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|Jacksonville’s locker room was abuzz late last season. Four guys played table tennis while others crowded around a small table for dominoes. Two 80-inch televisions were tuned to a sports highlight show Womens Deryk Engelland Jersey , and music blared from one corner of the room. Doug Marrone, the team’s offensive line coach at the time, walked through and shook his head.
”Can you believe this?” Marrone whispered.
The Jaguars were in the middle of a nine-game losing streak that would ultimately cost coach Gus Bradley his job. Marrone had watched from afar for two years, witnessing an atmosphere he felt was too loose, too laid-back and too lenient amid losing.
So when Marrone was hired to replace Bradley last January, high on his to-do list was to change the culture in Jacksonville. His success is one reason the Jaguars (12-6) are in the AFC championship game against New England (14-3).
The ping pong table was the first to go. Dominoes followed. The locker room stalls were overhauled, too, with Marrone mixing and matching position groups and putting certain players next to veteran leaders and/or NFL role models.
”We definitely threw a tantrum,” Pro Bowl defensive tackle Malik Jackson said. ”Went in there and talked to him about it. Definitely wasn’t happy. I learned just to be quiet, you know, and go with the flow. He’s been at it longer than I have, and I’m just the football player. He says do this and I go do it. Just learn to follow him, and I’m glad I did.”
Marrone saved the most significant changes for the practice fields.
Marrone, top executive Tom Coughlin and general manager Dave Caldwell wanted a much tougher and more physical team. They drafted bruising running back Leonard Fournette and fiery left tackle Cam Robinson to complement a defense that was significantly beefed up in free agency with the addition of All-Pro pass-rusher Calais Campbell, Pro Bowl cornerback A.J. Bouye and veteran safety Barry Church.
They also designed an offseason program that was more grueling than most players had experienced. Marrone’s message was clear: Go hard or go home.
”You remember guys in camp talking about this took a few years off their lives Brian Elliott Jersey ,” Jackson said. ”It’s pretty funny just to see us now. I guess he does know what he’s doing.”
The Jaguars were in full pads nearly every day during training camp, a tortuous stretch in draining heat and humidity that left rookies and veterans questioning the process and wondering if it would pay off. It was the NFL’s version of boot camp. Break them down, then build them up.
It ultimately brought players closer, making them accountable to each other and causing them to care more for each other. Winning was the final piece, and thumping Houston 29-7 in the season opener was all the proof players needed.
”It was the toughest training camp I’ve ever been a part of,” said linebacker Paul Posluszny, in his 11th season. ”Coach Marrone would talk to us and say, `Listen, I have a plan and you have to trust me.’ With that, guys were able to say, `OK, we haven’t gotten what we wanted in years past doing things a certain way, so we have to buy in, trust the head man and know that that’ll bring us success when it’s time.’
”It was difficult just because of so many changes from what we were used to. I think the most important thing is we always said, `Well Dustin Brown Jersey , if it helps us win, then it’s all good.'”
Jacksonville had lost 63 of 80 games over the previous five seasons – the worst record in the NFL during that span – and had been through two coaching changes.
Coughlin’s return was a key part of the team’s revival, and although the two-time Super Bowl-winning coach with the New York Giants gets much of the outside credit for the team’s turnaround, the reality is Marrone was the one pushing all the right buttons.
Marrone has been other places where players resisted, prompting personnel moves that would slow progress. That wasn’t the case in Jacksonville, and he credited his players for being open to change.
”They gave our staff the opportunity to say, `This is what we want to do. This is what we believe in as coaches or as an organization. This is how we want to handle ourselves,”’ Marrone said. ”We are still working toward that. It is not perfect by any means.”
It’s clearly working, though. The Jaguars are in the title game for the third time in franchise history, one victory away from their first Super Bowl appearance.
”They say (stuff) rolls downhill,” Jackson said. ”Well, the good stuff rolls downhill, too. … It’s all worth it when you win.”
