NCAA

Jaguars fire GM Gene Smith after 4 seasons

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Jaguars fire GM Gene Smith after 4 seasons

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. (AP) After four years of futility, the Jacksonville Jaguars are heading in a different direction.

Coach Mike Mularkey might not be around for the move.

The Jaguars fired general manager Gene Smith on Monday after four disappointing seasons, including the worst year in franchise history.

Mularkey could be next.

Owner Shad Khan is waiting to decide Mularkey's fate until he hires a new general manager, which could happen this week.

Mularkey failed to make the Jaguars (2-14) better in his first season, setting a team record for losses and dropping eight games by 16 or more points.

Smith was the architect of the roster. He had been with the team since its inception in 1994, working his way up from regional scout to general manager. He has been GM since 2009, compiling a 22-42 record. Not one player he acquired made the Pro Bowl.

``Now it is time for the Jacksonville Jaguars to begin a new chapter,'' Khan said in a statement. ``We're not looking back. I've made it clear from Day One that we pledge nothing less than to deliver the first Super Bowl championship to Jacksonville. Our fans have been remarkably loyal over the years, and they were truly outstanding this past season. We simply must do better for our fans.''

Khan said the search for a new GM will begin immediately.

Arizona director of player personnel Jason Licht, San Francisco director of player personnel Tom Gamble, and Atlanta director of player personnel David Caldwell have been mentioned as potential replacements.

``I'm determined to find the right man to lead our football operations, someone who shares my vision, understands the commitment we will demand and is qualified and ready to seize this opportunity,'' Khan said.

Khan informed Smith of his decision Monday morning and then delivered the news to Mularkey.

Mularkey said he received no assurances he would be retained for a second season.

``It was a conversation about Gene's status,'' said Mularkey, the former Buffalo Bills head coach who now has lost 20 of his last 23 games. ``My status was not discussed, and I won't go into detail what was. But until I'm told otherwise, I'm the head coach of this team.''

So the Jaguars are in limbo again, much like they were late last season when Khan bought the team from Wayne Weaver for $770 million. Weaver fired coach Jack Del Rio the same day he gave Smith a three-year extension despite Smith's numerous mistakes in the draft and in free agency.

Smith handled the coaching search, which started and ended with Mularkey.

But the Jaguars made no progress under Mularkey, finishing the year ranked 29th in offense and 30th in defense.

``You knew something was going to happen,'' defensive tackle Terrance Knighton said. ``You didn't know where it was going to start. It obviously started from the top and it will probably make its way down.''

Knighton is one of numerous free agents who could make the Jacksonville job enticing for prospective GMs. The new GM would be able to rebuild the roster, and the Jaguars have plenty of room under the salary cap and few dead-money contracts.

Nonetheless, changes are never easy inside a locker room.

``With a year like this, you can point fingers everywhere,'' tight end Marcedes Lewis said. ``I'm not sure what the final straw was, but it happened. Kind of got to move forward and do what you do.''

Smith changed the way Jacksonville approached personnel moves. He made character as important as ability, but it never paid off the way he envisioned.

Finding talent seemed to be the main issue.

Smith whiffed on offensive tackle Eben Britton (39th overall pick in 2009), defensive tackle Tyson Alualu (10th pick in 2010) and quarterback Blaine Gabbert (10th pick in 2011). Smith traded up to select Gabbert even though several teams with quarterback needs passed on the former Missouri starter.

He also drafted a punter in the third round in April, a move that was mocked locally and nationally.

Equally alarming for Khan had to be Smith's penchant for overpaying in free agency: Torry Holt, Aaron Kampman, Paul Posluszny, Clint Session, Dawan Landry, Laurent Robinson and Aaron Ross.

Smith did hit on some players, including left tackle Eugene Monroe (eighth pick in 2009), cornerback Derek Cox (73rd pick in 2009) and receivers Cecil Shorts (114th pick in 2011) and Justin Blackmon (fifth pick in 2012). But none of those starters has become a star. And Smith gave up a second-round pick to get Cox and a fourth-rounder to trade up and get Blackmon.

Smith's most controversial act came in April, when he chose punter Bryan Anger in the third round (70th pick). Anger was terrific as a rookie, but adding him never seemed like the best call for a team that needed talent and depth at so many other positions.

Smith defended the pick by saying he would ``rather take a starter over a backup.'' Terry McDonough, the team's personnel director, challenged reporters to compare Anger to other third-rounders in four years and see who has been more productive.

