Nationals

Vols hire Cincinnati's Jones as new football coach

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Vols hire Cincinnati's Jones as new football coach

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (AP) Butch Jones was pondering whether to leave Cincinnati this week to coach Colorado when he received a text message that inadvertently foreshadowed his eventual destination.

It was from Denver Broncos quarterback and Tennessee great Peyton Manning.

``He was selling me on Colorado,'' Jones said. ``He said it was hard for a person from the University of Tennessee to be selling somebody to come to the University of Colorado. I wanted to text him back, `Come on, I want to go to Tennessee.' ``

That's exactly where Jones ended up.

Tennessee introduced Jones on Friday as its successor to Derek Dooley, who was fired Nov. 18 after going 15-21 in three seasons. Jones called Tennessee his dream job and said he was taking over ``the best college football program in America.''

It hardly mattered to Jones that he wasn't Tennessee's first choice.

``I think I was my wife's third choice, and it's worked for 20 years,'' Jones said.

The 44-year-old Jones has a 50-27 record in six seasons as a head coach. He went 27-13 in three seasons at Central Michigan and was 23-14 at Cincinnati the last three years. He now faces the task of rebuilding a former Southeastern Conference power that has posted three consecutive losing seasons.

Jones agreed to a six-year contract worth $18.2 million, ending a tumultuous couple of days for both himself and his new school. Colorado had offered him a five-year deal worth at least $13.5 million.

Tennessee went after at least two other candidates before hiring Jones.

During the 19-day search to replace Dooley, the Volunteers contacted ESPN analyst and former Super Bowl-winning coach Jon Gruden, who indicated he wasn't interested. The Vols then pursued Charlie Strong, who said Thursday he had turned down their offer and would stay at Louisville.

``Rarely in life is anything exactly what it seems to be,'' Tennessee athletic director Dave Hart said. ``Life doesn't throw us all fastballs. It throws us curves, and then you've got some screwballs. ... You've got to be able to adjust.''

Jones, meanwhile, was apparently waiting for a job like Tennessee.

On the same day Strong made his announcement, Jones rejected Colorado's offer. He also had been linked to the Purdue coaching job before removing himself from consideration.

Cincinnati athletic director Whit Babcock said Jones told him Thursday morning that he was turning down Colorado. Mere minutes later, Tennessee athletic director Dave Hart called Babcock to express his interest in Jones. Babcock said Jones notified him Friday at 5:15 a.m. that he was accepting Tennessee's offer. Jones informed Cincinnati's players at a 7:30 a.m. team meeting.

``It's been kind of a whirlwind,'' Jones said.

Jones' hiring means each of the four Southeastern Conference teams that fired coaches this year has filled its vacancy.

Kentucky hired Florida State defensive coordinator Mark Stoops last week to replace Joker Phillips. Arkansas hired Bret Bielema away from Wisconsin on Tuesday to take over for John L. Smith. Auburn selected Arkansas State's Gus Malzahn on Tuesday as the replacement for Gene Chizik.

Jones will be Tennessee's fourth coach in a six-season stretch, not including offensive coordinator Jim Chaney's stint as interim head coach in the 2012 season finale after Dooley's dismissal. Phillip Fulmer was fired after the 2008 season. Lane Kiffin coached Tennessee in 2009 before leaving for Southern California. Dooley lasted three years.

After winning at least eight games for 16 consecutive seasons from 1989-2004 and posting double-digit wins in nine of those years, Tennessee hasn't earned more than seven victories in any of its last five seasons. The Vols went 5-7 this fall for their fifth losing season over the last eight years.

Jones believes Tennessee can recapture its past glory.

``Our fan base and myself have the same expectations,'' Jones said. ``We're working to be the best. We're working to be No. 1 every day. We're working to be national champions, and we're working to be SEC champions. This program has done it, and we'll do it again.''

Hart said at the start of the search that head coaching experience was ``critically important'' and that he wanted a coach who ``knows the difficulty of climbing the ladder in the SEC.'' Jones lacks SEC experience, but his teams have earned at least a share of a conference title in four of his six seasons as a head coach.

