Nationals

Oregon promotes OC Helfrich to coach

Oregon promotes OC Helfrich to coach

Mark Helfrich is Oregon's next man in.

As usual, the Ducks wasted little time finding a replacement for Chip Kelly, promoting their affable offensive coordinator to head coach Sunday. Kelly left to become coach of the Philadelphia Eagles on Wednesday.

Helfrich is the third straight offensive coordinator at Oregon to be promoted to the top job, following Kelly and his predecessor, Mike Bellotti.

The 39-year-old Oregon native signed a five-year deal with the Ducks for a reported $9 million. His promotion does not come as a surprise: Even before Oregon defeated Kanas State in the Fiesta Bowl, the Ducks' quarterbacks guru was considered the front-runner as Kelly's successor.

``Going forward we will attack in all phases. We'll embrace innovation and we'll strive to do our best to win each and every day,'' Helfrich said at a news conference Sunday afternoon where he was supported by players including quarterback Marcus Mariota and running back De'Anthony Thomas.

Helfrich, who embodies Oregon's ``Next Man In'' philosophy of substitution without skipping a beat, became offensive coordinator of the Ducks when Kelly took over four seasons ago. The Ducks have appeared in BCS bowls each of those four years, including an appearance in the national championship game against Auburn in 2011.

The Ducks, ranked No. 2 in the final AP Top 25, finished 12-1 this season.

``Win The Day and all that - that doesn't change for us,'' Mariota said.

Kelly, credited with creating Oregon's innovative hurry-up spread offense, went 46-7 as head coach at Oregon. It had been widely expected that he would jump to the NFL, leaving many surprised when he announced he was staying at Oregon after interviewing with Philadelphia, Cleveland and Buffalo following the Fiesta Bowl. Nine days later, however, he changed his mind and decided to go to the Eagles.

Just hours after Kelly's departure was announced, Oregon posted a job for a new head coach on its website. Under state law, Oregon was required to interview at least one qualified minority candidate for the job.

Former Stanford offensive coordinator Pep Hamilton acknowledged Saturday that he interviewed with Oregon before he was hired by the Indianapolis Colts' to be their offensive coordinator.

Oregon athletic director Rob Mullens said Oregon had already started the process of finding a replacement for Kelly following the Fiesta Bowl. He said it was important to name a successor quickly, because letter of intent signing day for high school recruits is on Feb. 6.

Mullens said interest from an ``impressive list of coaches for the job.'' In the end, he interviewed five candidates in person.

``We went through the process because we felt it was important to do our due diligence and we kept coming back to Mark,'' Mullens said on Sunday.

Before joining the Ducks, Helfrich was quarterbacks coach at Colorado from 2006-08. As Oregon's offensive coordinator, he also has been in charge of Oregon's quarterbacks, guiding both Darron Thomas and Mariota, a redshirt freshman.

This season Mariota set the team's single-season record with 38 touchdowns (32 passing, 5 rushing, 1 receiving), surpassing the previous mark of 36 held by Thomas (2011) and Akili Smith (1998).

The first freshman named to the Pac-12's all-conference first team in 23 years, Mariota passed for 2,739 yards, completing a school-record 68.5 percent of his passes. He had 3,429 yards of total offense, second only to Smith's 3,947 in 1998.

Thomas, his predecessor, passed for 2,761 yards and a school-record 33 passing touchdowns his junior season last season despite missing a game because of an injury. He left school with a year of eligibility remaining in hopes of playing in the NFL but went undrafted.

There are not expected to be any major changes under Helfrich. But he hinted he may allow reporters and boosters greater access to practice - something that Kelly had shut down this season - and he joked about a few other tweaks.

``I won't wear a visor, I'll eat more vegetables,'' he said.

Helfrich will also face possible fallout from an NCAA investigation into the school's use of recruiting services.

The inquiry is the result of reports that surfaced in 2011 concerning payments Oregon made to two such services, including a $25,000 check sent to Willie Lyles and Houston-based Complete Scouting Services in 2010. Lyles had a connection with a player who committed to Oregon.

Oregon had requested a summary disposition in the case and presented a report to the NCAA infractions committee outlining violations the school believed occurred and appropriate sanctions. But last month Yahoo Sports reported that Oregon is headed toward a hearing with the committee because the two sides couldn't reach an agreement.

The NCAA does not comment on ongoing investigations. The hearing could come as early as this spring.

Sources who spoke on the condition of anonymity because the it had not been announced said Sunday that Oregon promoted wide receivers coach Scott Frost, the former Nebraska quarterback, to replace Helfrich as offensive coordinator.

