Nationals

In new role, Brandon opens Bills coaching search

In new role, Brandon opens Bills coaching search

ORCHARD PARK, N.Y. (AP) With the Buffalo Bills hierarchy settled, it's on with the coaching search.

``As soon as we get off this podium, we go to work,'' Bills CEO Russ Brandon said Tuesday, shortly after being promoted to team president. ``We're heading out of here and starting that process.''

First stop: Arizona.

That was the destination of a plane Brandon, general manager Buddy Nix and several other key front-office members had boarded to immediately begin the process of finding a coach.

Though the team, on its website, didn't divulge any details beyond Brandon's travel plans, Arizona is home to three potential candidates: Cardinals defensive coordinator Ray Horton as well as former Cardinals head coach Ken Whisenhunt and his assistant Russ Grimm, who had both been fired a day earlier.

It was a busy and eventful start to the new year for the Bills, after closing 2012 by firing coach Chan Gailey following three losing seasons.

Brandon's promotion gives him full control of the franchise's day-to-day operations. Nix has been retained. And assistant GM Doug Whaley's star is rising. Whaley will be involved in the coaching search, an indication that he continues to be groomed as Nix's eventual successor.

Brandon will now report directly to team owner Ralph Wilson, after assuming the title previously held by the 94-year-old owner. The transfer of power was made Monday, when Brandon met with Wilson at the owner's home in suburban Detroit.

``It was a rather emotional visit,'' Brandon said. ``He told me he was passing the torch to me to run the franchise in totality. He has granted me full authority to run the franchise with zero restrictions and zero limitations.''

The Bills are in the midst of their fifth coaching search since 2001. They're coming off their second consecutive 6-10 season and extended the NFL's longest playoff drought to 13 years. Over that stretch, Buffalo only once had a winning record - 9-7 in 2004.

Wilson, the franchise's founder, has only once before given up the title of president. That was in 2001, when he hired Tom Donahoe to also serve as general manager. Donahoe was fired after the 2005 season, at which point Wilson took back the title and said he had no plan to ever give it up again.

``These past 13 years have been very difficult on our fans, and we have not produced the type of winning that they deserve,'' Wilson said in a statement ``We want our team to be one that our fans are proud of. I believe that Russ has the unique abilities to assemble and lead the talent we will need to get the job done.''

Brandon said the coaching search will be ``exhaustive'' in his attempt to revive a once-proud franchise who's brand and relevancy he described as ``tarnished.''

``We haven't won enough games. And that's on us,'' Brandon said. ``And we're going to change it. We need to change it. And I will go to the end of the earth to make sure that we change it.''

Nix will report directly to Brandon, while maintaining authority over football operations.

Nix declined to be pinned down on the what he's looking for in a coaching candidate, saying: ``This time, I think it's wide open.''

That's a switch from three years ago, when Nix narrowed his parameters on hiring someone with previous head-coaching experience and an offensive background.

On other issues, Nix called it ``an organizational'' decision to fire Gailey. Nix backtracked on the unconditional support he voiced toward Gailey in November by saying: ``Things change, and it changed some with us. We kind of collapsed at the end. That made a difference.''

As for starting quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick's future, Nix said that will be left up to the next coach.

Brandon completed his 16th season with the Bills, and has been serving as the team's chief operating officer since 2008.

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Soto makes debut in Nationals loss to Dodgers

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USA TODAY Sports

Soto makes debut in Nationals loss to Dodgers

WASHINGTON  -- Kike Hernandez and Yasiel Puig each hit two-run homers, and the Los Angeles Dodgers beat the Washington Nationals 7-2 on Sunday to complete a three-game sweep.

Hernandez's blast off Stephen Strasburg in the fifth inning put the Dodgers up 3-2. Yasmani Grandal also homered off Strasburg (5-4), who allowed three runs and five hits over 6 2/3 innings with seven strikeouts.

Alex Wood (1-4) pitched six innings, allowing just three hits and two earned runs. Wood came out to start the seventh, but returned to the clubhouse after showing some discomfort during his warm-up tosses.