Eight months later, quarterback Russell Wilson (75th pick) has Seattle in the playoffs. The Jaguars, meanwhile, are out of the postseason for the 11th time in the last 13 years. And they're looking for a new GM and maybe a new coach.

``Obviously, 2-14 isn't the season you want to kind of hang your hat on,'' running back Maurice Jones-Drew said. ``When you don't produce, this is what happens.''

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The 6 craziest things that happened in Week 7 of the college football season

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USA TODAY Sports

The 6 craziest things that happened in Week 7 of the college football season

Four teams dropped from the ranks of the unbeaten, Louisville's coaching staff is way too intense, everyone from the state of Michigan is an embarrassment and yeah, Oklahoma and Texas still don't like each other.

Here are the six craziest things that happened in Week 6.

Unbeatens beware

Four undefeated teams suffered their first losses of the season this week as the College Football Playoff Grim Reaper began to rear his ugly head.

The most significant loss was that of Georgia at home to division rival South Carolina and it became evident at the end of the game that neither team wanted to win. I mean, why else would Will Muschamp call for a 57-yard field goal attempt in a tie game with 40 seconds left on the clock and with Georgia having all their timeous left? Why else would Georgia take itself out of field goal range with an illegal shift right before the end of regulation? The Gamecocks had a chance to win after recovering a fumble on the first overtime, but a botched field goal kept the game alive. South Carolina would kick a field goal in the second overtime and a missed field goal by Georgia would give the Gamecocks the win.

Florida also dropped from the ranks of the unbeaten, but that game was going to knock someone off as both the Gators and LSU were undefeated heading into Death Valley on Saturday.

Temple handed Memphis its first loss of the season in an afternoon tilt on Saturday and Wake Forest was also upset at the hands of Louisville who marched into the Demon Deacons’ home field and put up 62 points.

On a related note, the Orange Bowl has to be rooting so hard for Clemson to not make the playoff this year, or the ACC is going to send a mediocre team into one of the best bowl games in the country.

Only 12 undefeated teams remain at the FBS level after this week's action.

Louisville’s defensive line coach needs to chill

Mark Ivey is the defensive line coach at Louisville. To say he is intense would be putting it mildly.

The commentators laugh at how “fired up” the coaches are, but there are several moments in there where it is hard to tell if they are just super pumped or if people players are trying break up a legitimate fight.

Maybe trying to relive the glory days of your playing career during warmups is a bad idea.

Every player from both Oklahoma and Texas was given an unsportsmanlike penalty during the pregame

Oklahoma and Texas is one of the most storied rivalries in college football, even if we have no idea what it’s supposed to be called anymore. The Red River Shootout? The Red River Rivalry? The Red River Hootenanny? The Red River Hullabaloo?

Tensions were high for this game which led to a scuffle during pregame.

More than one.

Realizing that they were losing control of the game before it even started, the referees assessed every player on both teams an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty. Fun fact, in college football a player is ejected after their second unsportsmanlike penalty in a game so every player was one flag away from getting the boot.

In the end, only one player was ejected and that was for targeting. No one else received a second unsportsmanlike penalty and Oklahoma went on to beat Texas 34-27.

This season could not get any more embarrassing for Michigan

Jim Harbaugh: “Hold my beer.”

The Wolverines won on the road at Illinois on Saturday by a comfortable-looking margin of 42-25. That score, however, does not reflect the nearly epic collapse Michigan faced in the second half.

Jim Harbaugh and Co. jumped out to a 28-0 lead on the Illini before Illinois could even get on the board. Illinois, led by a backup quarterback, managed to score the next 25 points, trimming the lead down to just three early in the fourth quarter. From there, seeing their season was about to collapse in such an epic way woke Michigan back up. The Wolverines went on to add two extra touchdowns to their score while Illinois was shutout the remainder of the game.

Michigan’s quest to prove why they do not deserve to be a ranked team continues next week at Happy Valley where the Wolverines will take on Penn State.

Mark Dantonio answers a “dumbass” question with a dumbass answer

Speaking of disappointing football teams in the state of Michigan, let’s now move on to Michigan State. The Spartans stink on offense as was evident in their 38-0 loss to Wisconsin. In three losses this season, Michigan State has a combined 17 points. That’s bad. What’s worse is the fact that they were bad on offense last year as well, but virtually nothing was done to improve the offense as head coach Mark Dantonio returned the entire offensive coaching staff, but with changed titles and duties.

