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Leonard Fournette meets with Jacksonville Jaguars management to discuss season, future – WSAIGO Sports
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Leonard Fournette meets with Jacksonville Jaguars management to discuss season, future

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JACKSONVILLE, Fla. — Jaguars management, including executive vice president of football operations Tom Coughlin, met with running back Leonard Fournette on Wednesday, and the group discussed his disappointing season and plans for the future, a league source confirmed.

The NFL Network first reported the meeting.

There are questions about Fournette’s maturity, commitment to football, conditioning, on-field behavior and production after the 2018 season. There was some speculation that the team would be willing to trade — or cut — him in the offseason.

Fournette certainly hasn’t lived up to being the fourth overall selection in 2017. He missed seven games this past season because of injuries, was suspended for another, had several off-field issues and let himself get out of shape. The season ended on a sour note when Coughlin publicly criticized Fournette (who was inactive because of a foot injury) and T.J. Yeldon for sitting alone on the bench and acting disinterested during the season finale. Coughlin said they were “disrespectful, selfish and their behavior was unbecoming that of a professional football player.”

That capped an awful year for Fournette. One season after missing two games with injuries, Fournette missed six full games and half of two others with a right hamstring injury in the first eight weeks and there was mounting frustration inside the organization about the length of his absence. The Jaguars built the offense around a power-run game and the offense had a hard time functioning consistently without Fournette on the field.

All that time away apparently impacted his conditioning. He ended the season heavier than when he reported for training camp, when he said he was down to 223 pounds (his lowest weight since his sophomore season at LSU). The CBS broadcast crew during the Week 16 game against Miami said Fournette, who reported at 240 pounds as a rookie in 2017, told them he was 233 pounds.

It’s unusual for an NFL player to gain weight during the season, and Fournette was unable to do much, if any, conditioning during the time he was rehabbing his hamstring. He did admit that he could be in better shape.

Fournette was suspended without pay for leaving the bench and fighting with Buffalo Bills defensive lineman Shaq Lawson during the Jaguars’ 24-21 loss at Buffalo on Nov. 25. Fournette said he ran across the field because he saw Lawson shove Carlos Hyde and wanted to defend his teammate. It’s the second time Fournette has missed a game because of disciplinary reasons. The team made him inactive for one game as a rookie as punishment for leaving Jacksonville early and missing a team photo during the bye week.

Fournette also was caught on video yelling at a fan in the stands during the team’s embarrassing loss to Tennessee on Dec. 6. The video clip released on TMZ.com showed Fournette yelling that he was going to “beat your ass” at an unknown fan before two people escorted Fournette away.

The Jaguars put him on the bench late in the season because of his lack of production. He didn’t have a carry in the third quarter against Washington in Week 15 and he had one carry in the fourth quarter and left the game after hurting his foot. That left rookie David Williams — who was playing in just his fourth game — to carry the ball.

Fournette also wasn’t on the field when the Jaguars were trying to run out the clock against Miami late in the fourth quarter the next week. Those carries went to Hyde, who had five carries for 37 yards on the Jaguars’ final possession. Fournette, who ran for 7 yards on the first play of the drive before leaving the game, finished with 43 yards on 18 carries (2.4 yards per carry).

Fournette finished his second season with 439 yards and five touchdowns rushing and averaged just 3.3 yards per carry in the eight games in which he played. He ran for more than 53 yards just twice and never surpassed 95 yards rushing in any game. It is the first time Fournette has failed to record at least one 100-yard game in a season since before his time at St. Augustine High School in New Orleans.

He rushed for 1,040 yards and nine touchdowns and averaged 3.9 yards per carry as an NFL rookie.

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Tampa Bay Buccaneers hire former USC Trojans running backs coach Todd McNair who sued NCAA

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TAMPA, Fla. — Former USC running-backs coach Todd McNair, who spent the past seven years fighting the NCAA over the Reggie Bush scandal and lost, will return to coaching in 2018 as the running backs coach of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, a source confirmed to ESPN on Friday.

McNair’s hiring was first reported by Pewter Report.

In a high-profile defamation lawsuit, McNair accused the NCAA’s Committee on Infractions of destroying his coaching career when it found him guilty of unethical conduct when Bush accepted improper benefits at USC, where McNair coached for six seasons and helped guide Bush to a Heisman Trophy in 2005.

