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Tuesday, January 21, 2020


Panthers hire Phil Snow as defensive coordinator

Matt Rhule

The Carolina Panthers continue to fill out their coaching staff, and their latest hire is a familiar name to new coach Matt Rhule.

The Panthers officially announced on Monday that Phil Snow is the team’s new defensive coordinator, moving to the NFL from the same position on Rhule’s staff at Baylor.

Snow has had a long career as a collegiate defensive coordinator, but has limited NFL experience. He served as the linebackers coach for the Detroit Lions from 2005-2008.

Snow joins a staff loaded with college coaching talent. In addition to Rhule himself, the Panthers have brought in the top offensive coach in the country last season to run that side of the ball. They’ve invested a lot in making that happen, and it’s going to be very interesting to see how it works out.

Marcus Mariota has ‘no doubts at all’ that he will be starting QB again

Marcus Mariota

Marcus Mariota has likely played his last game with the Tennessee Titans, and it goes without saying that he did not become the player the team hoped he would be after they selected him with the second overall pick in the 2015 NFL Draft. However, Mariota remains confident he can still live up to the hype.

Following Sunday’s loss to the Kansas City Chiefs in the AFC Championship Game, Mariota admitted he has “no idea” what the future holds for him. But as he heads toward free agency, the former Oregon star said he has “no doubts” he will start in the NFL again.

“I have no doubts at all, no doubts at all,” Mariota said, per Jim Wyatt of the Titans’ official website. “I’m just hopeful and ready for whatever that next opportunity is.”

Mariota was replaced by Ryan Tannehill after the Titans got off to a 2-4 start to the year. Tannehill then ignited the team and led them to the playoffs, where they pulled off huge upset road wins over the New England Patriots and Baltimore Ravens. It’s no surprise Tennessee is interested in bringing Tannehill back on a long-term deal.

Despite things not really working out in Tennessee, Mariota spoke positively of his time with the team.

“The organization took a chance on me, and I felt like I gave them everything I’ve got,” Mariota said. “Obviously, we’re not sure what is going to happen. But I know when it is all said and done, I gave this organization everything I could.”

Mariota’s best season came in 2016, when he threw for 3,426 yards, 26 touchdowns and nine interceptions. He battled a number of injuries after that and threw just 31 touchdowns compared to 25 interceptions over the next three years. He may have a tough time finding a starting gig in 2020.

Report: Browns likely to hire Vikings executive George Paton as GM

Cleveland Browns

The Cleveland Browns are zeroing in on their new general manager.

According to Mary Kay Cabot of cleveland.com, the Browns could hire Minnesota Vikings assistant general manager George Paton early this week. Paton interviewed with the team Saturday and it went well, and an official announcement is expected within days.

Paton would beat out Eagles vice president Andrew Berry and Patriots director of college scouting Monti Ossenfort for the position.

Of the candidates, Paton has the closest ties with new Browns coach Kevin Stefanski. The two spent 13 years together within the Vikings organization, and the Browns made it a point to hire a GM that would work closely with the new coach as a package deal.

The league just watched the GM-coach model work successfully with John Lynch and Kyle Shanahan in San Francisco, and the Browns will be hoping that history repeats itself. Interestingly, the Browns opted against hiring someone from the 49ers organization in their coaching search.

Twitter account suspiciously defends Justin Verlander with seemingly inside info

Justin Verlander

Justin Verlander has made no public comments about the punishment that was handed down to the Houston Astros after Major League Baseball determined the team cheated in 2017, but someone has raised a lot of suspicions by adamantly defending the Cy Young Award winner on social media.

A Twitter user under the handle @Jonatha19721565 has done nothing but defend Verlander and Houston’s pitching staff since the anonymous person created the account just days ago. The first tweet from the account was composed on Friday, and it ridiculed Astros position players for not speaking out after “their actions put the Astros pitchers in such a bad situation.”

