Tagged in: Rams

Diggs scores 3 TDs for Bills in 41-7 rout of Titans

Josh Allen threw four touchdown passes, including three to Stefon Diggs, and the Buffalo Bills rolled past Derrick Henry and the Tennessee Titans 41-7 in their home opener on Monday night.

The Bills followed a season-opening 31-10 rout of the Super Bowl champion Los Angeles Rams by throttling an opponent that has been their nemesis in each of the past two seasons. Fullback Reggie Gilliam and linebacker Matt Milano, with a 43-yard interception return, also scored touchdowns for Buffalo.

Allen topped 300 yards passing for the 15th time of his career, completing 26 of 38 attempts for 317 yards, and sat out the entire fourth quarter. Diggs had 12 catches for 148 yards. He has exceeded 100 yards in each of his first two games, a feat accomplished previously for the Bills only by Hall of Famer Andre Reed.

“When we execute, how we know we’re supposed to execute, success typically leads to success,” Allen said. “We’re just trying to be the best version of ourselves.”

The Bills have topped 30 points twice after doing so nine times last year. And their defense limited Tennessee to 182 yards of offense and 12 first downs, while registering two sacks and forcing four turnovers.

The Titans, coming off a 21-20 season-opening loss to the New York Giants, opened 0-2 for the first time since 2012.

The two-time defending AFC South champions face numerous questions about a defense that gave up 313 yards passing a week after allowing 238 yards rushing. Meantime, Henry and their offense continue to sputter. The two-time rushing champion was limited to 25 yards on 13 carries while scoring on a 2-yard plunge.

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“We got our (butts) kicked, plain and simple,” coach Mike Vrabel said after the most lopsided loss in his four-plus seasons coaching the Titans.

“They outplayed us and they outcoached us, and that’s the definition of it. We’re going to go back to work and try to figure out how to win a football game.”

Injuries affected both teams, the most serious involving Bills cornerback Dane Jackson, who hurt his neck in a troubling collision with a teammate and was taken to a hospital for valuation. The Bills stated Jackson had full movement in his limbs.

Coach Sean McDermott stated Jackson was still awaiting test results.

The entire Bills team gathered around Jackson as he was loaded into an ambulance on the field.

“You go from being a coach to just a human. That’s a real moment,” McDermott said. “Just praying for him. It’s an unfortunate situation.”

Otherwise, the two-time defending AFC East champion Bills continued making a splash in their second consecutive prime-time appearance, while at the same time easing frustrations of the past, including a 42-16 loss to Tennessee in 2020.

Still stung by memories of Allen being stuffed for no gain on fourth down near the goal line in the final seconds of the last season’s loss 34-31 loss in which Buffalo squandered a seven-point fourth-quarter lead, the Bills scored on their opening drive and never looked back.

“When you can play a game like that, it doesn’t matter who it’s against,” Allen said. “That’s a good team that we played. It’s a very well-coached team. For us to go do that was great.”

Up 10-7, Allen and Diggs took over by connecting for two touchdowns spanning halftime. Faking left, Allen found Diggs in an opening for a 4-yard touchdown with a minute left in the second quarter.

Allen and Diggs then blew the game open by connecting on a 46-yard touchdown on Buffalo’s first possession of the second half. Given time in the pocket, Allen threw a perfectly placed pass to Diggs, who reached out to catch the ball before tumbling head-first into the end zone.

The wheels fell off for the Titans, who were outscored 24-0 in the third quarter. Tennessee rookie Kyle Philips muffed a punt for a second consecutive week, and Ryan Tannehill threw interceptions on consecutive possessions.

Tannehill concluded 11 of 20 for 117 yards and was benched following Milano’s interception with 3:49 left in the third quarter. Rookie Malik Willis took over, and if Tannehill continues to struggle, Tennessee fans will want to see more of the young backup.

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Stafford, Rams hold off Falcons for 31-27 victory

Jalen Ramsey was calm and collected, even in the maelstrom of the fourth quarter that saw the Atlanta Falcons putting together a late rally versus the Los Angeles Rams.