So now after a humiliating blowout loss in which the offense was made to look as inept as ever, it is fair to wonder if perhaps not making any changes on offense was a mistake. At least most people would think it was fair.

When head coach Mark Dantonio was asked whether his decision on the offensive staff in the offseason was a mistake, here was his response:

Dantonio is absolutely right. That is a “dumbass” question because we all know the answer is yes, it was a mistake, it is going to cost Michigant State its season and not doing anything about it makes him look bad. But go ahead, keep turning your frustrations on the media. That ought to help the offense.

Tennessee becomes the last Power 5 team to earn an FBS win

If you had to guess who the last Power 5 team to earn an FBS win this season was, who would you guess? Kansas? Oregon State? Illinois? One of the other perennial cellar-dwellers?

Nope, you’re all wrong. The answer is Tennessee.

The Volunteers actually won a game against a team with a pulse on Saturday, earning the ugly 20-10 win over Mississippi State. It still counts though proving that there really is no such thing as an ugly win, just an ugly season.

Tennesse improved its record to an impressive 2-4, a fact that right now is prompting every football fan in the south to stand up and spontaneously chant “S-E-C! S-E-C!”

Prior to Saturday, Tennessee’s only win of the season was against FCS Chattanooga. Yes, the Volunteers have losses to Florida and Georgia, both impressive teams. They also have losses against Georgia State and BYU so no, Tennessee is not simply a victim of the brutal SEC schedule.

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Lamar Jackson makes history with career day in win over the Bengals

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Lamar Jackson makes history with career day in win over the Bengals

BALTIMORE — Lamar Jackson set the tone for Sunday’s game on the Ravens' first drive of the afternoon. 

He rushed just twice, one of which went for a touchdown, but had 57 yards on the game-tying opening drive. 

Jackson finished with 152 yards on the ground — a career high — to carry the Ravens to a 23-17 win over the Bengals at M&T Bank Stadium. 

“I take advantage, like I said before, and I’m trying to win at the end of the day,” Jackson said after the game. “If I’ve got to run, I’ve got to do it and today that’s what it was. Sometimes I had to pass. Sometimes I had to run.”

He did throw for 236 yards and completed 21 of 33 passes, too. But the story was his legs, which kept the Bengals off-balance all day.

“Lamar was able to get out and run because of the way they were playing,” coach John Harbaugh said. “They were playing kind of spill defense. They really didn’t want us to run the ball up inside with our running backs, and that opened up some other things."

Jackson now has 460 rushing yards on the season and is on pace for over 1,200. He’s also on pace for just over 4,000 passing yards.

His dual-threat ability has flummoxed nearly every team the Ravens have played this season. Jackson has had over 300 scrimmage yards in all but one (last week in against the Steelers) of the Ravens' games. 

“That’s the most frustrating thing for a defense,” Bengals coach Zac Taylor said. “You have a play covered, and he’s an elite athlete. We’ve played a couple of good athletes. He’s one of the rarest I’ve seen in person. Just one little crease and he’s got 30 yards on you.”

Cincinnati sold out to stop the interior run, and Jackson and the rest of the Baltimore running attack burned the Bengals on the outside. 

Jackson’s elusiveness was never more evident than on the Ravens' last full drive of the game. The Ravens received the ball with 13:32 left in the fourth quarter and a 20-10 lead. They didn’t give the ball back to the Bengals until there was just over three minutes to play.

“I catch myself on the sideline stretching because, you know, they’ll be holding the ball for a minute and we’ve got to stay warm,” Matthew Judon said. “He picks us up in crucial times and keeps getting first downs. It’s hard, man. You can’t cover everybody and keep a spy on him [at] all times.”

The nine minute, 46 second drive, highlighted by a 16-yard Jackson scramble on 3rd and 14, put away any realistic chance the Bengals had of pulling off an upset.

It capped off a historic day for Jackson and his place in the NFL record books. He became the first player in NFL history to rush for more than 150 yards and register at least 200 yards passing in a regular season game.

The Bengals sold out to stop interior rushes and mostly took away big passing plays from the Ravens. Jackson just made the Bengals pick their poison when it came to choosing what to stop. 

And Jackson made Cincinnati realized that whatever it chose was still poison.

“He was cutting it back, throwing outside and running around,” Bengals linebacker Preston Brown said. “He was just having fun on us, and that’s what you never want to have done.”

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