``Les Miles and Nick Saban had zero SEC experience when they came into this league,'' Jones said.

After replacing Notre Dame coach Brian Kelly at Central Michigan and then again at Cincinnati, Jones maintained the momentum his predecessor had established at each school.

In Jones' three-year stint at Central Michigan, the Chippewas won two Mid-American Conference championships. Jones went 4-8 in his first year at Cincinnati, but the Bearcats are 19-6 since and have tied for first place in the Big East each of the last two seasons. Cincinnati's 2011 season included a 45-23 loss at Tennessee.

Jones, the third consecutive Cincinnati coach to leave after three years, signed a contract extension after the 2011 season that included a $1.4 million buyout if he left before Jan. 1. Mark Dantonio went 18-17 at Cincinnati from 2004-06 before Michigan State hired him away. Kelly posted a 34-6 record before leaving for Notre Dame.

Cincinnati has made defensive line coach Steve Stripling its interim head coach for the Dec. 27 Belk Bowl against Duke in Charlotte, N.C., while it begins searching for Jones' successor.

``Obviously we'd like to find somebody who would be committed here for a long time, and I think we're prepared to make those investments necessary to do that,'' Babcock said.

Now that he's left Cincinnati for Tennessee, Jones has plenty of challenges ahead.

He must restore a sense of order to a program that has lacked stability amid all these coaching changes. He also must win over a fan base that sought a bigger name and doesn't know much about him beyond the fact his Bearcats couldn't beat Dooley's Vols a year ago.

``You don't move backward,'' Hart said. ``You move forward. I think that's what we have to do now as a fan base. Our alumni, our fan base, we've got to come back together as one. We've got to come back together and get Tennessee football back where we all want it.''

Hart believes he's found the guy to get Tennessee there, even if he wasn't the Vols' first pick.

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AP Sports Writers Joe Kay in Cincinnati, Larry Lage in Ann Arbor, Mich., and Teresa Walker in Nashville, contributed to this report.

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Nationals power through rain delay, come back against Phillies

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USA Today

Nationals power through rain delay, come back against Phillies

WASHINGTON -- Daniel Murphy's two-run single drove in the tying and go-ahead runs in the eighth inning and the Washington Nationals rallied past the Philadelphia Phillies 8-6 on Sunday night to salvage the finale of the three-game series.

Anthony Rendon homered and doubled, Bryce Harper tied a career high with three doubles and Michael A. Taylor and Murphy each had three singles in a game that was delayed 38 minutes by rain in the bottom of the fourth inning.

Rhys Hoskins and Nick Williams homered for the Phillies, who had won three straight.

Pinch hitter Brian Goodwin led off the eighth with a walk against Victor Arano. With one out, right-hander Seranthony Dominguez (1-2) came on to face Harper, who doubled to right, with Goodwin stopping at third.

After Rendon grounded out, Juan Soto was intentionally walked and Murphy lined a 1-2 pitch to shallow right. Taylor's single made it 8-6.

Ryan Madson (2-3) pitched the eighth inning, and Sean Doolittle finished it for his 21st save.

The Phillies took a 6-2 lead in the fifth on a two-run triple by Odubel Herrera and a two-run homer by Williams.

Washington pulled within a run at 6-5 in the sixth with four two-out hits, including an RBI triple by Trea Turner and RBI doubles by Harper and Rendon.

Nick Pivetta went five innings and allowed two runs on eight hits for the Phillies.

Washington starter Jefry Rodriguez was charged with four runs and five hits in four-plus innings.

The Phillies broke on top on Hoskins's two-run homer in the third.

Rendon made it 2-1 with a solo homer in the fourth. The next three hitters singled, tying the game, but with the rain intensifying, out came the tarp. When play resumed, Pivetta struck out three straight to end the inning.

TRAINER'S ROOM

Phillies: C Andrew Knapp left in the seventh with a right knee contusion. ... 3B Maikel Franco slipped on first base and fell hard in the eighth. He stayed in to run, but left after the half-inning. ... INF Jesmuel Valent?n was placed on the paternity leave list and OF Dylan Cozens (left quadriceps strain) was reinstated from the 10-day DL.