McNair has not coached at the college or NFL level since 2010, but has been coaching high school football in Sun Valley, California.

A four-year NCAA investigation concluded that McNair knew or should have known that Bush had accepted $280,000 worth of improper benefits. McNair claimed he had no knowledge of Bush or his family accepting those benefits.

McNair’s attorneys argued that the NCAA tried to make an example out of him. He testified that after he lost his job at USC, his wife, Lynette, took a job as a parking-lot attendant. He said he was also forced to use his retirement funds and had to live off of food stamps.

In May, the jury ruled in favor of the NCAA. McNair’s attorneys filed a motion for a new trial in December, with a hearing scheduled for January.

This isn’t the first time that Bucs new head coach Bruce Arians has hired a staff member who struggled to find work after being subjected to harsh and controversial punishment from the NCAA. Arians offered an internship with the Arizona Cardinals in 2015 to David Kelly, a former University of Central Florida assistant who was forced to resign from the school in 2011, despite the fact that the school appealed its sanctions and won. Kelly has since landed on his feet as Florida State’s wide receivers/recruiting coordinator.

McNair played for Arians at Temple University and with the Kansas City Chiefs in 1989-1993, before coaching with him on the Cleveland Browns staff from 2001 to 2003.

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Steve Wilks firing ‘hurt a little bit’ amid lack of black hires

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TAMPA, Fla. — Tampa Bay Buccaneers new assistant head coach and run game coordinator Harold Goodwin didn’t mince words Friday when asked about his disappointment over the firing of Steve Wilks by the Arizona Cardinals after one season and the lack of minority hires.

“That hurt a little bit,” Goodwin said. “He’s a friend of mine. We worked together back in the day with the Bears. It’s hard to build something from the ground up with one year. It’s like, ‘Hey, I want you to start this Fortune 500 company, but you’ve got one year. That’s impossible. And that’s what he was tasked with. But God will look after him. He’ll be OK in the long run and hopefully he’ll get another opportunity.”

This offseason was particularly difficult for minority coaches. Five of the eight coaches fired either during or after the 2018 season — Wilks, Hue Jackson of the Cleveland Browns, Todd Bowles of the New York Jets, Marvin Lewis of the Cincinnati Bengals and Vance Joseph of the Denver Broncos — are black. That has left just Anthony Lynn of the Los Angeles Chargers and Mike Tomlin of the Pittsburgh Steelers as the only black head coaches in the NFL.

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Miami Dolphins zeroing in on Brian Flores

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The Miami Dolphins concluded their interview process for a new head coach Friday — and the candidate they intend and hope to hire is Brian Flores, ESPN’s Jeff Darlington reports.

Flores, currently linebackers coach of the New England Patriots, was the first person Miami interviewed (on Jan. 4) in the wake of its Dec. 31 firing of Adam Gase.

The Dolphins chose Flores, most notably, for his impressive leadership skills. They did not look for somebody who was specific to offense or defense — but rather someone who would serve as the best head coach they could find.

Flores’ long-standing relationship with general manager Chris Grier made him a favorable candidate from the start, and his interview solidified their early impressions.

No deal has been agreed upon, and no negotiations on a contract have taken place, Darlington reports. The Patriots host the Los Angeles Chargers in the AFC divisional round Sunday.

The Dolphins stayed in-house and interviewed special teams coordinator Darren Rizzi and offensive coordinator Dowell Loggains on Friday. They’ve interviewed six candidates total, with Kansas City Chiefs offensive coordinator Eric Bieniemy, New Orleans Saints defensive coordinator Dennis Allen and Dallas Cowboys defensive play-caller Kris Richard the others.

Flores, the 37-year-old Patriots de facto defensive coordinator, started his career the same way as Grier — as a New England scout.

Flores has coached offense, defense and special teams along with the stint as a scout in New England. He has spent his entire coaching career – since 2004 – with the Patriots.

If hired, Flores would be the first African-American coach in Dolphins history and their 10th head coach (including interims) overall since 2004.

Miami has finished between 6-10 and 10-6 in each of the last 10 seasons, the only team in the NFL to do that. It went 7-9 in 2018, losing its last three games by a score of 100-41.

The Dolphins allowed 6,257 yards this past season, 29th in the NFL and the most in franchise history. The offense, which finished 31st, wasn’t much better.

Information from ESPN’s Cameron Wolfe was used in this report.

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