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Shaquille O’Neal, Charles Barkley weigh in on James Harden trade: ‘If he doesn’t win this year, it’s a bust’


The Rockets and and Spurs squared off for the first game of TNT’s Thursday night doubleheader, so the “NBA on TNT” crew naturally did a thorough breakdown of Christian Wood’s strengths and weaknesses with accompanying film to support the analysis. 

Just kidding. The main conversation between Ernie Johnson, Charles Barkley, Shaquille O’Neal and Kenny Smith was about the blockbuster James Harden trade.

MORE: Could Rockets have traded for 76ers star Ben Simmons?

The now-former Houston guard will join Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving — well, if Irving decides to play — in Brooklyn and attempt to win his first NBA title as part of the new “Big Three.” It wasn’t exactly a smooth exit for Harden, who flouted the league’s COVID-19 protocols by partying in multiple cities, showed up late for training camp and never expressed interest in connecting with teammates. (Just ask John Wall and DeMarcus Cousins about that.)

O’Neal called out Harden for saying he had done everything he could in Houston, noting Harden’s influence on personnel matters and failure to rise to the occasion in big games.

“When it comes time to show up, he ain’t show up,” O’Neal said. “So I know a lot of people in Houston [who are] glad he’s gone. So now, he’s got his little super team. He’s got to win [the championship] this year. If he doesn’t win this year, it’s a bust. Period.”

Barkley then voiced his concerns about Harden and Irving accepting smaller roles to help the team. He believes only Durant is capable of being more than a “me guy.”

“James Harden and Kyrie Irving have never shown me, like, ‘Nah, I just want to win. That’s the most important thing,'” Barkley said. “You got one guy, KD, he’s unselfish. The other two guys ain’t proved to me they care about [more than] their numbers. I don’t think they’re gonna make the sacrifice.”

Harden, Durant and Irving all rank in the top 20 on the all-time leaderboard for usage percentage, so it will be interesting to see how they handle being on the floor at the same time. There could be some growing pains in Brooklyn, but the Nets undoubtedly possess one of the most talented rosters in the NBA.

Oh, and if you’re wondering how the Rockets-Spurs game went, Houston won its first Harden-less contest by a final score of 109-105. Wood had 27 points and 15 rebounds.

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When is the NBA trade deadline? Date, time, latest rumors, news & top targets for 2021


This year’s NBA trade deadline is still more than two months away, but we’ve already gotten a major blockbuster.

The Nets kicked off trade season by acquiring James Harden from the Rockets as part of a massive four-team deal. Brooklyn is in title-or-bust mode after giving up three unprotected first-round picks and four unprotected pick swaps for the former MVP.

Now the question is how much more action we will see amid one of the most unpredictable periods in NBA history. Most of the free agents signed during the 2020 offseason will become trade-eligible on Feb. 6, so the rumors should only pick up steam in the next few weeks.

Here’s everything you need to know ahead of the 2021 NBA trade deadline.

TRADE GRADES: Nets go all-in on championship chase

When is the NBA trade deadline?

  • Date: March 25
  • Time: 3 p.m. ET

The NBA trade deadline is Thursday, March 25. The cutoff point is 3 p.m. ET, though the news of some trades may emerge shortly after that deadline.

NBA players who could be traded before 2021 deadline

Bradley Beal, Wizards: Washington has consistently pushed back on the idea of trading Beal, but teams looking to make a splash have been “increasingly shifting their gaze toward Beal,” according to The Ringer’s Kevin O’Connor. It could take a Harden-like package for the Wizards to change their stance.

Kyle Lowry, Raptors: Wait, the greatest player in franchise history? Toronto is going to send him away? Yes, the Raptors may have to consider that option, especially if they are near the bottom of the Eastern Conference standings closer to the deadline. Lowry is the type of veteran point guard who could increase a contender’s championship odds.

LaMarcus Aldridge and DeMar DeRozan, Spurs: Both players here are on expiring contracts and could net San Antonio decent assets. The Spurs were only considered a borderline playoff team coming into the season, so it wouldn’t be a shock to see them commit to the youth movement.

Andre Drummond and Kevin Love, Cavaliers: There are simply too many big bodies in Cleveland. The Cavs need to clear out some frontcourt space for Jarrett Allen, who could grow into a terrific center if given more minutes. Drummond is on an expiring deal, so he should be easier to trade than Love.

P.J. Tucker, Rockets: Multiple teams have expressed interest in Tucker following the completion of the Harden trade, according to The Athletic’s Kelly Iko. Tucker fits just about anywhere, and the Rockets are heading toward a rebuild. It would be surprising if Tucker stays in Houston beyond the deadline.

NBA trade rumors and news

Rockets wanted “nothing to do” with Kyrie Irving

• DeMarcus Cousins rips Harden for “disrespectful” antics, comments

• Complete list of Rockets’ future draft picks after Harden trade

• NBA players react to Harden trade

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Kareem Hunt’s second chance with Browns shouldn’t make Chiefs reunion ‘personal’


It’s true that the Chiefs cut Kareem Hunt, and he’ll play for the Browns against his former team in their NFL divisional playoff matchup. That has created a redemption story narrative for some before Sunday’s game.

“Kept telling the guys, I got a feeling we’re gonna see them in the playoffs,” Hunt said Thursday. “I knew they were gonna make it to the playoffs, that’s a terrific program over there. I just kept telling them early in the season, we got to make it to the playoffs, we’ve got to make a run and I’ve got a feeling we’re gonna see the Chiefs.”

Kansas City released Hunt in 2018 when video emerged of him appearing to kick and shove a woman. Kansas City said it knew about the incident but that Hunt hadn’t been fully truthful about what had occurred. Hunt’s subsequent release was the correct choice for the Chiefs given the circumstances Hunt himself created.

Hunt apparently doesn’t see it that way. In an Instagram Live video Sunday after the Browns beat Pittsburgh, Hunt repeated multiple times that the upcoming matchup with Kansas City is “personal.”

