Ravens

Purdue make quick decision to fire Hope

201211241519551612208-p2.jpeg

Purdue make quick decision to fire Hope

INDIANAPOLIS (AP) Purdue wants a football team that can get to the Rose Bowl and decided Danny Hope was not the coach to take the Boilermakers there.

About 24 hours after winning back the Old Oaken Bucket against rival Indiana to become bowl-eligible again, athletic director Morgan Burke announced he had fired Hope and had made receivers coach Patrick Higgins the interim coach for the Boilermakers' next game.

The swift move was no surprise to Boilermakers fans who had grown increasingly restless with a program that had been no better than mediocre for much of the past decade. That wasn't good enough for Burke.

``Make no bones about it, we want to go to Pasadena. That's what it's about,'' he said. ``We've got to put ourselves in a position to do that.''

During a hastily-called news conference with reporters Sunday evening, Burke repeatedly praised Hope's commitment for trying to resuscitate a program that was already sinking when he took over after the 2008 season and then was ravaged by injuries.

Even so, a three-game winning streak, back-to-back bowl games and three wins over the hated Hoosiers couldn't save Hope's job.

Burke had said he would wait until the end of the season before making a decision. Apparently, he came to the conclusion before Saturday's 56-35 rout over archrival Indiana - a win that made Purdue bowl eligible for a second straight year, the first time that had happened since 2006-07 - and he saw no point in wasting any more time.

``I think when it became clear to me that no matter how hard one was working, it was going to be difficult to reverse the image and the view of the program,'' Burke said. ``I don't like people to have to continue to put 120 percent effort in - and Danny is a 150 percent effort guy, he gives it all he's got - and to recognize that there are forces beyond your control. As the season progressed, it became increasingly clear to me that we were probably going to have to make a change.''

Burke did not provide much detail about how the national search would be conducted, though he did say Colts general manager Ryan Grigson, Texans GM Rick Smith and Colts ex-vice chairman Bill Polian would advise him.

Burke also did not provide a timetable for hiring a new coach.

Some names that have already been percolating include Northern Illinois' Dave Doeren, Illinois State's Brock Spack and Ball State's Pete Lembo. Other names also have bandied about over the past several weeks, but Burke declined to comment on any of the potential candidates.

One thing is clear: Burke does not want a complete makeover.

``We are an offensive-minded program. That's where we've made our mark over the years and I don't see us changing,'' he said. ``We're certainly not going to move into a coach that has a dramatically different scheme. Because we built this team to play a certain kind of football, and we've seen other institutions who have made a coaching change and then they change their style of play and it took two or three years to adjust. We're not going to do that. We've got talent in this program.''

Hope was the hand-picked successor to the school's all-time winningest coach, Joe Tiller. He left Eastern Kentucky, spent one season on Tiller's staff as an assistant and then went 22-27 in four seasons as the head coach. He ended the school's three-year bowl drought last season and brought Purdue its first bowl win since 2007 by winning the Little Caesars Bowl in Detroit last December.

He also received a two-year contract extension in December that was to keep him at Purdue through the 2016 season.

But last year's late-season success raised expectations - expectations that fell flat this season and resulted in empty seats.

Things looked promising after a 3-1 start. Then came blowout losses at home to Michigan and Wisconsin, and the restless fans started calling for a change. The rumors were so loud by Oct. 29 that Burke took the unusual step of issuing a statement that essentially said he would wait until the end of the season before making a decision.

Hope knew what was being said.

``I don't have any idea. But either way, I'm going to be OK,'' he said when asked about returning next season after Saturday's game. ``Like I said, I've learned to live life on the hot seat here at Purdue. Any time that you have a contract that has some weak spots in it, I didn't have a lot of leverage when I came here. I don't have that strong of a contract from a buyout standpoint or a compensation standpoint, any time you're dealing with a contract like that, you can be on the hot seat on a regular basis.''

The buyout was only $600,000 and declined by $100,000 each successive year.

Players also had a sense the move was coming.

After beating the hated Hoosiers, Hope hugged his wife and one of his players before leading the team singing the school's fight song in front of the student section. When the song ended, two players hoisted Hope on their shoulders briefly - a moment Hope called special.

During postgame interviews, players expressed support for Hope, none more emphatically than sixth-year quarterback Robert Marve. He thanked Hope for giving him multiple second chances and allowing him to play this season with a torn anterior cruciate ligament in his left knee.

For now, the Boilermakers are asking Higgins, who had been calling the plays while offensive coordinator Gary Nord was out with a back injury, to pick up the pieces. Nord will serve as a senior adviser for the bowl game.

Hope and Purdue opened this season by talking publicly about reaching the Big Ten title game in Indianapolis, putting the program back on the national map and possibly returning to a New Year's Day bowl game.

When that didn't happen, it sealed Hope's fate.

``I don't like to walk in the locker room and see the faces on the young men after they lose,'' Burke said. ``I don't like to see the long faces on the coaches who I have a lot of respect for.

``I know how hard they've worked and how close they've been,'' Burke added.

