Redskins

O'Brien downplays national coach of the year talk

O'Brien downplays national coach of the year talk

He took control at Penn State in the midst of the bleakest days in its history. After four straight wins proved the Nittany Lions program could thrive in the face of scandal, coach Bill O'Brien has thrust himself into contention as an early frontrunner for national coach of the year.

Just don't tell O'Brien.

After a shaky start to his tenure - a 24-14 loss at home to Ohio - O'Brien has earned praise for the turnaround and the way he has handled the fallout of the Jerry Sandusky scandal. Sandusky, maintaining his innocence, was sentenced Tuesday to at least 30 years in prison.

O'Brien was busy at work 11 miles down the road from the courtroom, far removed from Sandusky's sentence in Bellefonte, Pa., in the child sexual abuse scandal that brought shame to Penn State and led to former coach Joe Paterno's downfall.

O'Brien has led the Nittany Lions to a 4-2 record, including four straight victories and an upset over previously unbeaten Northwestern. The win was a huge confidence boost going into the off week and propelled O'Brien into the race for coach of the year honors. Only six games into the season, and with the brunt of conference play ahead, O'Brien refused to consider the idea that he'd be in the thick of the race with stalwarts like Ohio State's Urban Meyer, Alabama's Nick Saban and Kansas State's Bill Snyder, who have their teams nestled in the top 10.

``We have Murderer's Row coming up here, starting with Iowa,'' O'Brien said. ``There's a lot of great coaches in this country. I've only coached six games in my whole career. That's the farthest thing from my mind.''

O'Brien has tried to keep a ``business as usual'' approach for the Nittany Lions as they prepare for an Oct. 20 game at Iowa (3-2). Then comes the big one - Oct. 27 at Beaver Stadium - against the Buckeyes that could have voters ready to hand O'Brien the coaching award at midfield if Penn State pulls off the upset.

Either way, he's in the conversation because he quickly made Penn State competitive in a season many expected they'd be reeling following the scandal and sanctions that gutted the program. O'Brien had to face open season on his entire roster after the NCAA penalties were announced making his top priority not scouting reports or practice schedules, but simply keeping the Nittany Lions intact.

A reduction in scholarships and a four-year postseason ban are among the sanctions, so potentially crippling that some critics - some of the same ones pushing O'Brien for top coaching honors - have suggested they were worse than shutting down football entirely for at least a season.

O'Brien never believed it. He knew that playing a full slate was always a better alternative than sitting on the sidelines, even when they were 0-2.

So far, he's right, even as the pressure never lets up.

``It's kind of like drinking water from a fire hose,'' O'Brien said. ``Something happens new every day. You have to budget your time and do the best that you can. We have a great staff here, a veteran staff that has done an excellent job of coaching these kids, and that really helps when you're a brand new head coach.

``It helps to have a great staff.''

The sordid Sandusky case has caused such grief for the program over the last 11 months, that not even a winning record and victories over nationally ranked teams could begin to make a dent on the black cloud that hovers over campus. Don't forget, O'Brien might not even have a full roster until 2020.

But while tough times certainly loom in Happy Valley, for this week, for the now, there is every reason for the Nittany Lions to feel good about the season's first two months.

And as much he downplays his impact, O'Brien can take credit for the solid start.

``I knew that we had a really tough, resilient group of players and a good coaching staff,'' he said. ``It had nothing to do with me. It's about the players and coaching staff here doing a good job of coming together and playing well.''

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Need to Know: The Redskins week that was—Roster competition, Brown vs. Pryor

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Need to Know: The Redskins week that was—Roster competition, Brown vs. Pryor

Here is what you need to know on this Saturday, June 23, 33 days before the Washington Redskins start training camp.  

The Redskins week that was

A look at some of the most popular posts and hottest topics of the week on Real Redskins  and NBC Sports Washington.

