Sports Outside the Beltway

Jim Harbaugh 49ers New Coach

Jim Harbaugh, the most coveted coach on the market, is leaving Stanford for the San Francisco 49ers.

AP‘s Janie McCauley:

A person with knowledge of the situation says Jim Harbaugh is leaving Stanford to coach the San Francisco 49ers.

The person spoke on condition of anonymity to The Associated Press on Friday because the team has yet to announce the hire.

The team has scheduled an afternoon news conference in San Francisco.

Harbaugh, who will replace fired coach Mike Singletary, also had been considering an offer from Stanford to stay put.


Jim Harbaugh agreed to a five-year, $25 million contract to become the San Francisco 49ers’ head coach Friday, according to team and league sources.

The 49ers announced a news conference scheduled for 6:30 p.m. ET, but did not indicate the reason.

Earlier Friday, a source told ESPN senior NFL analyst Chris Mortensen that Stanford was the favorite to retain Harbaugh’s services.

On Thursday, Harbaugh met with top Stanford officials — including university president John Hennessey — so that the school could make its best offer to try to retain him. The university reportedly increased an offer it had made to Harbaugh in December.

The 49ers met with Harbaugh Wednesday, and a source said that on Thursday night, after news broke that Harbaugh would not go to the Miami Dolphins, San Francisco was willing to increase its offer.

This makes great sense.  While he’s a Michigan grad whose best days as a pro were with the Chicago Bears, Harbaugh’s a California guy.

The Stanford job is a much better one than the newly vacant Michigan one.  Sure, it’s his alma mater and it’s one of the storied programs in the history of college football.  And it would pay more.  But the expectations are unreasonable and he’d have to uproot his family.   Stanford is already a top program.  If he wanted to stay in college, Stanford was the obvious choice.

And, yes, $7 million or whatever from the Miami Dolphins would have been a sweet deal.  But that would have engendered all manner of animosity from other coaches, fuming that a first-timer was making all that money.  And expectations would have been through the roof.   The fact that they were openly courting him while Tony Sparano is still the coach didn’t help matters.

He can take over the 49ers, a franchise with a proud history of its own, without moving to a new house.  His kids can stay in the same school.   And, while $5 million isn’t $7 million, it’s not exactly chopped liver.


NHL Referees beat Florida Panthers 3-2

The definitive proof of what I say is up above. Would you believe four game officials ruled that as not a goal?

Watch the video, particularly at the 2:25 point where Atlanta’s Goalie plucks the puck out of the net with the rules officials around. Were there four blind mice wearing stripes last night in Sunrise?

The NHL has a review system in place when a goal or non-goal was questionable. It was never used last night. Why? This Panther blogger wonders openly if the NHL has two sets of rules and Florida is on being judged by the bum set. There is a mounting pile of evidence from this season’s games that says just that. The kick in Edmonton to open the season, the tackling of Panther Goalie Scott Clemmensen by a Toronto player and the NHL rules official clearly said the referees that night blew it, and then this. Florida lost 15 games this year to other teams, and had three more games taken from them by scandalous rulings on ice. What the hell is going to be the NHL’s excuse this time?


Jason Garrett New Dallas Cowboys Coach

Jason Garrett, who went 5-3 as interim coach, has been named the head coach of the Dallas Cowboys.

Calvin Watkins and Todd Archer for ESPN:

The expected has happened. Jason Garrett has been named the Dallas Cowboys’ head coach, sources said Thursday.

The team has scheduled a press conference for 1:30 p.m. CT to make an official announcement.

Terms of the deal were not available, but Garrett had one year remaining on his contract as the assistant head coach that paid him $3.5 million annually.

Considered the favorite all along, Garrett is the eighth coach in franchise history and owner/general manager Jerry Jones did not feel the need for an exhaustive search. He interviewed wide receivers coach Ray Sherman to comply with the NFL’s Rooney Rule, which states a team must talk with at least one minority coach during the process.

He also interviewed Miami Dolphins assistant Todd Bowles, a former Dallas assistant.

Jones wanted to finalize the deal quickly because he didn’t want other teams with vacancies getting their hands on Garrett.


For Garrett, 44, this seems like the culmination of a process that started when he joined the Cowboys before Jones even named Phillips the coach in 2007. He was viewed as the coach-in-waiting ever since but interviewed with Baltimore, Atlanta, Denver, Detroit and St. Louis. After Garrett turned down the Ravens, Jones made him the highest-paid assistant in the NFL with a $3.5 million salary.

Garrett was the obvious choice for the job and frankly should have been hired two years ago when it was obvious Wade Phillips didn’t have what it takes to lead a team to a championship. (Okay, so it was obvious before he was hired to everyone not named Jerry Jones.  As I put it in a post four years ago, when his hiring was rumored, “Wade Freakin’ Phillips?!)

In a separate piece, Archer notes that Garrett will be the 7th active head coach who played in the League.

Tennessee’s Jeff Fisher was a defensive back for Chicago and just finished his 17th year with the Titans/Oilers. Owner and GM Jerry Jones would like that kind of stability.

Jacksonville’s Jack Del Rio had an 11-year career as a linebacker, including a stint with the Cowboys from 1989-91, and just completed his eighth year as the Jaguars’ coach. Gary Kubiak spent nine years as John Elway’s backup in Denver and just finished his fifth year as Houston’s coach.

Ken Whisenhunt was a tight end for Atlanta, Washington and the New York Jets and is heading into his fifth year as Arizona’s coach. Leslie Frazier spent five years as a cornerback in Chicago and, like Garrett, turned an interim job in 2010 into a permanent post with Minnesota.