Cleveland-area NFL analyst Tony Grossi doubled down after Hunt’s comments. He tweeted Monday, “Forgot about this angle: Kareem Hunt returns to Kansas City seeking to topple the team that gave up on him.”

Here’s what Hunt’s current and former teammates have been saying ahead of Browns vs. Chiefs.

MORE: Why did the Chiefs cut Kareem Hunt?

Kareem Hunt: ‘Next week’s personal’

The Chiefs selected Hunt in the third round of the 2017 NFL Draft out of Toledo, and he took the NFL by storm, leading the league in rushing yards as a rookie with 1,327 yards. He played the first 11 games of the 2018 season, too, running for another 824 yards.

But between his first and second seasons, Hunt was involved in an incident with a woman, Abigail Ottinger, according to her account to the Cleveland Police Department. Ottinger told police that Hunt “pushed and shoved her.” Hunt also allegedly punched a man in the face in June after a verbal dispute, according to TMZ.

The Chiefs said later they knew about Hunt’s incident with Ottinger, but they also said that the security camera footage released in November made Hunt’s discussions with them look less truthful. Kansas City quickly released Hunt after the video was released, with footage showing him kicking and shoving a woman.

When the Chiefs made it to the Super Bowl, Hunt could be heard telling a police officer during a speeding stop that it “hurts my soul” that the Chiefs were in the big game without him.

“I think that’s going to permeate for our guys, as well,” Browns quarterback Baker Mayfield said during the week, per, “and they’re going have those same feelings and want to play for him. It’s like the give-and-take of Kareem is hurt that they’re in the Super Bowl, and he was cheering for his guys but you know he wanted to be there. That’s why he comes to work every day and works his ass off to try and get there with us now.”

The Browns signed Hunt in February 2019, and after he served an eight-game suspension in 2019, he’s been the second piece to a dynamic backfield with Nick Chubb. Cleveland’s 2019 season was a disappointment, but with Chubb and Hunt dominant in 2020, the Browns made their first playoffs since 2002 and won their first playoff game since 1994 to set up a game against the top-seeded Chiefs in the divisional round.

Hunt ran for 48 yards and two touchdowns against Pittsburgh in the wild-card round win, and he hopped on Instagram Live after the game, twice proclaiming: “Next week’s personal.”

“Kareem talked about this game all year like he knew it was going to happen,’’ Browns running back Nick Chubb said during the week, per “He’s excited for it. I’m excited for him. I’m excited to watch him go out there and play. He’s ready for it.”

(Getty Images)

What the Chiefs are saying about Kareem Hunt

Patrick Mahomes, Travis Kelce and Andy Reid have all been asked about Hunt’s upcoming matchup against his former team. Hunt had his league-leading rushing year during Mahomes’ MVP 2018 season with Reid at the helm, too.

“He has a lot of success on that field every opportunity he gets and he’s a great football player and someone that I know will keep getting better and better as his career goes on,’’ Mahomes said on KCSP 610 in Kansas City. “He’s a special football player. He finishes every single play, he catches and runs, he can do it all. I’m happy for him that he’s back home in Cleveland and he’s able to play really good football.’’

Reid, too, kept the focus of his answer on what Hunt can do on the football field.

“Listen, I like Kareem,’’ Reid said in a Monday press conference. “I’m glad things are going well for him. He knows a lot of the guys that were on that team last year and felt bad about not being a part of that. I get all of that. But most of all, I’m happy for him that things are going in the right direction for him. He’s on a good football team, they’re well-coached and they won their first playoff game. There’s something to be said about that.’’

Kelce’s comments suggested Hunt has overcome adversity since his release.

“I wish we spoke more often,’’ Kelce said, via “That’s my brother for life. To see what he’s gone through and to see him grow from everything. I’m somebody who had a few red flags coming out of college. It wasn’t always a whole lot of fun for me. I had to break through some things that were tied to my name. With that, you have to challenge yourself as a man, as a human.

“You have to grow from it, understand how people are viewing you, and you have to move on knowing that. I think Kareem has done an unbelievable job of just going out there, playing football and keeping his head on straight. I’m happy as hell for him.”

The Chiefs didn’t ‘give up’ on Kareem Hunt

Despite what Cleveland radio and TV personality Tony Grossi tweeted, the Chiefs didn’t give up on Hunt. 

No one gave up on Hunt. His release was just the effect of a cause: His incident with Ottinger and the subsequent release of the video showing it. That’s not giving up. It’s responding in kind.

And so no matter what anyone says about redemption or revenge, there aren’t any redeeming qualities to Hunt’s game against the Chiefs. His performance won’t suddenly make Kansas City feel foolish for releasing him or make Hunt seem like a changed man. It’ll just be a running back playing a football game against his former team, nothing truly “personal” about it. 

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NFL playoff picks, predictions against spread: Bucs solve Saints; Chiefs bounce Browns; Bills, Packers survive


And then there were eight teams remaining in the race for Super Bowl 55. With the divisional round of the 2021 NFL playoffs here it’s time for another round for picks and predictions against the spread.

Although the slate drops from six games during wild-card weekend to a combined four this Saturday and Sunday, there’s still plenty of good two-day action between the AFC and NFC matchups. There are two strong favorites and two mild favorites among the home teams this week.

Here’s to trying to build on our solid success navigating through the numbers from last week:

AFC & NFC bracket | TV schedule | Super Bowl picks

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NFL playoff picks, predictions against the spread

  •  Game of the Week: Ravens at Bills (-2.5, 50 o/u)

Saturday, 8:15 p.m. ET, NBC

This game will live up to the billing of being a dynamic passing and running duel between 2018 first-round quarterbacks Lamar Jackson and Josh Allen. The Bills’ defensive weakness is against the run, which will allow Jackson, J.K. Dobbins and Gus Edwards to get going between the tackles and around the edges. The Ravens are solid against the run but, despite some having some good, experienced pass rushers and cornerbacks, they have lapses in pressure and coverage, which can expose them further with their frequent blitzes.