Quick Links

Joe Flacco receives high praise from teammates after first training camp practice

flacco-trainingcamp-usat.png
USA TODAY Sports

Joe Flacco receives high praise from teammates after first training camp practice

Ravens football is back and so is Joe Cool.

The team’s first training camp practice took place Thursday afternoon, and Joe Flacco’s teammates – from offensive to defensive players – mentioned how laser focused the 10-year veteran is.

"Joe always has a lot of personality,” running back Alex Collins said via SB Nation’s Baltimore Beatdown.

“He is a good guy. He’s a real funny guy, but definitely coming into this year, he has a lot of fire behind him. And it does a lot motivating us especially early when we first reported back. Just seeing him work hard and just seeing him get better every day. He’s definitely got a lot of fire behind him this year.”

Flacco is entering the final year of his contract with a lot on the line following a disappointing start to the 2017 season. But a huge factor that is different for the 33-year old coming into this preseason opposed to last is his health.

“Most definitely,” Collins said on whether he can tell if Flacco is healthier this year. “He’s a lot faster as well, by the way, guys.”

And when it comes to the “Is Joe Flacco elite” debate, linebacker C.J. Mosley knows the consensus within the Under Armour Performance Center.

“I think every year [Joe Flacco] comes in with his mindset that he wants to be great,” Mosley said.

“Mainly because everybody outside of this building does not think he is elite and inside the building, everybody does think that way. Since Joe has been here, you know he is one of those players that never gets rattled. You never see his emotions too high, too low. He’s been our quarterback that kinda stays in the middle to make sure everything goes smooth. That’s kinda how he has been this offseason too. He’s come in looking strong, body looking good.”

Flacco’s health is up to speed as well as his mentality. Flacco organized private workouts with his wide receivers and tight ends at a local park across from the Ravens’ facility last week. This is the first time he has done so since 2011. When asked if he initiated the session, Michael Crabtree gave all the credit to his new quarterback.

“No, that’s all Flac [Flacco], man,” Crabtree said. “That’s the leader. We’re just the wideouts. [We] do whatever he says. If we’ve got something we bring to the table, then we make it work.”

 

MORE RAVENS NEWS:

Quick Links

10 Questions in 10 days: Is Shawn Lauvao the concern, or is the issue bigger on the O-Line?

lauvao_usat.png
USA TODAY Sports

10 Questions in 10 days: Is Shawn Lauvao the concern, or is the issue bigger on the O-Line?

With Redskins Training Camp set to begin July 26th, JP Finlay takes a look at 10 of the most pressing questions for the Burgundy and Gold before the team heads to Richmond. 

No. 10: Major questions at linebacker on Redskins depth chart 

No. 9: What is Kevin O’Connell's new role in Redskins offense?

No. 8: More investments on D-Line, but who goes where?

No. 7: Do the Redskins have a 1,000-yard WR?

No. 6: Is Shawn Lauvao the concern, or is the issue bigger on the O-Line?

Right or wrong, fans blamed Shawn Lauvao for much of the Redskins struggles on the offensive line last season. Pro Football Focus backs up the fans, as Lauvao landed a -19.1 grade, among the worst in the NFL at the guard spot. 

It's worth pointing out that Lauvao was playing hurt during much of his nine starts before getting shut down for the season just before Thanksgiving. In fact, injuries have probably been the biggest issue for Lauvao in his four seasons with the Redskins. 

In four seasons in Washington, Lauvao has never played a full 16-game slate. Last year he played just nine games, and in 2015 he only played three games. 

That points to what may be the bigger issue for the Redskins: offensive line depth. Last season was wild with the amount of injuries Washington sustained up front. It seems almost impossible for the team to have that many injuries again.

Still, the Redskins lost Arie Kouandjio for the year in the offseason. Kouandjio played better last year than Lauvao, and having both men in Richmond would have provided real competition. 

And that might be the biggest question: Neither Lauvao or Kouandjio represent a difference maker at left guard, yet the team did little to address the position. 

All offseason, the Washington brass walked a fine line between confidence and arrogance. The organization believes strongly in the players they already have, and outside of signing Paul Richardson and re-signing Zach Brown, the team had a quiet offseason. The Redskins struggled to run the ball the last few years, and still, the team did not look to upgrade at LG. 

It's important to note that the Redskins have two All-Pro caliber offensive linemen in Trent Williams and Brandon Scherff. Morgan Moses is a plus at the right tackle spot too. The team likes Chase Roullier at center too, and they tried to add depth in drafting Geron Christian in the third round and bringing back swing tackle backup Ty Nsekhe as a restricted free agent. 

Left guard will be a question, and it's hard not to think that it will be the weakest position on the O-line. Should that submarine the group? It shouldn't. What if Lauvao gets hurt?  Then things get quite tricky.

For the Redskins, however, the expectation might be that the line needs to perform as a unit, and with talent like Williams and Scherff, that should cover up any weaknesses.

Time, and health, will tell if that plan works. 

MORE REDSKINS NEWS:

#REDSKINSTALK PODCAST

Don't forget to subscribe to the #RedskinsTalk podcast, hosted by JP Finlay.

Click here for the #RedskinsTalk on Apple Podcastshere for Google Play or press play below.