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Chiefs CEO Hunt takes on bigger role in franchise

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Chiefs CEO Hunt takes on bigger role in franchise

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) Clark Hunt is regarded as an intensely private man, someone who prefers to operate behind the scenes and away from the spotlight that comes with owning an NFL franchise.

In some ways, that's about to change.

Hunt fired coach Romeo Crennel on Monday as part of a shakeup of the entire structure of a franchise that his father, the late Lamar Hunt, founded 53 years ago. The younger Hunt said he plans to hire the next coach and that the individual will report to him, rather than through the general manager - a change in the way the team has operated since its inception.

In fact, Hunt has refused to say whether GM Scott Pioli will be retained.

``You know, historically, I've interacted with the general manager on everything that relates to the football team,'' Hunt told The Associated Press on Monday. ``I've had conversations with the head coach, but they're few and far between, in terms of really strategic stuff.''

Hunt said he anticipates having more discussions with the coach ``in terms of him telling me, `Hey, here's what we need to be successful.''

The list is long, but first comes finding a new coach for his team.

Hunt was expected to meet with Falcons offensive coordinator Dirk Koetter and special teams coach Keith Armstrong this week, and there are surely more interviews in the near future.

All the usual names are expected to be on the wish list - former NFL coaches Jon Gruden, Andy Reid and Bill Cowher, college coaches such as Penn State's Bill O'Brien and Oregon's Chip Kelly, and top NFL assistants, including the Colts' Bruce Arians and the Broncos' Mike McCoy.

Hunt said he wouldn't target a coach who was necessarily ``offense or defense,'' but he did have a specific list of attributes that he seeks in Crennel's replacement.

``If I had to boil it down to a few things, I'd say a proven leader,'' Hunt said. ``Somebody who has demonstrated the ability to build a successful program, or been part of building a success program. Somebody of high integrity, somebody who is a successful teacher and communicator, who has a high football IQ but at the same time likes to roll up their sleeves and work hard - and somebody who likes to hold the team and themselves accountable.''

Identifying the qualities that make up the ideal coach is the easy part.

Identifying the coach who has them is more difficult.

Pioli was tasked with previous coaching hires after he replaced former general manager Carl Peterson in 2009. The former New England Patriots executive quickly fired Herm Edwards and hired Todd Haley, but their relationship was strained and Haley was dismissed last December.

Crennel was made interim coach and Pioli gave him the job permanently in January, only for the Chiefs to finish 2-14 this season, matching the worst record in franchise history.

So rather than allow Pioli to make his third coaching hire in five seasons, Hunt has decided to step in and assume greater responsibility for a franchise once considered among the NFL's most stable.

``It's hard for me to say I'm going to spend more time, because I already spend a whole lot of time. It's just not visible time spent standing on the football field, you know, watching practice or whatever,'' Hunt said. ``I spend a lot of time on it. It will be a different responsibility having the head coach report directly to me, though.''

Hunt recalled the era of Peterson and coach Marty Schottenheimer in the 1990s, when the Chiefs were playoff regulars. They were strong-willed personalities, but they managed to work well enough together that they helped the Chiefs to their most recent playoff wins in 1993.

``The GM and coach won't always have the same perspective,'' Hunt said. ``But they found a way to get to common ground and make decisions, and that will really be my role, finding the right path for the Chiefs and helping the guys make decisions together.''

Who those guys will be is the question of the hour, and only Hunt knows the answer.

He hasn't given a timetable for hiring a coach, though it's expected that he will act quickly. Hunt would prefer the new coach to be in place before making a decision on the future of Pioli, and he said that decision would need to come by the first part of February.

Hunt said he's already fielded several inquiries for the head coaching job, and indicated that he has retained multiple people in an advisory role to assist in the search.

``I'm not going to go into the dynamics of the search process,'' he said, ``but I will say I have the appropriate resources available to help me in that process. We're very well organized. We want to be thorough but we want to be efficient as well.''

Hunt understands the magnitude of the decision he is facing.

Only a handful of franchises have more history or a richer tradition than the Chiefs, and even though the team has floundered in recent years, there are also opportunities.

The Chiefs hold the No. 1 pick in the NFL draft for the first time. They had five players voted to the Pro Bowl, and two more chosen as alternates. They have plenty of salary cap space to make a splash in free agency, allowing them to start filling in the holes.

``Overall, the job is still attractive,'' Hunt said. ``Clearly we need to get better at the quarterback position. That's no secret. But the franchise remains very well respected around the league. In talking to people, including those who I've spoken to (Monday), there's a keen interest in at least seeing what the opportunity is here.''

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The Capitals’ reign as Stanley Cup champions is now officially over

The Capitals’ reign as Stanley Cup champions is now officially over

WASHINGTON – This was not the way it was supposed to end.

The feeling after the Capitals’ Game 7 loss to the Carolina Hurricanes on Wednesday was one of shock. There is always an element of that when a team gets eliminated from the playoffs in overtime, but it wasn’t how they lost that made it so stunning. It was when.

“Everything can happen in a seven-game series,” Nicklas Backstrom said. “We all seen that. But right now it's just disappointing. We would've liked a better outcome. ... It's tough to swallow"

“We fight through 82 games and in Game 7, they score one goal and it’s a kind of situation where you’re disappointed, you’re frustrated, especially after last year,” Alex Ovechkin said.

After winning the Stanley Cup in 2018 and returning with largely the same core intact, returning as the defending champs to win the Metropolitan Division for a fourth consecutive year, no one envisioned Washington’s defense of the Cup and its quest to repeat to end in the first round. That was especially true when the Caps drew Carolina as their first-round opponent, a plucky team with a first-year head coach that made it to the playoffs for the first time in a decade.