While most of the 71,802 inside of SoFi Stadium were dreading the worst Sunday, the All-Pro cornerback knew he was going to be a deciding factor in the final minutes.

With the Falcons driving for a potential go-ahead touchdown, Ramsey picked off Marcus Mariota’s pass intended for Bryan Edwards in the end zone, permitting the Rams to hold on for a 31-27 victory.

“I told my teammates it was gonna come back to me and it did,” Ramsey said. “I just continued to focus and do my job. That was going through my mind because in the past we pressed to make those plays. And when you do that, it doesn’t end up well for you.”

The defending Super Bowl champions led the entire game. But they nearly blew a 28-3 third-quarter lead that would have given the young Falcons an unlikely comeback of their own from that infamous score — Atlanta’s lead in the 2017 Super Bowl before New England rallied to win — to celebrate.

Mariota had second-half touchdown passes to Drake London and Olamide Zaccheaus to bring the Falcons within 31-17. Special teams and defense then came through to give the veteran quarterback a final chance.

Troy Anderson blocked a punt that Lorenzo Carter returned 26 yards for a touchdown, and a 2-point conversion pass from Mariota to London brought the Falcons within 31-25 with 5:06 left. It was their first blocked punt TD since 1990.

Los Angeles turned it over on their ensuing drive when Darren Hall forced Kupp to fumble and recovered it at the Rams 37. Mariota got the Falcons to the Rams 24 before throwing the fateful interception.

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“That’s on me, I’ve got to do a better job of communicating that across the board,” said Mariota, who was 17 of 26 for 196 yards with two touchdowns and two interceptions. “I think, kind of throughout the game I could have done a better job operationally and just communicating with the guys so that everybody’s on the same page.”

Los Angeles took a safety when returner Brandon Powell ran out of the end zone on punt formation after a three-and-out.

After the free kick, Atlanta took over at the Falcons 40, but Mariota was sacked before he could get a Hail Mary attempt off on the final play to ensure Atlanta’s fourth consecutive 0-2 start.

“There’s a lot of different, very uncharacteristic things, but they happened. And we still found a way,” Rams coach Sean McVay said. “We’re not going to run away from some of the things that we didn’t do well today. But we’re also going to allow ourselves to appreciate being able to come away with a win.”

Matthew Stafford threw for 272 yards and three touchdowns and Cooper Kupp had two TD catches for the Rams, who bounced back from a disappointing defeat versus the Buffalo Bills in their season opener.

Stafford completed his first 12 passes en route to going 27 of 36. Kupp had 11 catches for 108 yards and touchdowns on consecutive drives in the second and third quarters.

Kupp made an over-the-shoulder catch on a fade pattern on second-and-3 from Atlanta’s 3 late in the first half to give the Rams a 21-3 lead. The Super Bowl MVP’s first score came three plays after Rams rookie cornerback Cobie Durant picked off a pass bobbled by Cordarrelle Patterson and returned it 51 yards up the right sideline to the Falcons 9.

The Rams then took the second half kickoff and extended their lead by another touchdown when Kupp caught a quick pass and juked safety Jaylinn Hawkins for a 10-yard TD.

The Falcons were able to move the ball in the first half, but were done in by mistakes. The Rams scored their 21 points after a missed field goal by Younghoe Koo, turnover on downs near midfield and Mariota’s first interception.

“Obviously it wasn’t perfect and we need to break through, but one thing about our guys, no matter what has happened, we have a chance until the last play to win it,” Falcons coach Arthur Smith said. “Obviously we didn’t make enough plays, but the game playing gave us enough and the guys kept grinding out.”

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Rams coach Sean McVay announces he signed extension with team during offseason

Los Angeles Rams head coach Sean McVay stated Tuesday that he signed a contract extension during the offseason, but the team was waiting to announce it until general manager Les Snead signed an extension as well, which hasn’t happened yet.

