NFL head coaches get their walking papers

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NFL head coaches get their walking papers

From Comcast SportsNetTAMPA, Florida (AP) -- The Tampa Bay Buccaneers fired head coach Raheem Morris on Monday after he posted a 17-31 record over three years, including a 10-game losing streak to end the current season. The team announced the change one day after the Bucs lost their final game of the season to the Atlanta Falcons, 45-24. The 10-game winless streak was the longest in a single season since 1977, when the Bucs lost 12 in a row to extend the longest losing streak in National Football League history to 26 consecutive games over two years. At 32 years old, Morris was the league's youngest coach when he was hired in January 2009, replacing Jon Gruden after Tampa Bay lost the final four games of 2008 to miss the playoffs following a 9-3 start. Morris guided the team to a 10-6 mark in 2010, with the Bucs narrowly missing the playoffs. The team also had a strong start to the current season, posting a 4-2 record with wins over playoff-bound Atlanta and New Orleans, before collapsing. "In these things it is not just one thing, but I will point to just the progress of the team and where we're at," Bucs co-chairman Joel Glazer said at a news conference. "Again, you can't point to one thing or another. You look at totality of the situation when making your decision." While injuries did contribute to the season-ending slide, so did inconsistent play -- starting with quarterback Josh Freeman. He threw for 16 touchdowns and 22 interceptions after tossing 25 TD passes and being intercepted just six times in 2010. The Bucs turned the ball over a league-leading 40 times compared to 19 last season. The defense also surrendered a franchise-record and league-high 494 points and the Bucs lost eight games by double-digit margins and allowed 31 points or more seven times during the season-ending skid. Glazer said there's no timetable for naming a successor.

Rams fire coach Spagnuolo, GM Devaney
ST. LOUIS (AP) -- The St. Louis Rams fired coach Steve Spagnuolo and general manager Billy Devaney on Monday, a day after the team wrapped up a 2-14 season that matched the worst record in the National Football League. The Rams made a six-win improvement last season and played for the NFC West title in the finale, but were just 10-38 overall in three seasons with Spagnuolo and Devaney calling the shots. Devaney had joined the front office a year earlier in 2008; the Rams were 12-52 in his four years as GM. He said in a statement Monday that while the record was disappointing, "I wouldn't trade that time for anything." Owner Stan Kroenke fired both men with one year remaining on their contracts, and with fan interest dwindling. The Edward Jones Dome in St. Louis was little more than half full in the later part of the season. "No one individual is to blame for this disappointing season and we all must hold ourselves accountable," Kroenke said in a statement. "However, we believe it's in the best interest of the St. Louis Rams to make these changes as we continue our quest to build a team that consistently competes for playoffs and championships." Kevin Demoff, vice president and chief operating officer, said the search for both positions should be concluded in the next few weeks and that it didn't necessarily matter which position was filed first. Names of potential replacements for Spagnuolo began to surface weeks ago as the season unraveled, with former Tennessee Titans coach Jeff Fisher and former Tampa Bay Buccaneers coach Jon Gruden mentioned as natural fits. Demoff said a report that Fisher had already been scheduled for the first interview was "100 percent false." But he added that Fisher was a "potentially attractive candidate." The Rams will have the second pick of the NFL draft in April, the fourth time in five seasons the team has had the No. 1 or 2 selection.

Dominique Wilkins reflects on his rivalry with Larry Bird

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Dominique Wilkins reflects on his rivalry with Larry Bird

During our series discussing the 1986 Boston Celtics, we have sat down with many players from that championship, along with members of the media that were close to the team.

This week features a few of the opponents that were very familiar with the 1980’s Celtics  - Atlanta Hawks legend Dominique Wilkins, former Celtics coach (and Hawk) Doc Rivers, and Lakers great James Worthy.

Bogaerts continues to battle through struggles with bat

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Bogaerts continues to battle through struggles with bat

BOSTON -- Early in 2016 praises were sung around the league that Xander Bogaerts was the best hitter in baseball.

Rightfully so. For a good portion of the season he led the league in both batting average and hits. But between Mookie Betts’ ascension and Bogaerts’ drop in average from .331 on 7/29 to .306 after Monday night’s game, he’s taken a back seat.

But the Red Sox shortstop’s month-long dry spell hasn’t been a straight decline. Although he was held hitless Monday, Bogaerts went 6-for-13 (.462) against Kansas City.

In fact, the 23-year-old doesn’t even consider the recent month of struggles the worst stretch of his career.

“2014 probably,” Bogaerts said, “yeah I had a terrible, terrible few months -- probably three months.”

That was of course the season a lot came into question surrounding the now All-Star shortstop, so he was pretty spot on. In 2014 Bogaerts went from hitting .304 through 5/31, to .248 by the end of June, .244 after his last game in July, all the way down to .224 by the last day of August.

Bogaerts would hit .313 that September and finish with a .240 average -- but more importantly, an appreciation of what he’d experienced.

“That definitely helped me become a better person, a better player -- and understanding from that and learning,” Bogaerts said.

From that experience, he gained a better understanding of the importance of maintaining a consistent day-to-day routine.

“That has to stay the same,” Bogaerts said without question in his voice. “The league adjusted, they adjusted to me. It kind of took a longer time to adjust to them. They’ve just been pitching me so differently compared to other years.”

Bogaerts has had the point reinforced to him throughout, with Red Sox assistant hitting coach Victor Rodriguez serving as one voice of reinforcement.

“When you have a routine from the mental side, physical side, when you struggle that’s when you really need that,” Rodriguez said. “He’s been so good with his daily preparation, it doesn’t matter the result of the game. He can always go to something that feels comfortable.”

“He’s been so comfortable and confident with his daily routine and preparation that it allows him -- when he doesn’t get the results he wants in the game -- to have some peace knowing that the next day, we’re going to go back to doing that again.”

It’s clear Bogaerts needs to maintain his daily routine to help work through slumps -- and maintain hot streaks -- but Rodriguez made it clear, consistent preparation from a hitter doesn’t magically cure every problem.

“That doesn’t mean that because you stick with the routine you’re going to have results,” Rodriguez said. “What it means is, [because] you know and believe in that routine that you know you’re going to get out of it.”

Which means in addition to sticking to his normal routine, Bogaerts also had to identify flaws elsewhere in order work through his problems. He came to realize the problem was more mechanically based than mental -- given he’d done everything to address that.

“They pitched me differently, and some stuff I wanted to do with the ball I couldn’t do,” Bogaerts said. “I just continued doing it until I had to make the adjustment back.”

Bogaerts isn’t fully out of the dark, but he’s taken steps in the right direction of late -- and is nowhere near the skid he experienced in 2014. He and Rodriguez fully believe the All-Star’s ability to maintain a clear mind will carry him through whatever troubles he’s presented with the rest of the way.

“The more stuff you have in you’re head is probably not going to help your chances,” Bogaerts explained, “so have a clear mind -- but also have the trust in your swing that you’re going to put a good swing on [the pitch] regardless of whatever the count is.”

Nick Friar can be followed on Twitter @ngfriar.