Jackson will do plenty of damage on the ground and Allen will have his share of key physical runs. It will come down to which quarterback can make a few more big pass plays off script. Jackson will see Tre’Davious White contain Marquise Brown, left leaning mostly on tight end Mark Andrews in a great matchup. The difference will be the Bills’ Stefon Diggs, who can consistently get the better of Marcus Peters outside to boost Allen.

Pick: Bills win 27-24 and cover the spread.

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Sunday, 3:05 p.m. ET, CBS

The Browns came out looking for big plays and takeaways against the Steelers and were successful, eventually closing out their AFC North rivals with Nick Chubb and the power running game. Chubb and former Chiefs feature back Kareem Hunt will be critical to the chances of a second consecutive (and much bigger) road upset.

Baker Mayfield can’t get into a pure chuck-fest with Patrick Mahomes because he doesn’t have the same all-around weapons and is facing the much tougher of the two overall pass defenses. The Browns need to play ball control, picking good spots for Mayfield to hit on big plays off play-action and bootlegs and then make sure they lean on Chubb and Hunt most to finish in the red zone.

The Chiefs will counter by relentlessly throwing with a rested Mahomes. The Browns simply do not have anyone who can cover wide receiver Tyreek Hill deep or tight end Travis Kelce on intermediate routes. The goal will be jumping off to a significant lead and limiting the Browns’ use of the run, putting Mayfield in uncomfortable situations against Frank Clark, Chris Jones and the rest of the Chiefs’ pass rush. Mayfield also needs to be careful throwing to the middle of the field with safeties Tyrann Mathieu and Daniel Sorenson looming.

The Browns won’t have answers for Mahomes. The Chiefs will find plenty for Mayfield in the second half.

Pick: Chiefs win 34-17 and cover the spread.

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  • Upset of the Week: Buccaneers (+3, 52 o/u) over Saints

Sunday, 6:40 p.m. ET, Fox

Tom Brady’s first game as a Buccaneer was rough in New Orleans in Week 1. His second shot at the Saints was even worse at home in Week 9. But Brady wasn’t playing nearly at the same level in either previous meeting as he is now, fully locked into his wide receivers, Mike Evans, Chris Godwin and Antonio Brown. He’s set at tight end, too, whether it’s Cameron Brate or old buddy Rob Gronkowski running the routes. The Saints have developed more coverage issues all over the field and after seeing their defense twice on film, Brady will adjust into the most comfortable matchup, most every time.

The Bucs and Saints both stop the run well, so it will come down which fortysomething quarterback, Brady or Drew Brees, can avoid the big mistakes but also deliver big plays. Brady has simply been the more impressive passer with the stronger arm for his age and has more guys who can cause matchup problems. Brees will have success working on shorter routes to Michael Thomas and Alvin Kamara, but Evans, Godwin and Brown will be of bigger help to Brady.

Pick: Buccaneers win 34-31.

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Saturday, 4:35 p.m. ET, Fox

The Rams will make this a game because of their running game. Their offensive line pushed around the Seahawks with Andrew Whitworth back and the fresh legs of rookie Cam Akers has made the rushing attack central again. Jared Goff will be a little healthier to take advantage of that, working play-action to Robert Woods and Cooper Kupp. The Packers will handle some of that by putting cornerback Jaire Alexander on Woods.

On the other side, Aaron Rodgers will see Davante Adams locked up with Jalen Ramsey and knows center Corey Linsley and the rest of his strong interior offensive line need to keep Aaron Donald at bay, especially with the edge compromised without left tackle David Bakhtiari. Rodgers and Aaron Jones don’t find it easy at first, but then Rodgers finds tight end Robert Tonyan and other matchups he likes away from downfield and Jones will go to work on a worn-down group in the second half.

The Rams’ defense makes a statement against the MVP QB in Green Bay, but they can’t do enough to make sure the Rams’ offense outscores whatever Rodgers leads the Packers to do.

Pick: Packers win 24-20 but fail to cover the spread.

Stats of the Week

  • Wild-card playoff straight up: 5-1
  • Wild-card playoffs against the spread: 3-2
  • Season straight up: 169-93
  • Season against the spread: 135-119

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Super Bowl halftime show 2021: Who is performing at Super Bowl 55 in Tampa?


The Super Bowl halftime show in 2021 will provide quite the excitement as your weekend moves toward its conclusion. 

That’s because The Weeknd (no, there’s no typo there) will perform at Super Bowl 55 in Tampa, Florida, as the latest in a long line of high-end musical artists to take the stage halfway through the Super Bowl’s football action. The Weeknd brings a wide range of musical genres in his repertoire that should allow for a halftime show that has some appeal for everyone at your Super Bowl party.

MORE: This is the ideal Super Bowl setlist for The Weeknd

The Weeknd is a Canadian artist whose real name is Abel Makkonen Tesfaye. His stage name, according to Tesfaye, comes from being a high school dropout who “left one weekend and never came home.” It’s missing that third ‘e’ only because there’s already a Canadian band known as The Weekend, so the spelling was modified to avoid copyright issues.

A year ago, Shakira and Jennifer Lopez took the stage for the halftime show in Miami. While The Weeknd isn’t quite an entertainer on the level of Bruno Mars, his halftime performance could remind many of Bruno’s varied setlist at the 2014 Super Bowl.

Here’s everything to know about this year’s Super Bowl 55 halftime show, including expected start time and a full list of performances throughout the game’s history.

MORE: Five worst Super Bowl halftime shows in NFL history

Who is performing during halftime of Super Bowl 55?

The Weeknd will perform during halftime of Super Bowl 55. A Canadian singer-songwriter whose full name is Abel Makkonen Tesfaye, The Weeknd should bring a wide-ranging setlist to the stage in Tampa, Florida.

