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Coach's challenge convincing owner of his plan

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Coach's challenge convincing owner of his plan

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) Mike Munchak has been around long enough to know that five wins in a season isn't good enough in the NFL.

The Tennessee coach's challenge will be convincing owner Bud Adams, his boss for 30 seasons as a player and coach, is that he needs more time to turn the Titans back into a winner.

Munchak is only the seventh Hall of Fame player to be an NFL head coach since the 1970 merger, the fifth to coach the team he played for. He wraps up his second season Sunday against Jacksonville (2-13) with 15 players on injured reserve, including four of his starting offensive linemen out for the final month.

``I don't feel good about where we're at,'' Munchak said. ``I feel good about a lot of things, the pieces of the puzzle we do have. I feel good about a lot of things that can get fixed real quickly.''

After last week's 55-7 loss to Green Bay, Adams, who turns 90 on Jan. 3, made it clear he wants answers from his front office and Munchak after the season finale on what's gone wrong with a team that went 9-7 in 2011, one of three winning records since the 2003 season when this franchise last won a playoff game.

Munchak, who has a four-year contract, cautioned that turning around a franchise can take more than just a season or two. He lost his first offseason as a head coach to the NFL lockout in 2011 and has had just one offseason to teach a team largely built through the draft.

``We have a short period of time to fix it, but I feel very confident that we will, and sometimes it takes longer than two seasons to do that ... so I think you have to make a decision and look at who we have on our roster, who we're playing against, what we're doing,'' Munchak said. ``You have to figure out where we're headed and we'll see. I feel good about how we're going to get there, and it will be up to Mr. Adams to decide if he agrees with me.''

When Munchak was promoted from assistant offensive line coach to the team's coach on Feb. 7, 2011, he joined fellow Hall of Famers Raymond Berry, Mike Ditka, Forrest Gregg, Art Shell, Bart Starr and Mike Singletary in making the transition from player to NFL head coach. Singletary, the most recent, went 8-8 in his first full season with San Francisco only to be fired after going 5-10 in 2011.

Veteran Matt Hasselbeck helped cover up some of this team's rebuilding needs in Munchak's debut season.

When the Titans decided in August to go with Jake Locker as their starting quarterback, they opened with their youngest roster in both average age and experience since 2006.

The eighth overall pick in the 2011 draft wound up missing five starts after hurting his left shoulder twice in the first four games. When Locker returned in November, the Titans had lost two starting offensive linemen from August, which reached four of the five by Dec. 2.

``We knew the transition of a new quarterback is definitely going to add to that, but when you're adding a new quarterback and then you're adding all these injuries, it's hard to get anything in sync,'' said Munchak, who is 14-17 as head coach.

Receiver Nate Washington, one of the few veterans on this team, said Wednesday he thinks Munchak has handled a difficult season the best he can.

``He's put blame where it need be as well as he's looked himself in the mirror in front of us,'' Washington said. ``He's told guys at the end of the day, we all have to go out and do our job.''

Munchak has made several moves this season trying to jumpstart his team. First, he convinced coordinators Chris Palmer and Jerry Gray to move from the sideline to the coaching box, then fired Palmer on Nov. 26.

With the Titans nine points shy of tying the franchise record for most points allowed, Munchak may have to make other changes to his coaching staff.

He also talked veteran offensive coach Tom Moore into joining the Titans for the final month to help new coordinator Dowell Loggains.

Munchak understands building can take patience. He wasn't part of a winning team himself until his sixth season as a player, and he has had fellow Hall of Fame players such as Elvin Bethea, Kenny Houston and Warren Moon talk to his Titans about surviving and thriving in tough seasons.

He brought in Kevin Carter a couple weeks ago as a reminder of how the Rams went from 4-12 in 1998 to winning the Super Bowl the next season.

``Adversity builds character, and we're going to find out what we're all about,'' Munchak said.

If he gets the time.

NOTES: Chris Johnson (ankle) and RB Jamie Harper (ankle) did not practice Wednesday along with LB Colin McCarthy (concussion), C Kevin Matthews (right ankle), CB Ryan Mouton (hamstring), TE Craig Stevens (concussion), WR Damian Williams (foot) and LB Will Witherspoon (chest). WR Kendall Wright (rib) was limited after missing last week's game.

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Why the Wizards chose Tommy Sheppard as their new general manager

Why the Wizards chose Tommy Sheppard as their new general manager

The process took nearly four months, yet the Wizards ultimately didn't look far for their new general manager, as the team is removing the interim tag from Tommy Sheppard. The longtime NBA executive will now finally get a chance to run his own operation.

Sheppard may not have been the first choice among fans initially when it was announced he would fill in for Ernie Grunfeld, who was dismissed from his post as team president on April 2, but over the past few months he has acclimated himself well, showing in many ways he is prepared to lead a team as the top person in charge. He cleaned up the Wizards' salary cap situation as best he could, giving them some newfound financial flexibility beyond next season.

Sheppard did that while flooding the roster with young, cheap and high-upside players. And he did so by making some tough decisions, ones that helped demonstrate he can provide an organizational reset despite his role in the previous regime. 

Sheppard allowed Tomas Satoransky to walk in free agency despite being central in bringing him to the Wizards, first by scouting him overseas and then by convincing him to join the NBA ranks. He let Bobby Portis and Jabari Parker leave even though he was part of the braintrust that traded for them. And he traded Dwight Howard, again despite playing a role in bringing him to Washington.

Sheppard has operated with impartiality when the team needed him to. What he has done this offseason looks a lot like it probably would have if the Wizards had hired someone from the outside.