Post-minicamp Redskins 53-man roster projection—Defense—NFL coaches and others like to tell you that competition determines who wins roster spots in the league. And that may be true to an extent. But many roster spots are predetermined by a player’s contract situation and/or draft status. It is unlikely that an undrafted player like Fish Smithson will win a roster spot over Troy Apke even if the former outperforms the latter in every way during training camp. Apke was a fourth-round pick and they aren’t going to give up on him in favor of an undrafted player. It would cost $3.2 million in dead cap to cut Stacy McGee and only $150,000 to move on from Ziggy Hood so McGee will win a “competition” that is even remotely close. (Offensive projection here)

Redskins will 'have it out' for Terrelle Pryor at training camp—While this is something that could add a little spice to the Jets’ visit to Richmond, don’t look for much of anything to happen. Zach Brown might give a little extra shove to Pryor here and there but he’s not going to do anything that will draw blood or even cause a deep bruise. If nothing else, a big hit on Pryor would invite retaliation by the Jets on Josh Doctson or Paul Richardson. And that might lead to more retaliation and you end up with a brawl like the Redskins and Texans had a couple of years ago.

Trent Williams very much of approves of Smith and Guice—Williams is going into his ninth NFL season and he has yet to be on the winning side of a playoff game. He thinks that Alex Smith and Derrius Guice can help change that. 

The curious case of Alex Smith and the NFL Top 100 list—I normally greet this list with a big yawn and this year was no exception. But I do find the omission of Smith, who led the NFL in passer rating and was third in adjusted net yards per attempt, odd. In an update to this post, the NFL released the names of the top 10 players and Smith is not on it. He shouldn’t be, but he should be somewhere on the 100, perhaps in the middle of the pack. The only Redskins player to appear on the list was Trent Williams at No. 57.

The Redskins' best players who are 25 or younger—It’s likely that nine players who are 25 or younger will line up as starters for the Redskins this year. I don’t have a rundown of how that compares to the rest of the league but it’s notable that in the last two years six of them have replaced players who were either approaching age 30 or over it. I’ll engage in some speculation here and say that five of the young players—Daron Payne, Derrius Guice, Preston Smith, Jonathan Allen, and Montae Nicholson—are good enough to potentially make a Pro Bowl at some point in their careers. 

Stay up to date on the Redskins. Rich Tandler covers the team 365 days a year. Like his Facebook page, Facebook.com/TandlerNBCSand follow him on Twitter  @TandlerNBCSand on Instagram @RichTandler

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Timeline 

Former Redskins defensive tackle Dave Butz was born on this date in 1950. 

Days until:

—Training camp starts (7/26) 33
—Preseason opener @ Patriots (8/9) 47
—Roster cut to 53 (9/1) 70

The Redskins last played a game 174 days ago. They will open the 2018 NFL season at the Cardinals in 78 days. 

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GM Brian MacLellan: Capitals are close to re-signing John Carlson

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GM Brian MacLellan: Capitals are close to re-signing John Carlson

DALLAS—The Caps are “really close” to signing star defenseman John Carlson to a long-term extension, GM Brian MacLellan said Friday night.

“We’re getting closer,” MacLellan said following the first round of the NHL Draft. “Hopefully we can get it done here over the next few days. We’re really close.”

Earlier in the day, the Caps cleared significant space under the salary cap ceiling by trading Philipp Grubauer and Brooks Orpik to Colorado for a second round draft pick (47th overall). 

That space will now be used to lock up Carlson, who could become the best defenseman on the open market if he were to reach it.

MacLellan met with Carlson’s agent, Rick Curran, here on Thursday night.

MacLellan did not divulge any figures, but it’s expected that Carlson’s new contract could come in at eight years and $8 million per—or perhaps a bit more. 

He earned $4 million last season.

Carlson had a career year in 2017-18 and was critical during the Caps' run to the Stanley Cup. He led all defensemen in the regular season with 68 points (15 goals, 53 assists). The 28-year-old also skated a career-high 24:47 per game.

MacLellan has long said that re-signing Carlson was the Caps’ top priority this offseason. And now it looks like that could happen within days, assuming the talks do not hit any snags.

“We’re going to do our best to sign John,” MacLellan said. “We’ve said it all along. We waited until the end of the year. We’ve had discussions. We’re close and hopefully we can close the deal here over the next 24 hours.”

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