There haven’t been announcements about supplementary performers, although usually a second star finds their way onto the stage at some point during the halftime show. The Weeknd will be following up a 2020 halftime show that featured Shakira and Jennifer Lopez in Miami.

What time does the Super Bowl halftime show start?

The Super Bowl halftime show will likely start shortly after 8 p.m. ET. The game itself kicks off at about 6:30, so the first half should end about 90 minutes later.

MORE: Five best Super Bowl halftime shows in NFL history

(Credit: Getty Images)

Who is The Weeknd?

The Weeknd is a Canadian singer-songwriter whose full name is Abel Makkonen Tesfaye. While his music touches on a number of different genres, it has a heavy R&B influence.

The Weeknd’s stage name comes from Tesfaye leaving for a weekend and never coming home during high school, instead choosing to drop out. He’ll turn 31 a bit more than a week after performing at the Super Bowl, with his birthday on Feb. 16.

The Weeknd has won three Grammy Awards, five American Music Awards, nine Billboard Music Awards and two MTV Video Music Awards. He broke heavily into the mainstream with his song “Can’t Feel My Face.”

Do performers get paid for the Super Bowl halftime show?

No, Super Bowl halftime performers do not get paid. The NFL does cover the cost of the performance.

For artists asked to perform at the Super Bowl during halftime, the publicity is more than enough “compensation.”

MORE: How much are Super Bowl halftime performers paid?

Who is singing the national anthem at Super Bowl 55?

The NFL has not yet announced who will sing the national anthem at Super Bowl 55. A year ago, pop star Demi Lovato sang the anthem in Miami. Rounding out the five most recent national anthem singers at the Super Bowl are Gladys Knight, Pink, Luke Bryan and Lady Gaga. 

History of Super Bowl halftime show performers

Super BowlYearPerformer(s)
I1967Universities of Arizona and Michigan Grambling University Bands
II1968“Old Man Winter Takes a Vacation in Miami” featuring seven local Miami-area high school bands
III1969“America Thanks” with Florida A&M University
IV1970Carol Channing
V1971Florida A&M Band
VI1972“Salute to Louis Armstrong” with Ella Ftizgerald, Carol Channing, Al Hirt and U.S. Marine Coprs Drill Team
VII1973“Happiness Is…” with University of Michigan Band and Woody Herman
VIII1974“A Musical America” with University of Texas Band
IX1975“Tribute to Duke Eillington” with Mercer Ellington and Grambling University Bands
X1976“200 Years and Just a Baby” Tribute to America’s Bicentennial
XI1977“It’s a Small World” including crowd particiption for first time with spectators waving colored placard on cue
XII1978“From Paris to the Paris of America” with Tyler Apache Belles, Pete Fountain and Al Hirt
XIII1979“Super Bowl XIII Carnival” Salute to the Caribbean with Ken Hamilton and various Caribbean bands
XIV1980“A Salute to the Big Band Era” with Up with People
XV1981“A Mardi Gras Festival”
XVI1982“A Salute to the 60’s and Motown”
XVII1983“KaleidoSUPERscope” (a kaleidoscope of color and sound)
XVIII1984“Super Bowl XVIII’s Salute to the Superstars of the Silver Screen”
XIX1985“A World of Children’s Dreams”
XX1986“Beat of the Future”
XXI1987“Salute to Hollywood’s 100th Anniversary”
XXII1988“Something Grand” featuring 88 grand pianos, the Rockettes and Chubby Checker
XXIII1989“Be Bop Bamboozled” featuring 3-D effects
XXIV1990“Salute to New Orleans” and 40th Anniversary of Peanuts’ characters, featuring trumpeter Pete Fountain, Doug Kershaw and Irma Thomas
XXV1991“A Small World Salute to 25 Years of the Super Bowl” featuring New Kids on the Block
XXVI1992“Winter Magic” including a salute to the winter season and the winter Olympics featuring Gloria Estefan, Brian Boitano and Dorothy Hamill
XXVII1993“Heal the World” featuring Michael Jackson
XXVIII1994“Rockin Country Sunday” featuring Clint Black, Tanya Tucker, Travis Tritt, Wynonna and Naomi Judd
XXIX1995“Indiana Jones and the Temple of the Forbidden Eye” featuring Tony Bennett, Patti LaBelle, Arturo Sandoval, the Miami Sound Machine
XXX1996Diana Ross
XXXI1997“Blues Brothers Bash” featuring Dan Akroyd, John Goodman, James Belushi, James Brown and ZZ Top
XXXII1998“A Tribute to Motown’s 40th Anniversary” including Boyz II Men, Smokey Robinson, Queen Latifah, Martha Reeves and The Temptations
XXXIII1999“Celebration of Soul, Salsa and Swing” featuring Stevie Wonder, Gloria Estefan, Big Bad Voodoo Daddy and Savion Glover
XXXIV2000“A Tapestry of Nations” featuring Phil Collins, Christina Aguilera, Enrique Iglesias, and Toni Braxton
XXXV2001“The Kings of Rock and Pop” featuring Aerosmith, *N’SYNC, Britney Spears, Mary J. Blige and Nelly
XXXVII2003Shania Twain, No Doubt and Sting
XXXVIII2004Janet Jackson, Kid Rock, P. Diddy, Nelly and Justin Timberlake
XXXIX2005Paul McCartney
XL2006The Rolling Stones
XLII2008Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers
XLIII2009Bruce Springsteen & The E Street Band
XLIV2010The Who
XLV2011The Black Eyed Peas, Usher, Slash
XLVI2012Madonna with guests Cee Lo Green, LMFAO, M.I.A. and Nicki Minaj
XLVII2013Beyoncé with guests Destiny’s Child
XLVIII2014Bruno Mars with guests Red Hot Chili Peppers
XLIX2015Katy Perry with guests Missy Elliott and Lenny Kravitz
502016Coldplay with guets Beyoncé and Bruno Mars
LI2017Lady Gaga
LII2018Justin Timberlake
LIII2019Maroon 5 with guests Travis Scott and Big Boi
LIV2020Shakira and Jennifer Lopez

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How Urban Meyer, Jaguars can avoid ruining Trevor Lawrence after picking him in 2021 NFL Draft


The Jaguars have hit the Jacksonville jackpot when it comes to their future at head coach and starting quarterback. They have hired three-time college national champion Urban Meyer and will most certainly draft four-time College Football Playoff QB Trevor Lawrence with the No. 1 overall pick in the 2021 NFL Draft..