From there, the account continued to defend Astros pitchers for the way they were “dragged into this mess.” There were several tweets about Verlander and his supposed lack of involvement in any illegal activity that went on in Houston during the 2017 season. Some of the tweets appeared to include inside information, like one that stated Verlander “wanted to speak up but couldn’t because the system was underway when he got there.”

Verlander was traded to the Astros during the 2017 season, so it isn’t a leap to say the sign-stealing system was in place when he arrived. However, it is odd that this person claims to know the right-hander wanted to speak out about it. That could be an assumption from a fan who knows Verlander has been outspoken on anything ranging from PED rules to free agency to juiced balls, but it’s only natural to wonder if the person running the account could be connected to Verlander in some way.

The Twitter police have already closed in on the account, with one person noting that the email address associated with @Jonatha19721565 appears like it may be tied to a company Verlander endorses.

Of course, with every “real” burner Twitter account comes countless fake ones. The idea of burner accounts has become so popular in recent years that some people are creating accounts with the intention of making them sound like athletes secretly defending themselves, which is essentially what we saw with a phony Twitter account claiming to be Carlos Beltran’s niece.

We’ll probably never know if @Jonatha19721565 is Verlander or someone associated with the eight-time All-Star. At the very least, the person behind the account is such a big Verlander fan that he or she created an account just to defend Verlander’s honor.

The Houston Astros are confirmed cheaters and deserve an asterisk. Send that message by wearing our Houston Asterisks T-shirt! You can buy it here:

Report: USC working to hire Todd Orlando as DC, likely to keep Graham Harrell

Todd Orlando

USC’s coordinator situation is coming into focus, with a big name joining as defensive coordinator and good news on the offensive front as well.

According to Pete Thamel of Yahoo Sports, the Trojans are working on a deal to make Todd Orlando the team’s new defensive coordinator.

In addition, according to Bruce Feldman of The Athletic, the Trojans are expected to retain offensive coordinator Graham Harrell, who recently interviewed for the same position with the Philadelphia Eagles.

This should be positive news all around for USC. Orlando has improved things at both Houston and Texas, though the situation with the Longhorns deteriorated in 2019 and led to his firing. He’s currently serving as a defensive assistant with Texas Tech.

Harrell likely stays after it looked like the Eagles might poach him, and given his success with freshman quarterback Kedon Slovis this past season, that’s good news as well.

It appears the Trojans will have a solid staff in what might be a do-or-die year for head coach Clay Helton. They’ll be looking to improve on last season’s 8-5 mark.

Becky Hammon convinced Gregg Popovich to challenge crucial play in Spurs’ win

Becky Hammon

Many believe that it is only a matter of time before Becky Hammon becomes the first female head coach in NBA history, and we saw a great example of why she deserves a shot during the San Antonio Spurs’ win over the Miami Heat on Sunday.

The Spurs were leading 105-100 with 1:28 left in the game when DeMar DeRozan committed a foul on Jimmy Butler. It appeared the foul was committed well before Butler was in the act of shooting, but he was awarded a continuation on the play and the basket counted because of a goaltend. That would have cut San Antonio’s lead to 105-102 and put Butler at the line for a free throw, and it initially looked like Gregg Popovich was not going to challenge the call.

However, Hammon stepped in and was persistent in convincing Pop he had nothing to lose by challenging. The head coach agreed and asked for the play to be reviewed, and it was overturned.

Butler made both free throws to cut the lead to three, but he could have cut it to two had the original call stood. In a game the Spurs won 107-102, that turned out to be a critical play.

Some are saying Hammon is only getting credit for the role she played in that sequence because she is a female, which may be true to some extent. That doesn’t make it wrong, as it further showcases why she deserves consideration as a head coaching candidate. Hammon obviously has a high basketball IQ and has earned the respect of Popovich, who is one of the greatest coaches of all time.

We’ve already heard Hammon linked to one head coaching job, though Charles Barkley has urged her to wait for something better to come along.