Frost, 38, came to Oregon in 2009 after serving as an assistant at Northern Iowa. He played seven seasons in the NFL after leading the Huskers to the national title over Tennessee in the 1997 Orange Bowl.

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Ryan Zimmerman’s return to the Nationals is finally happening

Ryan Zimmerman’s return to the Nationals is finally happening

If Ryan Zimmerman did not return to the Nationals, he at least would have a future teaching how not to negotiate.

Zimmerman openly drove down his bargaining leverage for almost a year before signing a one-year deal on Friday to return to the only professional team he’s known, a source confirmed. The deal is reported at $2 million.

Throughout the season, Zimmerman openly discussed his interest in returning and understanding it would be at a low rate. As if his stance wasn’t already clear, Zimmerman explained at a screening of the Nationals’ championship video he would return or play more golf.

“So, we’ll be good to go,” Zimmerman said.

It’s baseball for now. Zimmerman rejoins the defending World Series champions to play his 16th season. He’s a 35-year-old platoon player this season. Zimmerman’s money and legacy have been established. He’s back in the fold to pursue another title. 

And he makes an already old Nationals team older. Zimmerman turns 36 years old the day after the 2020 regular season ends. Howie Kendrick will be 37 years old by midseason. Asdrúbal Cabrera is 34 years old. Eric Thames is 33 years old. Will Harris is 35, Daniel Hudson 32, Sean Doolittle 33, Max Scherzer 35, Kurt Suzuki 36. Yan Gomes will be 33 just after the All-Star break. 

Zimmerman will share first base with Thames and, occasionally, Howie Kendrick. They provide an intriguing splits-based platoon. Thames hits right-handers well -- 23 of his 25 2019 home runs came against them, as did much of his opportunity in Milwaukee -- and Zimmerman has a .917 career OPS against left-handed pitchers. Zimmerman is the much better defender.

He’s back because he -- and the Nationals -- believe Zimmerman’s production remains directly tied to his health. His September and postseason work showed Zimmerman’s bat speed remains intact. He is quietly one of the better defensive first baseman in the league. They think they can protect him. Overall, the Nationals are so comfortable with an expanse of older players because they plan to shield them with limited usage. Also, Josh Donaldson went to Minnesota, clearing the cash and providing a need for Zimmerman. 

Kendrick, Cabrera and Starlin Castro can play various infield spots. Thames and Zimmerman will reduce the other’s role, as well as pinch-hit when not starting. Davey Martinez has options. He also has the challenge of rotating players. One thing on his side: older players know they are just that. Grousing about playing time should not be an issue with the group, the majority of which played as role players last year on the way to a World Series title. 

One other thing to note about Zimmerman: he’s 30 home runs short of 300. Can he get there with another two years on the field? He has at least one more to add to his total, assuring his driver has another lonely summer.

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Alex Ovechkin named to NHL's All-Decade first team for 2010-19

Alex Ovechkin named to NHL's All-Decade first team for 2010-19

Alex Ovechkin once again was named to one of the NHL's All-Decade teams.

This go-around, Ovechkin was named to the first-team for the All-Decade Team spanning 2010-2019. 

During those 10 seasons, there was no one that totaled more than Ovi's 437 goals. Only two others had more than his 730 points.

Through our eyes, we saw him mature from a unique superstar to a once-in-a-generation athlete. Ovechkin won his first Stanley Cup in the decade after years of heartbreak and dominant Capitals teams that could never escape the second round. 

Now, he's a mere eight goals away from reaching 700 and further etching his name in the fabric of the sport. 

He is joined with fellow forward Patrick Kane and Duncan Keith of the Blackhawks. Sidney Crosby of the Penguins, Drew Doughty of the Kings and Marc-Andre Fleury of the Golden Knights rounded out the six-player first team. 

NHL ALL-DECADE FIRST TEAM

Alex Ovechkin - F - Capitals
Patrick Kane - F - Blackhawks
Sidney Crosby - C - Penguins
Duncan Keith - D - Blackhawks
Drew Doughty - D - Kings
Marc-Andre Fleury - G- Golden Knights

NHL ALL-DECADE SECOND TEAM

Evgeni Malkin - F - Penguins
Patrice Bergeron - F - Bruins
Steven Stamkos - F - Lightning
Erik Karlsson - D - Sharks
Zdeno Chara - D - Bruins
Henrik Lundqvist - G - Rangers

The Great 8 was also named to the All-Decade team in 2000-10. Only Zdeno Chara and Sidney Crosby, named to the second team for the last decade, received the recognition last decade as well. 

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