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Ga. Tech fires defensive coordinator Al Groh

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Ga. Tech fires defensive coordinator Al Groh

ATLANTA (AP) Georgia Tech fired defensive coordinator Al Groh on Monday, hoping a change will save what has been a hugely disappointing season.

Coach Paul Johnson announced the move two days after the Yellow Jackets (2-4, 1-3 Atlantic Coast Conference) lost 47-31 to No. 16 Clemson, their third straight defeat - all of them while surrendering more than 40 points, the first time that's happened in school history. The stretch included an embarrassing 49-28 home loss to Middle Tennessee.

Johnson has never fired an assistant during the season, but felt he had to do something to show he was committed to turning things around. The Yellow Jackets are off this week, giving them extra time to adjust to the jarring change.

``To me, it was inevitable,'' Johnson said. ``I didn't want to give up on the rest of the season. I still think we can come back and have a good season. That's why I did it now.''

The Yellow Jackets have one of the nation's worst-ranked defenses - 89th in points allowed (30.2), 90th in total defense (431 yards per game) and 103rd in third-down efficiency. That latter figure might be most troubling to Johnson, whose team has allowed opponents to convert nearly 48 percent in those situations and was especially poor against Clemson. The Tigers were 13 of 19 on third down, keeping Georgia Tech's potent offense on the sideline.

The defense has been especially leaky in the second half, squandering a 17-point lead to Miami and allowing Virginia Tech to kick a tying field goal after going ahead of the Hokies with less than a minute remaining. Both times, the Yellow Jackets lost in overtime.

Groh, a former head coach at Virginia and for one season with the NFL's New York Jets, was in his third year running Georgia Tech's defense. He issued a statement through Georgia Tech saying he understood the decision. The 68-year-old Groh also thanked the players and his assistants for their hard work.

``The institute has decided to go in a different direction, which I respect,'' Groh said. ``I aimed to give the best that I had every day. It's been an honor to be a part of the legacy of Georgia Tech football. I feel positive that this is a good time in life to move on to a new situation.''

The time to move on has been building for a while.

Johnson's discontent with Groh actually goes back to last season, when the Yellow Jackets lost five of their last seven games, capped by a 30-27 overtime loss to Utah in the Sun Bowl. The Utes scored two fourth-quarter touchdowns to tie the game, then won in overtime.

This year, more of the same.

``I was hopeful as we started, this being the third year. I was hopeful we would see some improvement,'' Johnson said. ``I was encouraged at the first of year, but it became apparent that was short-lived. The last three games was a carry-over of the last six games a year ago.''

Secondary coach Charles Kelly will take over as interim coordinator, and Johnson shook up the rest of the defensive staff. Specials teams coordinator David Walkosky will oversee the line, Andy McCollum shifts from the line to inside linebackers, and Joe Speed moves from inside to outside linebackers.

Their orders are clear.

``My big goal is to simplify and see if we can't get lined up and play faster, play harder,'' Johnson said. ``I don't think you've got to trick people. You've got to line up and know what you're doing and play fast.''

Groh installed the 3-4 when he got to Georgia Tech, but it was clear the players never fully picked up the scheme. Also, there was a difference in philosophy with Johnson, who felt Groh didn't do enough full-speed work in practice.

``To me, defense is energy and playing fast and playing with enthusiasm,'' Johnson said. ``It's hard to get that if you don't go live (full-speed drills) some of the time.''

While Johnson's focus has been on running the option offense, he believes the Yellow Jackets have plenty of talent on the defensive side.

``I'm not sold that we don't have good players,'' he said. ``I'm very confident in our players' ability. We'll see.''

Johnson praised Groh's defensive knowledge, but said he was never able to pass it on to his players.

``Al is very smart man. He understands what's inside his head,'' Johnson said. ``The problem is we weren't seeing it on the field. For whatever reason, it wasn't transcending.''

That left the head coach with only one option - make a change.

``It's really disappointing and frustrating,'' Johnson said. ``You never want to do it. But, to me, that's part of being a leader. Sometimes you have to do hard things. I still have a great deal of respect for Al. In my mind, he's had a very good career. Maybe he will still coach. I don't know what the future holds. It just wasn't working here.''