Nationals: RHP Jeremy Hellickson (right hamstring strain) allowed 11 runs in 4 2/3 innings of a rehab start at Class A Potomac on Sunday. "I'm more concerned with the way he feels," manager Dave Martinez said, downplaying the results. "We'll go from there." ... RH reliever Brandon Kintzler (right forearm flexor strain) threw a scoreless inning at Potomac. ... RHP Stephen Strasburg (right shoulder inflammation) played catch on the field again. "We'll keep doing his throwing progression and figure out when he can actually throw from the mound," Martinez said.

UP NEXT

Phillies: RHP Vince Velasquez (5-7, 4.82) starts the opener of a series against the Yankees on Monday. He is 0-0 with a 3.24 ERA in two games vs. New York.

Nationals: RHP Gio Gonzalez (6-4, 3.08) opens a series at Tampa Bay on Monday. He is 2-2 with a 5.54 ERA in six games against the Rays.

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Jay Gruden wants excellent play from Alex Smith, but he also expects personal responsibility

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USA TODAY Sports

Jay Gruden wants excellent play from Alex Smith, but he also expects personal responsibility

As June minicamp concluded, Redskins head coach Jay Gruden pulled no punches when asked about expectations for new quarterback Alex Smith. 

"He has got to get it down by the first game," Gruden said of Smith. 

While that might not sound overly demanding, remember this is Smith's first season in Washington. The QB will be playing with new teammates and implementing new terminology. 

Still, Smith is a veteran with a lot of experience, and frankly, it seems like Gruden isn't worried about a transition period. 

"We are not in here to build the team around him, the team is built and he has to lead it like right now," the coach said. "This isn’t a two- or three-year process. This is a one-year process and we have got to win right away."

Gruden made things quite clear. He expects the best from Smith, yesterday. 

Those comments created headlines, but there was something else the coach said about his passer that also stood out. Asked about Smith's veteran presence, Gruden talked about what the quarterback might mean for his teammates. 

"The whole job a quarterback has is obviously getting the most out of the people around you. That’s what I think he does as good as anybody," Gruden said. "He’ll get the most out of the tight ends. He’ll get the most out of the backs."

The coach continued, and things got a bit more interesting.

"He’ll get the most out of the receivers and offensive line because they’re going to want to play for him and they’re going to feel confident that he’s going to make something happen in a positive way or at least give it everything he’s got and take responsibility if something doesn’t work out."

Redskins fans are often a weirdly divided bunch. Many liked former QB Kirk Cousins but plenty did not think he was worth the type of money he was paid the last two seasons. Along the way, some fans will read Gruden's comments about making something happen and taking responsibility as a jab at Cousins. That's probably wrong. 

Remember, Trent Williams played through a serious knee injury last season. Asked why, Williams said he wanted to be out there to protect Cousins. Guys played for Cousins. 

The responsibility comment might mean something else, though. Their was a rather hostile back-and-forth last season between Gruden and Cousins last season, when the QB and coach disagreed about taking more risks with the football. A quick reminder of the scene: Cousins told a reporter that he would throw 20 interceptions if he played like Gruden wanted. The coach responded that while the interceptions might pile up, the QB would also throw 60 touchdowns. (Relive it here)

Throughout his career, Smith has thrown less interceptions than Cousins. But that doesn't mean Smith doesn't take risks or put his receivers in position to make plays. 

It's entirely possible Gruden simply expects Smith, a veteran, to be a responsible player and leader. And it's likely that comment had nothing to do with the Redskins previous quarterbacks. 

The bottom line is that Smith better be ready to go Week 1, and his coach made that clear. And if Smith isn't, Gruden expects his quarterback to take responsibility. 

MORE REDSKINS NEWS:

— Contract years: Redskins face 5 tough decisions 

— Dead Money: Trades, misses and mistakes hurt Redskins salary cap

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