New Orleans coach Sean Payton’s playing career lasted three games with Chicago during the 1987 strike-seaso. One former player-turned-coach, Mike Singletary, was fired in San Francisco with a game to go.

And there could be other former players added to the mix this off-season: Stanford coach Jim Harbaugh, who played for Chicago, Indianapolis, Baltimore and San Diego, and Atlanta offensive coordinator Mike Mularkey, who played for Minnesota and Pittsburgh, have had interviews recently. And don’t forget Bill Cowher could also come back this year.

While I don’t expect 29 years and five trips to the Super Bowl from Garrett, it’s noteworthy that the Cowboys’ first and longest serving coach, the legendary Tom Landry, was also a former player.

Other reactions:

Clarence Hill Jr. of the Fort Worth Star-Telegram:

It was akin to the prodigal son being summoned home to one day take his rightful place as heir to the throne, considering he was a highly-respected backup quarterback on two Super Bowl title teams in the 1990s and the son of former longtime scout Jim Garrett.

The feeling grew stronger in the coming years when Garrett shunned head coaching opportunities in Atlanta and Baltimore, among others, to remain with the Cowboys, setting the stage for the inevitable. And then when Garrett was tabbed as the interim coach to replace the fired Wade Phillips following a 1-7 start and led them to a 5-3 finish in 2010, it was only a matter of time and paperwork.

The time is now and a new day finally dawns on the Cowboys franchise when Jones officially promotes Garrett to head coach at a news conference at 1:30 p.m. today at Cowboys Stadium.

Jones made the move after interviewing receivers coach Ray Sherman on Tuesday and Miami Dolphins assistant head coach Todd Bowles on Wednesday to adhere to the league-mandated Rooney Rule. Garrett is the eighth coach in Cowboys history.

Jones has always felt the Princeton-schooled Garrett had a bright offensive mind and would one day make a future head coach. Those feelings were cemented over the past eight weeks of the season when he proved he could also be the firm leader and effective motivator.

On his tenure as interim coach:

What Garrett did best was being a leader and changing the lackadaisical culture of the locker room. He stressed hard work, preparation and accountability. All three were absent in the final days of the Wade Philips era.

“I think we’re going to be a lot better with him in charge,” Pro Bowl tight end Jason Witten said. “I think he has a clear message. He has a plan and he does a great job of making that plan is clear and giving us the best chance to be at our best, coaches and players, on Sunday.  I believe in him. I believe that he can make us winners in a timely fashion. All his messages, his mentality, all of that is so we’re at our best, and those distractions are eliminated and you focus on being the best football player you can be.”

The belief that the Cowboys can quickly get back to their winning ways under Garrett is one reason why Jones worked fast to make the promotion happen just three days after the season final victory against the Philadelphia Eagles.

Jones said he will work with Garrett to overhaul the roster and usher in dramatic personnel changes. Despite the disappointment of predicting a dream Super Bowl season in 2010 and only to finish 6-10 and tied for last in the NFC East, Jones is back to talking big.

He believes the Cowboys have the talent base to again make a playoff and possible Super Bowl run in 2011 under Garrett.


Devil of a time- Minnesota beats New Jersey 2-1

Nothing is bouncing well for the NHL’s worst hockey team.

When Clayton Stoner drew up the first goal of his NHL career as a kid, it probably didn’t look anything like the game-winner he scored against the New Jersey Devils on Tuesday night. From

Out of gas at the end of a shift early in the third period, the rookie defenseman of the Minnesota Wild dumped the puck into the zone and turned toward the bench. Stoner never saw the puck hit the stick of Ilya Kovalchuk, ricochet off the glass and carom into a vacated net.

The goal turned out to be the difference in the Wild’s 2-1 victory at Prudential Center.

“I was thinking about burning the tape and telling a different story a few years from now,” the 25-year-old said. “It was a lucky goal. It was one of those ones that sometimes you need that lucky goal just to win a hockey game. We needed those two points. That’s pretty huge.”

Here’s the goal.

Ilya Kovalchuck scored his 12th goal of the season last night. That would tie him for the team lead on the Florida Panthers. All that goal production for 6-7 million dollars a year.


Browns Fire Eric Mangini

In a move that should have been made a year earlier, the Cleveland Browns have made a coaching change.   ESPN:

The Cleveland Browns fired coach Eric Mangini on Monday after his second straight 5-11 season.

“This decision was not easy for me, and it was one into which I put a great deal of thought,” Browns president Mike Holmgren said in a statement. “Although we have made improvements this season, my responsibility is to ensure that we establish a program that will allow this team to compete at a championship level. That will continue to be our goal in everything we do. I want to thank Eric for all of his contributions to the Cleveland Browns, and wish him and his family the best of luck in the future.”

Mangini said he believes the Browns are headed in the right direction.

“I have a deep respect for the players that I have coached the past two years and how they have made a profound difference in changing the culture — a tougher, smarter, more competitive, selfless team that never gave up,” Mangini said in the statement. “Our goal was to build a team for long-term success. The core characteristics we were dedicated to, I believe, will help achieve that goal, and have provided a strong identity for this football team and have helped to create a positive foundation upon which the organization can continue to build.”

While not quite on par with the Cowboys’ hire of Wade Phillips a few years back, Cleveland’s hiring Mangini to begin with made no sense.  He was an abject failure with the Jets and was immediately scooped up by the previous Browns’ regime with no interim success as a coordinator to boost his value.  And then Holmgren inexplicably decided to stay the course rather than bringing in someone with either a proven track record or other reason for hope.


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