It looked like a favorable matchup for Washington. It wasn’t.

“All series long it was a game of mistakes,” Brooks Orpik said.

The Caps took a 2-0 lead in the series, Carolina battled back to tie it 2-2. Washington won the all-important Game 5 to push the Hurricanes to the brink, Carolina responded by winning Game 6 to force the all-or-nothing Game 7. The Caps even jumped out to a 2-0 lead in Game 7 and yet the Hurricanes just kept coming.

In the end, the overtime loss was shocking, but not surprising. Carolina had taken control in the second period and never looked back. They fired the first nine shots on goal in overtime and were controlling the play over a Washington team that just looked gassed. The Caps needed to get a favorable bounce, otherwise it was only a matter of time before Carolina would finish them off and that was exactly what happened as Brock McGinn deflected in a shot for the overtime winner.

There are many reasons Washington ultimately lost this series, but it was for none of the typical reasons we see in most upsets.

This was not a case of a goalie standing on his head to completely shut down Washington’s offense. Petr Mrazek made some key saves at times, but ultimately finished the series with a .899 save percentage. Take away the six-goal blowout of Game 5 and Mrazek’s save percentage rises to .919. That’s better, but still would rank only sixth among goalie with at least four starts this postseason.

This was not a case of a superstar forward putting the team on his back and carrying them to the improbable upset. Sebastian Aho tallied five points in seven games, Teuvo Taravainen had four. Both had fewer points that Jaccob Slavin who had nine assists and Warren Foegele who scored an improbable four goals and two assists.

This was not a case of Washington’s best players not showing up. Alex Ovechkin scored four goals and five assists to lead the team with nine points. Right behind him was Nicklas Backstrom with five goals and three assists. Evgeny Kuznetsov scored only one goal in seven games, but his one goal came in Game 7 to restore Washington’s two-goal lead in the second period.

Washington finished with a 25-percent power play and an 88-percent penalty kill, bot respectable numbers.

The Caps lost Michal Kempny and T.J. Oshie – both significant injuries – but Carolina had a number of significant injuries as well.

Really, the biggest reason the Caps felt they lost is because they were out-played, out-hustled and out-worked.

“I think we were all guilty of some mistakes at different times that were maybe a little uncharacteristic of us,” Orpik said. “Two two-goal leads at home within the same game is kind of a tough one to swallow. I don’t know if unacceptable is the right word but you have to be able to maintain those leads, especially on home ice and this time of the year. We made mistakes but they played great all series so it wasn’t just us. Eventually you have to give them credit at some point.”

Now instead of preparing for the quick turnaround of playing and starting a second-round series against the New York Islanders on Friday, the season is over and the Caps are left to wonder what could have been.

Already eliminated in the first round were the Tampa Bay Lightning, Calgary Flames, Winnipeg Jets and the Nashville Predators, all thought to be Cup contenders. Heck, even archrival Pittsburgh was out. Alex Ovechkin was playing at the top of his game as he claimed his eight Rocket Richard Trophy after leading the league in goals yet again. That performance carried over to the postseason and he was brilliant in Wednesday’s game.

But despite how favorable the road in front of them looked for another Cup run, despite the unreal performance the team’s top stars were delivering, none of it ultimately mattered.

The only thing harder than winning a Stanley Cup is winning it twice. Perhaps to expect a second championship was unrealistic. But a first round exit felt too soon. This wasn’t how it was supposed to end for a team that had finally learned how to win.

The 2019 Stanley Cup Playoffs were already turning into the year of the upset. The Caps became the latest victim of that on Wednesday. And finally, a party that had begun in June 2018, came to an end officially meaning a new champion will be crowned.

“Every opportunity missed is devastating, really,” John Carlson said. “You only get to do this for so long and I've been fortunate to be on great teams. When you don't do well, it's more than we were up in a series or a game. It's everything. It hurts.”

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15 final thoughts on what could be the wildest NFL Draft in quite some time

15 final thoughts on what could be the wildest NFL Draft in quite some time

The Redskins hold the 15th pick in the first round of the NFL Draft, and after a flurry of rumors and speculation about what might happen on Wednesday, we're going to keep this simple. 

Multiple talent evaluators have told NBC Sports Washington that this will be the wildest draft in recent memory. There is no consensus what happens with the first pick, no consensus on the QB rankings after Kyler Murray, and the scene looks set for a lot of trades. 

Since the first round projects to be so volatile, and because the Redskins don't pick until nearly midway through, here are 15 thoughts about Thursday night.

  1. Kyler Murray will go first overall to Arizona.
  2. The Redskins will not trade up into the Top 3.
  3. The Redskins will not trade up into the Top 5.
  4. Drew Lock will be the next QB off the board.
  5. There could be a Laremy Tunsil type of situation.
  6. Either Miami or Cincinnati will take a quarterback.
  7. Boston College guard Chris Lindstrom goes in the top half of the draft.
  8. Montez Sweat could slide in this draft, and it might not just be about medicals.
  9. The injury issue will impact Rashan Gary.
  10. The Redskins will take a defensive player with the 15th pick.
  11. Nobody knows what the Giants will do, and they like that. 
  12. Four QBs will get drafted in the first round.
  13. Five QBs might get taken in the first round. 
  14. The Redskins will not take a wide receiver in the first round. 
  15. Don't close the door on Josh Rosen landing in the NFC East.

These are thoughts. Not necessarily predictions, but much effort has been exerted in obtaining the information that went into these ideas. 

Stay. Tuned. It's going to be wild. 

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