How Sheppard navigated the Wizards through the draft and free agency was central in why managing partner Ted Leonsis decided to elevate him to the long-term post. The last several weeks were treated as a "trial run," according to a person familiar with the process.

Sheppard worked closely with the team's ownership group, giving them written proposals for his plans that addressed goals, budget and contingencies. It was a collaborative effort to make the Wizards' roster younger, cheaper and harder working. They also set out to add more international players and accomplished that by drafting Rui Hachimura and by trading for Davis Bertans, Moe Wagner and Isaac Bonga.

Sheppard impressed Leonsis especially during the effort to re-sign Thomas Bryant. Bryant has become a favorite of Leonsis' for his consistent effort, character and enthusiasm. Sheppard and the Wizards were able to agree with Bryant on a new contract the night free agency began. It was quick and painless.

Sheppard himself will be signing a new contract, NBC Sports Washington was told. And there will be major changes to the organizational structure announced this coming week. In the basketball operations side, the team will heavily expand their investment in analytics, by "triple" according to a person familiar with their plans. They will also beef up their scouting department with an eye on Africa and Latin America.

Sheppard has done a nice job for the Wizards but the real work in many ways about to begin. Dismantling an NBA roster is not as difficult as building a contender. Now he has to find pieces to build around John Wall and Bradley Beal that can help the team win something of substance. 

Sheppard will have to do that within the constraints of Wall's supermax contract. And he will have to sort out Beal's future, which could take a turn later this month. 

On July 26, the Wizards can officially offer Beal a contract extension worth approximately $111 million over three years. But there is a long list of clues that suggest he will not take the offer.

How Sheppard, Beal and the Wizards handle the fallout in the event he turns them down would be a test in itself. Maybe they spin it simply as Beal betting on himself. If he makes All-NBA next season, he could make well over $200 million with a five-year supermax.

For Sheppard, the hard work is about to start. He is set to guide the Wizards into a new era, one he and the team hope can reach a higher peak than the last.

MORE WIZARDS NEWS:

NASCAR at New Hampshire: everything you need to know about racing this weekend

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NASCAR at New Hampshire: everything you need to know about racing this weekend

Still not over that finish from Kentucky Speedway? Good, us either. NASCAR is right back after it this weekend in the Granite State and New Hampshire Motor Speedway for some short-track summer action.

Here's what we're watching for on Sunday afternoon in the Foxwoods Resort 301 (3 p.m. EST on NBCSN).

NEW HAMPSHIRE STATISTICS
New Hampshire Motor Speedway: 1.058-mile oval in Loudon, N.H.
Race information: 318.46 miles, 301 laps
Stage lengths: 75 laps, 75 laps, 151 laps
Defending winner: Kevin Harvick
Most wins: Jeff Burton (4)

WEEKEND SCHEDULE

NEW HAMPSHIRE MOTOR SPEEDWAY

Friday, July 19

12:05 – 12:55 p.m. – Cup practice (NBCSN)

1:05 – 1:55 p.m. – Xfinity practice (NBCSN)

3:35 – 4:25 p.m. – Final Xfinity practice (NBCSN)

4:35 p.m. – Cup qualifying (single vehicle/two laps all positions) (NBCSN, Performance Racing Network)

Saturday, July 20

10:05 – 10:55 a.m. – Cup practice (CNBC)

11:15 a.m. – Xfinity qualifying (single vehicle/two laps all positions) (NBCSN)

12:35 – 1:25 p.m. – Final Cup practice (NBCSN)

4 p.m. – Roxor 200 Xfinity race (stages 45/90/200 laps = 211.6 miles) (NBCSN, PRN, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio)

Sunday, July 21

3 p.m. – Foxwoods Resort Casino 301 (stages 75/150/301 laps = 318.46 miles) (NBCSN, PRN, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio)

Is It Time For SHR To Panic?

Past the halfway point in the 2019 season, Joe Gibbs Racing, Team Penske, Hendrick Motorsports, Chip Ganassi Racing and Spire Motorsports (!) have visited Victory Lane.

Notably absent is Stewart-Haas Racing.

2014 Monster Energy Cup Series champion Kevin Harvick had five wins at this point last season, Clint Bowyer had two, and the duo of Aric Almirola and Kurt Busch had been running consistently inside the top five and top 10. This season, they're a step behind.

Whether it's the adjustment to the new Ford Mustang or the new aerodynamic rules package for this season, SHR is behind, there's no sugarcoating it.

Although Harvick is safely in the playoffs, Almirola is in but does not have a large buffer, Bowyer is on the bubble and Daniel Suarez is on the outside looking in.

Harvick did win this race last season, and another checkered flag for the No. 4 camp this weekend would go a long way confidence wise for the organization.

More Sticky Stuff

PJ1 is back, and it seems here to stay.

The sticky adhesive that was put down last weekend in Kentucky, as well as multiple times last season, has been applied at NHMS and will be applied next weekend at Pocono Raceway as well. The adhesive is in hopes to create more racing lines and in turn, a better on track product.

With temparatures this weekend reaching upwards of triple digits, the PJ1 will become more active earlier on. The hotter it is, the more grip the substance has.

Lobstah

New England NASCAR trips and somewhat cringeworthy New England NASCAR accents go hand in hand. Like it or not, that's part of it, right?

The winner of each NHMS race gets a big ole lobster to celebrate with. But don't give one to Denny Hamlin. We remember what happened to him a couple years back, right?

2019 NASCAR STANDINGS

Next week, NASCAR heads to the Pocono Raceway for the second time this season for the Gander Outdoors 400 on Sunday, July 28 at 3:30 p.m. EST on NBCSN.