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Follow Paul Newberry on Twitter at www.twitter.com/pnewberry1963

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Ravens reportedly agree to a deal keeping John Harbaugh in Baltimore long term

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USA Today Sports

Ravens reportedly agree to a deal keeping John Harbaugh in Baltimore long term

The Ravens have reportedly agreed in principle to a new contract extension with head coach John Harbaugh, a move already being praised by national pundits everywhere. 

It was nearly a month ago that the Ravens announced Harbaugh would be returning as the team’s head coach in 2019, which was noteworthy considering his status as a potential lame duck head coach.

In the same release, the team announced they were working towards a contract extension with Harbaugh, whose current deal was set to expire next year.

Despite reports from national NFL insiders, including Jason La Canfora and Peter King, that Harbaugh might prefer to hit free agency as a highly sought-after head coach after the 2019 season, it appears the Ravens will keep him in Baltimore for the foreseeable future. 

This news comes on the heels of a busier-than-usual coaching carousel, with a quarter of the 32 NFL teams changing head coaches in the last month, including two AFC North rivals. Harbaugh almost certainly would have been the cream of the crop among coaching free agents no matter when he became available, so the Ravens were looking to lock him up long term.

After a tough November home loss to the Steelers that put the team at 4-5, Harbaugh was asked about his job security, and he remained steadfast and confident.

"I've never been someone who's worried about keeping a job," Harbaugh said. "It's always been, for me, [about] doing the job. I've got a bunch of great coaches and a bunch of great players that bust their tails every day to do the best job they can. I feel really good about the way this team has been coached for the last 11 years, and for the last number of weeks we've been in the season. So, there are no regrets. Never been any regrets here with me."

After that game, the Ravens rattled off six wins in seven games to make the playoffs, and many players credited Harbaugh with keeping the team together. It was prior to Week 16 when the front office announced Harbaugh would be returning no matter how the season ended, but the strong finish and AFC North title certainly made the decision easier.

A coach with a special teams background, Harbaugh is an anomaly in the current era of young, offensive-minded head coaches. He won Super Bowl XLVII in 2013, and holds a 104-72 career record in Baltimore.

The terms of the new deal have not yet been released, but it will be interesting how many years the team is committing to Harbaugh.

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Bradley Beal's agent says guard's not looking for a trade: 'He wants to win'

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Bradley Beal's agent says guard's not looking for a trade: 'He wants to win'

Bradley Beal, his agent Mark Bartlestein told Bleacher Report, would like to stay in Washington - even as he's a hot topic among front offices as the trade deadline approaches.

From Bleacher Report:

His agent, Mark Bartelstein, is not looking for a trade. "Brad wants to win, Bartelstein told B/R. "He wants to win at the highest level, and he wants to compete for championships. I think he's seeing progress, and he's going to do everything he can to lead this team. They got themselves into a huge hole, and he's going to do his best to get them out of it.

The Wizards are facing tough decisions when it comes to the future of the franchise as this season's trade deadline approaches. Beal, as NBC Sports Washington's Ben Standig detailed this week, is among the most tradable assets they have, especially when it comes to their three major contracts. But owner Ted Leonsis took a firm stance against tanking while speaking to reporters in London, and Beal is integral to their playoff hopes with John Wall sidelined. 

This isn't the first time this season that Beal has denied wanting to be anywhere but DC. When drama swirled around the team earlier this season, Beal denied a report that he had requested a trade.

"That's nonsense," he said at the time. "I heard it earlier before the game and I was like, 'If it didn't come from the horse's mouth, it wasn't me.' I got this Washington jersey on and I come here and work everyday, you know, until otherwise. This is where I wanna be."

Earlier this season, it was reported that the Raptors were interested in Beal but couldn't afford what the Wizards were asking for him. According to the latest report on Beal from Bleacher Report, there are a number of teams who may still be interested. 

Again, from Bleacher Report:

There are so many teams in the mix trying to make that extra push that want Beal," a Western Conference executive told B/R.

But even if some fans are clamoring for a big trade at the deadline, the price tag for Beal - who had 26 points in the Wizards' comeback win over the Knicks this week - only seems to be rising. 

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