Trea Turner homered for Washington, which swept Arizona last weekend and then went five days without playing a full game because of rain before getting swept by the Dodgers.

Los Angeles, after losing six consecutive games, has now won four straight overall and five of six over Washington this season.

Washington's Juan Soto, at 19 the youngest active player in the majors, made his debut in the eighth as a pinch-hitter and struck out against Erik Goeddel.

The Dodgers added two runs in the ninth. Josh Fields recorded the final four outs for his second save of the season.

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George McPhee's Vegas Golden Knights advance to Stanley Cup Final

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George McPhee's Vegas Golden Knights advance to Stanley Cup Final

WINNIPEG, Manitoba -- Ryan Reaves scored the winning goal, Marc-Andre Fleury made 31 saves and the Vegas Golden Knights pushed their remarkable expansion season into the Stanley Cup Final, beating the Winnipeg Jets 2-1 on Sunday in Game 5 of the Western Conference final.

Alex Tuch also scored for the Knights. They lost Game 1 in Winnipeg before winning four straight to become the first expansion team since the 1968 St. Louis Blues -- when the six initial expansion teams were put alone in the West -- to get to the final.

Vegas will meet the Tampa Bay Lightning or the Washington Capitals in the final. Tampa Bay leads the Eastern Conference final 3-2, with Game 6 set for Monday night in Washington.

Josh Morrissey scored for the Jets, and Connor Hellebuyck made 30 saves.

Reaves, the bruising Winnipeg native acquired from the Pittsburgh Penguins before to the trade deadline in February, snapped a 1-1 tie with 6:39 left in the second period when he tipped Luca Sbisa's point shot past Hellebuyck for his first goal of the playoffs.

Winnipeg got a power play early in the third, but couldn't muster much of anything. The Knights smothered much of the Jets' attack for the next 10 minutes, with Hellebuyck having to come up with big stops on William Karlsson and Eric Haula to keep his team within one.

The Jets pressed with under 4 minutes to go, with Fleury stopping captain Blake Wheeler on the doorstep, but it wasn't nearly enough as the Knights closed out their third straight series on the road.

The Jets beat the Knights 4-2 in Game 1, but Vegas snatched home ice with a 3-1 victory in Game 2 before picking up 4-2 and 3-2 wins at T-Mobile Arena.

The Knights, whose jaw-dropping inaugural 109-point campaign included a Pacific Division crown, swept the Los Angeles Kings in the first round, and knocked out the San Jose Sharks in six games.

The Jets had the NHL's second-best record with 114 points in the regular season. They advanced to the first conference final in city's history with a five-game victory over the Minnesota Wild in the opening round before topping the Presidents' Trophy-winning Nashville Predators in Game 7 on the road.

The usual raucous, white-clad crowd at Bell MTS Place -- not to mention the thousands of fans outside the arena attending a street party on a sun-drenched spring afternoon -- were silenced just 5:11 into Game 5 when Tuch jumped on Morrissey's turnover and fired his sixth past Hellebuyck.

The Jets were tentative to start and it got worse after the opener as Vegas dominated the next couple of shifts, forcing some good saves from Hellebuyck before Winnipeg got its feet moving.

After being outshot 7-1 in the first 7 minutes, the Jets finally pushed back and turned the tide with the next nine attempts on goal, culminating with Morrissey making amends for his early gaffe with 2:46 left in the period.

Bryan Little won a faceoff in the offensive zone straight back to second-year defenseman, who blasted his first career playoff goal past Fleury's glove.

One of Winnipeg's downfalls in the series through four games was an inability to maintain momentum. The Knights scored within 1:28 of a Jets' goal in each of the first four games -- a crushing 12 seconds after Winnipeg tied Game 3, and an equally gut-wrenching 43 seconds after the Jets knotted Game 4 -- but they managed to take the game to the locker rooms tied 1-1.

Both teams had chances in the second period before Reaves made it 2-1, with Jets center Mathieu Perrault just missing on a pass from Little that had too much speed.

Right after Reaves scored the second playoff goal of his career -- and first since 2015 with St. Louis -- Winnipeg's Nikolaj Ehlers rang a shot off the post on Fleury.

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