William Nylander and Auston Matthews each had two goals and an assist as the playoff-bound Toronto Maple Leafs beat the Buffalo Sabres 5-2 on Monday night.
Andreas Johnsson also scored as Maple Leafs extended a franchise record with their 48th win and matched the team mark for points (103) set in 2003-04. Backup goalie Curtis McElhinney stopped 32 shots to help Toronto win for the 15th time in the last 17 at home.
Matthews extended his point streak to seven games in Toronto’s 28th home win of the season. He has five goals and 10 points on his run.
Sam Reinhart got his career-high 24th goal for the last-place Sabres, and Jason Pominville also scored. Chad Johnson finished with 31 saves.
KINGS 3, AVALANCHE 1
LOS ANGELES (AP) – Dustin Brown’s short-handed goal helped Los Angeles move back into third place in the Pacific Division with a win over Colorado.
Torrey Mitchell and Kyle Clifford also scored for the Kings http://www.officialducks.com/authentic-adidas-antoine-vermette-jersey , who are one point ahead of Anaheim. Jonathan Quick made 27 saves and the Kings won their third consecutive home game.
Alexander Kerfoot had a power-play goal and Jonathan Bernier stopped 22 shots for the Avalanche.
Colorado leads St. Louis by one point for the second Western Conference wild card, but the Blues have a game in hand. The Avalanche host the Blues on Saturday in the final game of the regular season for both.
PANTHERS 3, HURRICANES 2
SUNRISE, Fla. (AP) – Alexander Petrovic scored the tiebreaking goal in the third period and Florida snapped a three-game skid.
Evgenii Dadonov and MacKenzie Weegar also scored to help the Panthers pull five points behind idle New Jersey for the second wild card in the Eastern Conference. Florida has four games remaining, one more than the Devils. Roberto Luongo stopped 26 shots.
Derek Ryan and Trevor van Riemsdyk scored for Carolina, and Scott Darling finished with 32 saves.
On the go-ahead goal, Petrovic shot from the boards above the right circle and beat Darling with 7:58 left for his second of the season.
WILD 3, STARS 0
ST. PAUL, Minn. (AP) – Zach Parise scored twice and Devan Dubnyk made 22 saves to blank his original team, pushing Minnesota to the brink of the playoffs.
Playing for the first time in nearly three years without stalwart defenseman Ryan Suter, the Wild wrapped up their home schedule with a postseason-caliber performance punctuated by a staggering 21-3 shots advantage in the third period. Joel Eriksson Ek added an empty-net goal as the Wild finished 27-6-8 at Xcel Energy Center, currently the second-best home record in the NHL.
Cam Talbot made 37 saves for the Oilers, who lost their fifth straight game and ensured a sub-80-point finish for the eighth time in the nine years.
The Wild reached 98 points to match the fourth-most in franchise history.
CAPITALS 4, BLUES 2
ST. LOUIS (AP) – Nicklas Backstrom started a three-goal second period, Braden Holtby made 34 saves Brent Burns Jersey , and Washington won for the seventh time in eight games and 11th in the last 13.
Alex Ovechkin got his league-leading 46th goal, and Alex Chiasson and Andre Burakovsky also scored for the Capitals. Holtby won for the fourth time in his last five starts, and improved to 7-0-0 in seven career starts against St. Louis.
Vladimir Tarasenko and Patrik Berglund scored for the Blues, who lost their second straight. Jake Allen finished with 30 saves.
JETS 6, SENATORS 5
OTTAWA, Ontario (AP) – Blake Wheeler scored twice and Winnipeg held off Ottawa.
Andrew Copp had a goal and an assist, and Josh Morrissey, Brandon Tanev and Mathieu Perreault also scored for the Jets, who pulled five points behind first-place Nashville in the Central Division with three games remaining. Adam Lowry and Mark Scheifele each had two assists, and Connor Hellebuyck stopped 32 shots.
Thomas Chabot and Matt Duchene each scored twice and Christian Wolanin got his first NHL goal for Ottawa, which was playing its final home game of the season. Craig Anderson finished with 34 saves.
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