Terry Bradshaw had funny line for Jimmy Garoppolo about number of passes

Jimmy Garoppolo

The San Francisco 49ers dominated the Green Bay Packers in the NFC Championship Game on Sunday, and Jimmy Garoppolo basically got to just sit back and watch it unfold. No one knows more about winning a playoff game in that fashion than Terry Bradshaw.

Garoppolo only had to throw eight passes in the 37-20 victory, and he completed six of them for 77 yards. During the trophy presentation after the game, Bradshaw joked with the 49ers quarterback that Garoppolo’s arm “can’t possibly be tired.”

From anyone else, that may have been interpreted as a swipe at Garoppolo for contributing almost nothing to the victory. However, Bradshaw knows all about winning big games without having to throw the ball.

Bradshaw had just 10.2 pass attempts per game during his first two Super Bowl runs with the Pittsburgh Steelers in 1974 and 1975. He completed 9-of-14 passes for 96 yards and a touchdown in Pittsburgh’s win in Super Bowl IX and 9-of-19 passes for 209 yards and two touchdowns the championship game the following year. Granted, that was a much different era, but Bradshaw would not be one to criticize a quarterback for not lighting up the stat sheet in a win.

San Francisco has relied on an outstanding defense and running game this season, and it has served them well. However, Garoppolo may be called upon to do a lot more in the Super Bowl against Patrick Mahomes and the explosive Kansas City Chiefs’ offense. If Mahomes makes plays like the ones he made on Sunday, the 49ers could find themselves in a shootout.

George Kittle shares why he does not mind getting few catches

George Kittle

George Kittle and Jimmy Garoppolo are often big pieces of the San Francisco 49ers’ offense, but they didn’t have to do much on Sunday in the team’s 37-20 win over the Green Bay Packers in the NFC Championship Game.

The Niners’ rushing attack stole the show — led by Raheem Mostert’s 220-yard, four-touchdown performance — and that was fine by Kittle.

The tight end only had one catch in the game and said the lack of stats don’t bother him in the least.

“The more you get tackled, the sorer I am in the morning. So I’m going to wake up tomorrow — I’m going to be going to the Super Bowl AND I’m going to feel great, so I’m pretty excited,” Kittle told ESPN’s Scott Van Pelt.

Well, when you look at it that way, his perspective makes plenty of sense.

San Francisco has two weeks to rest and prepare for the Super Bowl matchup against the Kansas City Chiefs, who are slight favorites.

Richard Sherman responds to shade from Darrelle Revis

Richard Sherman 49ers

Did you really think Richard Sherman was going to let Darrelle Revis talk negatively about him without so much as a response? Of course not.

Sherman went on Twitter not long after Revis called him out during the NFC Championship Game on Sunday for playing zone coverage. Sherman played the “scoreboard” card, telling Revis to enjoy things from his “couch” while Sherman’s San Francisco 49ers prepare for the Super bowl.

The Stanford graduate then corrected Revis for mixing up “except” and “accept.”

When Revis responded with stats from his ninth season, Sherman hit back again.

Revis popping on Twitter just to criticize Sherman is a bad look. If he were an analyst who is frequently commenting on games and talking about different players, that would be one thing. But tweeting just to call out Sherman is a targeted effort by a guy who is looking to reinsert his name in the conversation and flex on his former foe.

Report: Red Sox want to package Mookie Betts with David Price in trade

Mookie Betts

Whichever MLB team winds up trading for Mookie Betts may have to pay something of a tariff for him.

ESPN’s Buster Olney reported on Sunday that the Boston Red Sox are seeking to package the former AL MVP with the contract of veteran pitcher David Price. The Red Sox are also said to be asking for a pair of frontline prospects.

Betts, 27, just agreed to a record one-year contract to remain in Boston but could still be on the move with the team looking to slash payroll. The 34-year-old Price, meanwhile, has three years and $96 million remaining on his deal.

While some heavy hitters are interested in Betts, he will be a free agent in a year’s time, meaning that the opportunity cost of taking on the Price anchor in addition to parting with multiple top prospects might just be too great.