If the Jaguars wanted to make a splash around the league, it would be hard to hand-pick a better combination. But “on paper” and “in theory” are different concepts when it comes to producing actual results. 

Meyer was drawn back out of retirement from his Fox Sports analyst gig at age 56 for the chance to return to Florida and work with a generational talent at the game’s most important position. Although owner Shad Khan is expected to be more involved in football operations, Meyer should still have the strongest say (and sway) in key personnel decisions.

Getting Lawrence is a big step toward getting back to playoff-caliber relevance in the NFL. Here’s what Meyer and the Jaguars need to do this offseason to quickly get on track to get the best of the elite Clemson prospect as soon as he becomes a Jaguar in April:

MORE: How Meyer can succeed in NFL, somewhere between Nick Saban & Pete Carroll

1. Hire a smart and creative offensive coordinator

Right off the bat, Meyer carries weight to assemble an all-star coaching staff. There are two play-callers the Jaguars should go after first and foremost: former Texas coach Tom Herman and Clemson offensive coordinator Tony Elliott.

Herman had great success under Meyer at Ohio State. Elliott worked with Dabo Swinney to get elite, prolific play from Lawrence for three seasons. Either of those guys would be home runs to attach to Lawrence to maintain his explosive playmaking in the NFL. If Meyer cannot get those guys, he should make sure he hires someone who would build an offense around Lawrence’s immense skill set instead of trying to fit him in a scheme with mostly unfamiliar concepts.

The Cardinals had this fortune a couple years ago, knowing that Kliff Kingsbury, as head coach, would be an ideal pairing for Kyler Murray at No. 1. Last year, the Bengals were very comfortable with Zac Taylor being the established man for Joe Burrow.

Meyer has had success with many styles of QBs over the years, from Alex Smith to Tim Tebow to J.T. Barrett to Cardale Jones. The Jaguars should have all that confidence he will connect Lawrence with the right OC to mesh with his personality and talent.

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2. Be aggressive in free agency to get veteran help

The Jaguars are sitting on the most salary cap room in the NFL for 2021, around $73 million. They have some promising skill-position talent for Lawrence’s arrival. Undrafted James Robinson quickly established himself as a worthy feature back as a rookie. D.J. Chark Jr., Laviska Shenault Jr. and Collin Johnson bring the youthful juice at wide receiver.

But those guys have limited experience in the NFL and will be adjusting to a new offense while they also get settled with Lawrence. The Jaguars still have veteran tight end Tyler Eifert under contract for another year to be better deployed for Lawrence, but Chris Thompson, Chris Conley, Keelan Cole, Dede Westbrook and James O’Shaughnessy all are free-agent pass-catchers.

The Jaguars could think about bringing back Allen Robinson or signing Marvin Jones Jr. as someone to put outside opposite Chark and move Shenault full time into the slot to replace Cole. If the Chargers let Hunter Henry hit the market, he would be the top tight end target. The Jaguars also could look cheaper and deeper to complement Eifert with Jonnu Smith, Jacob Hollister or Trey Burton.

If they don’t re-sign Cam Robinson and they become available, they could look at a sturdy older left tackle, Alejandro Villanueva or Trent Williams. The Jaguars also have plenty of market options to better flank Brandon Linder and Andrew Norwell inside, led by Brandon Scherff and Joe Thuney. Meyer and Lawrence are big splashes, but a couple of worthy splurges would be good, too.

NFL MOCK DRAFT 2021: Projecting where Alabama, Ohio State players will land in first round

3. Use the extra first-rounder to upgrade the offensive line

The Jaguars will have a second pick in the top 32 overall (to be determined) because of their Jalen Ramsey trade with the Rams. The Jaguars did have major defensive issues last season, but one pick won’t solve that. They have got to look to sign and draft to upgrade a little on every level.

There’s good edge pass-rushing, linebacker and safety depth in the draft class for Jacksonville to steal players later and the values at defensive tackle and defensive back in the late first round (No. 25 or below) aren’t there. Should they miss out on top free agents up front or limit it to one big addition, there are prospects such as Texas tackle Samuel Cosmi and USC guard Alijah Vera-Tucker to target.

The Jaguars could also think about tight end in that range in Penn State’s Pat Freiermuth or go for a dynamic offensive weapon in Purdue’s Rondale Moore. The Jaguars need to think defense often this offseason, but with Lawrence, they can also think offense first.

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4. Create a stronger quarterback room

Mike Glennon is a free agent and not exactly the textbook mentor type as a willing backup. Gardner Minshew had his mania, but in the end, he is a third-year sixth-rounder about to learn a new offense after a second year of struggling to read defenses. The Jaguars could use a locker-room leader type with starting experience behind Lawrence, with Jacoby Brissett, Tyrod Taylor and Ryan Fitzpatrick topping the most appealing available options. Minshew is worth having around as a smart, still developing player, but the Jaguars need that headset/clipboard guy to act like an extension of the coaching staff.

There’s no question that Taylor and Fitzpatrick, who got displaced by Justin Herbert and Tua Tagovailoa in 2020, were extremely supportive and professional in helping to make their rookie replacements do well with a team-first mentality. That should make the Jaguars want to have either in the room during an NFL offseason that won’t be as “virtual.”

