busy stretch in hockey’s offseason. In the coming two weeks, MacLellan will direct the NHL draft in Dallas, monitor development camp in Arlington and then call the shots when free agency begins on July 1.  

“We need to take a breather here but I think Todd is a good candidate for it,” MacLellan said. “I’d like to sit down with Todd and have a normal interview, head coaching interview. I think most of our discussions are just casual. It’s about hockey in general. But I’d like to do a formal interview with him and just see if there’s differences or how we’re seeing things the same and if he’s a possibility for the head coach.”

Reirden, 46, spent the past four seasons on Trotz’s bench. He was elevated to associate coach prior to the 2016-17 season after coming up just short in his pursuit of the head coaching position in Calgary.

Reirden’s primary responsibility on Trotz’s staff was overseeing the defense and Washington’s perennially potent power play.

Prior to joining the Capitals in 2014, he was an assistant coach for four seasons with the Penguins. And before that, he spent a couple of seasons as the head coach of AHL Wilkes-Barre/Scranton, the Penguins’ top minor league affiliate.

A native of Deerfield, Ill., Reirden also had a lengthy professional career that included 183 NHL games with the Oilers, Blues, Thrashers and Coyotes.

Asked what he’s looking for in the Caps’ next head coach, MacLellan said he’s looking for a forward-thinker, a strong communicator and a players’ coach.

Reirden is all of those things.

“Someone that's up to date on the modern game,” MacLellan said. “Someone that's progressive, looking to try different things. Someone that has a good relationship with players. They communicate, can teach, make players better. It's becoming a developmental league where guys are coming in not fully developed products and we need a guy that can bring young players along because more and more we're going to use young players as the higher end guys make more money.”

One of the side benefits of elevating Reirden is the fact he already has a strong relationship with many of the current players, meaning there won’t be much upheaval as the Caps look to defend their championship.

“It could be a natural transition,” MacLellan said. “But once we sit down and talk face to face about all the little small details in the team, I'll have a better feel for it.”

MacLellan said a decision on the other assistant coaches—Lane Lambert, Blaine Forsythe, Scott Murray, Brett Leonhardt and Tim Ohashi—will be made after the next head coach is named.

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