MORE: Why Trevor Lawrence is a much better fit with Jaguars than Jets

5. Don’t try to limit the playbook for a rookie Trevor Lawrence

The Chargers let Herbert loose with aggressive throwing and running and the result was one of the best rookie QB seasons ever. The Bengals gave Burrow full command and he didn’t let down with his smarts and savvy beyond his years. Meanwhile, the Dolphins probably reined in Tagovailoa too much early in his starting tenure, and that cost them a playoff berth in the end.

Lawrence is an experienced starter from a major college offense with established pro-style assets. He can pick up things quickly like that other Clemson star NFL QB Deshaun Watson and like Burrow, can earn instant teammate respect with his intangibles. Meyer is also an NFL rookie, but there’s no doubt he needs go into 2021 with the mind-set that Lawrence is already capable of performing like a fearless, efficient veteran passer (and runner).

It will take a team effort for the Jaguars to lift Lawrence into the top QB he should be for a long time. As the man in charge of putting that all together, to that end, Meyer can waste no time proving he was a great hire.

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Why the Jaguars hired Urban Meyer: Florida ties, top pick helped lure ex-Ohio State coach to Jacksonville


The Jaguars on Thursday made official what had been rumored within NFL and college football circles since late December: Longtime college football coach Urban Meyer is coming out of retirement to become Jacksonville’s newest coach, replacing Doug Marrone.

While Meyer’s sustained success at the college level is undeniable, the hire nevertheless will raise a few eyebrows, considering he has zero NFL coaching experience. Many will be quick to compare him to college contemporary Nick Saban, who infamously floundered in two seasons with the Dolphins before returning to coach college at Alabama.

Whether Meyer will learn to overcome the professional hurdles Saban couldn’t remains to be seen. But there are other factors — his ties to the state of Florida, his history of health issues and scandals and his managerial style, among others — that owner Shad Khan had to weigh while deciding whether to hire him.

Here’s a look at those factors, and how they could affect Meyer’s tenure with the Jaguars:

MORE: How Meyer can succeed in NFL, somewhere between Nick Saban & Pete Carroll

Why did the Jaguars hire Urban Meyer?

Khan, in announcing the hire, said Meyer “is who we want and need, a leader, winner and champion who demands excellence and produces results. While Urban already enjoys a legacy in the game of football that few will ever match, his passion for the opportunity in front of him here in Jacksonville is powerful and unmistakable.” 

“With upcoming opportunities in the NFL Draft, and strong support from ownership, the Jaguars are well-positioned to become competitive,” Meyer said in a prepared statement: “I’ve analyzed this decision from every angle — the time is right in Jacksonville, and the time is right for me to return to coaching.” 

Urban Meyer’s record at Florida, Ohio State

Meyer is an exclusive group of coaches who have won national championships at multiple schools; only he and Saban have accomplished that feat, with Meyer doing it at Florida (2006, ’08) and Ohio State (2014). Curiously, Meyer had to go through Saban’s Alabama teams in his latter two national championship seasons, beating the Crimson Tide in the 2008 SEC championship game and the 2014 College Football Playoff semifinal.

Meyer owns an impressive 187-32 record across 17 college football seasons. That includes a 17-6 record at Bowling Green (2001-02); a 22-2 record at Utah (2003-04); a 65-15 record at Florida (2005-10); and a 83-9 record at Ohio State (2012-18). Meyer has never suffered a losing season at the collegiate level, with his worst season (8-5) coming in 2010 at Florida. He also has two undefeated seasons, at Utah in 2004 and Ohio State in 2012.

Jacksonville would love for Meyer to continue that sustained success after suffering losing records under previous coaches Doug Marrone (23-43), Gus Bradley (14-48) and Jack Del Rio (68-71).

Ties to the state of Florida

There’s no doubt Meyer’s ties to the state of Florida had a hand in his choosing Jacksonville over other head coaching opportunities with the Chargers, Falcons and Jets, among others. Jacksonville is only an hour-and-a-half drive from Gainesville, where Meyer coached the Gators for six seasons.

If Meyer, 56, intends to retire for good after his stint with the Jaguars, it makes sense for him to choose Jacksonville as his final coaching destination if he intends to reside permanently in the state afterward.

Track record of evaluating, developing talented players

Meyer has a long history of recruiting, evaluating and developing top-tier talent before sending them to the NFL. That includes former No. 1 overall pick Alex Smith (Utah), running backs Carlos Hyde and Ezekiel Elliott (Ohio State), defensive ends Nick and Joey Bosa (Ohio State), receiver Michael Thomas (Ohio State), offensive linemen Mike and Maurkice Pouncey (Florida) and receiver Percy Harvin (Florida), among others.

While Meyer will have to learn to navigate the draft, free agency and the trade market instead of cherry-picking the top players along the recruiting trail, he had a hand in developing those players into NFL-caliber talents. If he can have similar success with his Jaguars players already on the roster — and those he takes in the draft — there’s no reason to think Jacksonville can’t become a regular AFC South contender in the coming seasons.

Of paramount importance will be his success in developing that all-important position: quarterback.

MORE: Meyer reportedly assembling staff for Jaguars job

History of quarterback development

Jacksonville’s quarterback situation was less than ideal in 2020 with Gardner Minshew II, rookie Jake Luton and Mike Glennon all struggling: They combined to complete 387 of 616 passes for 3,955 yards and 25 touchdowns to 16 interceptions. Luton and Glennon were winless as starters, and Minshew wasn’t much better, going 1-7 in eight starts.

Meyer will be asked to upgrade that position immediately, which he will be in prime position to do with the No. 1 overall pick. He has a moderate history of success with that position, helping Smith to become the No. 1 overall pick in the 2004 NFL Draft as well as recruiting future NFL MVP Cam Newton to Florida (Newton later transferred to Auburn after a one-year stint in JUCO). Meyer has also produced NFL draft picks in Tim Tebow, Cardale Jones and Dwayne Haskins, though none of those players ended up panning out professionally.

That leads to the most important question Meyer will face ahead of the 2021 NFL Draft:

Will Meyer draft Trevor Lawrence or Justin Fields?

There are more than a few people who watched the 2021 Sugar Bowl matchup between Ohio State’s Justin Fields and Clemson’s Trevor Lawrence and wondered if the Buckeye quarterback’s performance in that game should vault him to the No. 1 overall draft pick.

Fields was clearly the better of the two in their second all-time meeting; despite taking a nasty shot to the ribs , he completed 22 of 28 passes for 385 yards and six touchdowns to one interception. He also ran eight times for 42 yards. Compare that to Lawrence, who completed 33 of 48 passes for 400 yards but only two touchdowns and an interception.

Fields transferred to play for the Buckeyes in January 2019, the month after Meyer’s second retirement from football. So there’s no personal connection between the two that would sway Meyer to draft him over Lawrence. And while Meyer has lauded Fields’ natural ability and leadership — even comparing him to Deshaun Watson — he has already made an evaluation of who is better be better of the two:

Assuming Meyer’s evaluation hasn’t changed, he should take Lawrence with the top pick of the draft.

MORE: Why Trevor Lawrence is a much better fit with Jaguars than Jets

Meyer’s history of scandals

Despite his on-field success, Meyer does not have the cleanest record off it heading into Jacksonville: Both Ohio State and Florida faced scandals that have origins from when he led the programs.

Thirty-one Florida players were arrested while enrolled at school under Meyer from 2005-10. According to a 2013 report by the New York Times, 41 players on his 2008 national championship team — roughly a third — faced arrest either in college or after leaving Florida. The most notable of those is tight end Aaron Hernandez, who in 2015 was found guilty of first-degree murder.

Meyer in 2018 also came under fire for his relationship with Zach Smith , whom he kept on his staff at Florida and Ohio State despite reportedly having knowledge of domestic abuse between him and his wife, Courtney Smith. Meyer fired Smith in July 2018 after national football reporter Brett McMurphy published a story in which Courtney Smith discussed a 2009 incident of domestic abuse.

Meyer was placed on administrative leave because of the scandal, missing three games; he later announced his impending retirement, citing health concerns that were exacerbated due to Ohio State’s investigation.

It remains to be seen whether Meyer took lessons from those scandals, or if working with professional players — instead of 18- to 22-year-olds — will help him avoid any future issues.

What will Meyer, Khan’s relationship look like?

Khan has been a largely hands-off owner of the Jaguars, resulting in a 41-106 record from 2012 to 2020. It stands to reason, then, that he will want more of a say in how the team is run and what players he thinks Meyer and the future general manager should go after.

That’s a far cry from Meyer’s experience at the collegiate level, where he maintained complete control of his respective programs — from recruiting, coaching, and roster management. It’s that lack of control that contributed to Saban return to the college game. Meyer’s ability to handle that will go a long way in how successful he is in Jacksonville, but he needs to be prepared to let Khan have a say — and to let his future general manager do their job as well.

Something else to consider: Meyer is not used to losing. His worst came in 2010, when Florida went 8-5 (.615). A comparable season in Jacksonville would be 10-7, or 11-6. It’s unlikely Meyer achieves double digit wins in his first season, or maybe even his second. He’ll have to be patient while building the organization up toward AFC South contention.

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Nets GM Sean Marks confident James Harden will jell with Kevin Durant, Kyrie Irving


Nets general manager Sean Marks is confident Kevin Durant, Kyrie Irving and James Harden will jell as they work toward a “common goal.”

Questions have been asked about whether the three stars can work together, but Marks sounded convinced that they will.

“These guys have given us the right answers. They’ve said, hey, they want to play together, they can see this fitting,” Marks told a news conference Thursday after the Nets confirmed they had completed Harden from the Rockets in a blockbuster four-team trade.

MORE: How Harden fits in Brooklyn, by the numbers

“They’re at a time in their careers — I don’t want to speak for each one of them because I let them have their own their own voice and their narrative around this — but I think they understand that there’s without a doubt going to be some nights where one or two need to sacrifice for the other and so forth. But I think they’re all looking for a common goal.

“We’re all looking for that common goal, as I’ve said before, is to be the last team standing. I think when you have a group that is willing to sacrifice and play hard, play together on the court, and they already have a relationship, a prior relationship to this, so I think that will help.”

Harden, Durant and Irving all rank in the top 10 in the NBA in scoring average since the latter’s rookie season in 2011-12 (minimum 500 games).

Durant or Harden have won seven of the past 11 NBA scoring titles. No Brooklyn qualifier has ever finished higher than fifth in the league.

TRADE GRADES: Nets go all-in on championship chase

Marks said the opportunity to land a player like Harden came at a good time for the Nets.

“The timing was right for us. And fortunately, any time you get an opportunity to acquire or try to acquire a player of this caliber it’s something you do look hard at [and] is something we did,” he said.

“The process sped up very, very rapidly and very quickly over the last 48 hours.”

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Blue Jackets’ Pierre-Luc Dubois ‘wants out’: Timeline, latest trade rumors


There’s a whole lot of drama coming out of Columbus these days — and, for once, it’s not entirely about John Tortorella. Instead, it’s focused on Pierre-Luc Dubois. The Blue Jackets’ prized 22-year-old center reportedly needs a change of scenery. 

Dubois is coming off a season in which he potted 49 points (18 goals, 31 assists) in 70 regular-season games before tacking on 10 points in 10 playoff bubble games. In three NHL seasons, he has collected 158 points in 234 games for Columbus and would be a great pickup for any team.

Obviously, it could be a tad difficult this year for general manager Jarmo Kekalainen to ship out the disgruntled No. 1 centerman — with quarantine and border issues — but it sounds as if Dubois’ time in Ohio is winding down.

So, what exactly is going on? And how did it get to this point? Here’s a timeline of everything we know, including rumored destinations.

Pierre-Luc Dubois timeline

Aug. 4

Is this where the relationship between Dubois and Tortorella soured? Before the start of the third period of Game 2 in Columbus’ qualifying-round series against the Leafs, Dubois goes to the bench and gets laid into by Tortorella — including finger-pointing. Dubois goes back at him, respectfully. It looks as if Tortorella yells “Wake up!” at him at one point: 

The Blue Jackets lost that game 3-0 but Dubois responded in Game 3 with a hat trick, including the overtime winner. According to the Columbus Dispatch’s Brian Hedger, there were other clashes during the regular season that involved public airing of grievances. 

Dec. 31

Dubois signs a two-year, $10 million contract with the Blue Jackets days before the start of training camp.

“I’m excited to have the contract done and to be able to get back on the ice and play hockey again, especially with everything that is going on in the world right now,” Dubois says after the team announces the signing. “I’m very fortunate and looking forward to being with my teammates at camp and the start of a new season.”

Sounds like everything was hunky-dory, right? Well, just prior to the announcement, TSN’s Pierre LeBrun reported that the restricted free agent was not in Ohio and “Dubois may be looking for a change of scenery.” Per The Athletic’s Aaron Portzline, Dubois had been skating in Columbus but left. LeBrun added about an hour later that Kekalainen was “confident” he would get a contract done.

Jan. 3

The Blue Jackets open camp and Dubois is asked about his trade request, but he doesn’t offer up much, saying a few times that conversations between he, agent Pat Brisson and Kekalainen are private and will remain as such.

“I’m going to be the best player I can be, the best teammate I can be, the best person I can be,” he says when pressed about the trade request. “I don’t want it to be a distraction. So I think that’s the only way. I think if I go out there and I work hard in practices, have a good attitude, work hard in games, play well, [then] I think it’s not a distraction.”

Jan. 13

Tortorella confirms in an interview with Columbus radio station WBNS that the team’s first-round draft pick in 2016 (third overall) already has his bags packed.

“He wants out,” Tortorella tells Rothman and Ice. “(Dubois) hasn’t given a reason why he wants to leave. He should get in front of it. That’s the way I think you should go about your business, and be the best team you can be.

“He needs to continue to do the things to help this team win and be the best teammate he can be, or I’m not sure where it goes. It’s a situation and we’ll go to it day by day.”

Jan. 14

Dubois is in the lineup for the Blue Jackets’ 2021 season opener, a 3-1 loss to the Predators in Nashville. He’s slotted in as the No. 1 center between Mikhail Grigorenko and Oliver Bjorkstrand. In 18:30 of ice time, most among Columbus forwards, he notches one shot on goal and two hits and wins 12 of 19 faceoffs.

Trade potential

As mentioned, trades could be hard to complete because of border restrictions and the fact Dubois would have to quarantine for 14 days if shipped north — which is looking more likely.

Sportsnet’s Elliotte Friedman reported in his “31 Thoughts” column that a number of teams want Dubois, with the Canadiens and Jets the more serious pursuers.

On Jan. 12, Darren Dreger added fuel to the Jets rumor on TSN’s “Insider Trading,” saying there has been speculation they’re looking at Dubois and noting that Winnipeg has its own disgruntled forward in Patrik Laine. 

On Jan. 14, former NHL insider Nick Kyrpeos tweeted that Dubois wants to go to the Canadiens — which makes sense because he hails from Ste-Agathe-des-Monts, Que. The only catch, Kypreos said, is that the Blue Jackets want Nick Suzuki in return and the Canadiens may be wary of trading the future star. (Suzuki looked fantastic between Jonathan Drouin and Josh Anderson in Montreal’s opener.) Kypreos added that rookie defender Alexander Romanov was deemed untouchable.

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Jets hire Robert Saleh as head coach, return to defensive posture


The Jets announced Thursday night that they had reached an agreement in principle with 49ers defensive coordinator Robert Saleh to become their new head coach. The move marks a return to the mindset the franchise has held for the better part of a quarter-century.

Saleh, 41, is succeeding Adam Gase, who was fired after the Jets’ Week 17 loss to the Patriots. The Jets finished 2-14 in 2020 after losing their first 13 games. Gase was 9-23 in two seasons with the team.

MORE: Jets fan takes Saleh watch to an extreme

New York is getting one of the hottest coaching prospects in the NFL, a coordinator who led a Super Bowl-caliber unit two years ago and a group that was fifth in total defense this year despite multiple injuries to key players.

It’s also returning to its recent philosophy of going with a defensive mind as its head coach. Todd Bowles, Rex Ryan, Eric Mangini, Herm Edwards, Al Groh, Bill Belichick and Bill Parcells all hailed from that side of the ball, with Gase breaking the string. The individual coaching records show a mixed bag of results:


The Jets were 24th in total defense, 28th against the pass and 26th in scoring defense this season under coordinators Gregg Williams and Frank Bush.

They’re also following the pack when it comes to coaches in their division: Belichick, the Bills’ Sean McDermott and the Dolphins’ Brian Flores all have defensive backgrounds.

But New York is bucking a trend, as well, by not hiring a young offensive hotshot: think Sean McVay, Matt LaFleur, Kevin Stefanski, Kliff Kingsbury, Matt Rhule and Zac Taylor. On the other hand, ESPN’s Adam Schefter reported Thursday night that 49ers passing game coordinator Mike LaFleur — brother of Matt and all of 34 years old — is expected to become Saleh’s offensive coordinator with the Jets.

The OC choice is crucial because Saleh is inheriting the worst offense in the NFL (32nd in yards and scoring in 2020). There’s the likelihood that Saleh may want to go with a new quarterback in 2021 in place of incumbent Sam Darnold. New York will pick second in the NFL Draft in April; it could turn to Ohio State’s Justin Fields or BYU’s Zach Wilson if it wants to start over at the position.

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