During his first press conference of training camp, McVay was asked about a possible contract extension. He said, “We are in a good place. … I feel really good about the direction that’s going in and I think it’ll be something where it’ll be me and Les and you guys will know when that is finalized for us.”

McVay said Tuesday that he gave that answer in July because “We wanted to be able to announce that when both of us [had] gotten done.” McVay built on that further by saying that’s why he had hoped to wait to confirm his deal, prior to its mention in an extended profile of the coach posted Tuesday on ESPN.com.

“It is something that we’ve been taken care of, but it is very important for Les and I to kind of have that represented as we’re a partnership and a pair,” McVay said. McVay, who didn’t disclose the terms of the long-expected deal, said he feels “good” about the extension, saying it was “always a really good dialogue that existed.

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“These things, they take time, but I think it is important,” McVay said Tuesday. “We had a respect for the process. We wanted it to be able to be announced when both Les and I got done because of the partnership. And I think it’s only gotten better as we go, but that’s kind of where it’s at right now.”

The Rams, led by McVay and Snead, are coming off a Super Bowl LVI victory and their second Super Bowl appearance since McVay was hired in 2017.

McVay, who was the youngest head coach in modern NFL history when he was hired by the Rams, has led Los Angeles to a 55-26 record in five campaigns.

Snead joined the Rams as general manager in 2012, and the franchise is 86-74-1 in his 10 seasons at the helm. In 2016, Snead moved up the draft board from the 15th pick to the first overall pick to take quarterback Jared Goff.

His recent blockbuster trades involved adding quarterback Matthew Stafford in January 2021 and linebacker Von Miller in November 2021. He also signed wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr. mid-season, another crucial piece to the Rams’ playoff run and Super Bowl conquest.

Snead and the Rams’ front office have also given out several large contract extensions this offseason, signing Stafford and wide receiver Cooper Kupp through the 2026 season and reworking defensive tackle Aaron Donald’s contract to make him the highest paid non-quarterback in the NFL.

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DT Aaron Donald gets big raise from Los Angeles Rams in reworked contract

All-Pro defensive tackle Aaron Donald is returning to the Los Angeles Rams with a big raise that will make him the highest-paid non-quarterback in the NFL.

The Rams reworked Donald’s contract to give him a $40 million raise over the last three years of his existing contract, sources told ESPN’s Adam Schefter, making him the first non-quarterback to eclipse $30 million per season. The reworked deal brings the total value of Donald’s contract to $95 million over three years.

The deal, which was negotiated by agent Todd France, includes $65 million guaranteed in the first two years of the contract and is structured in such a way that Donald can either retire or return for the 2024 season for an additional $30 million guaranteed, sources told Schefter.

The reworked contract contains a no-trade clause, a source told ESPN’s Jeremy Fowler.

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Donald, 31, underwent his physical and signed the contract Monday.

The Rams started their mandatory minicamp Tuesday.

The Rams tweeted a video from Donald on Monday in which he said: “What’s up, it’s Aaron Donald, I’m locked back in. Let’s go get us another ring. Why not? At SoFi Stadium, getting chills thinking about it. Let’s go to work.”

Donald had indicated on the “I Am Athlete” podcast last week that his return for the 2022 season was contingent on getting a new deal and that he would be “at peace” with his career if an agreement couldn’t be reached.

The three-time Defensive Player of the Year sealed the Rams’ triumph over the Cincinnati Bengals in Super Bowl LVI when he pressured quarterback Joe Burrow into an errant throw on fourth down late in the fourth quarter.

Donald had 12.5 sacks in the regular season and then followed that up with 3.5 more in the playoffs during the Rams’ run to the Super Bowl championship.

In eight campaigns, Donald has 98 sacks. He has six seasons with at least 10 sacks — the second most by a primary interior lineman since sacks became official in 1982, trailing only John Randle, who had nine such seasons. He has been selected to the Pro Bowl in each of his NFL seasons and has been a first-time All-Pro selection seven times.

He is one of three defensive players since the 1970 merger to earn a Pro Bowl selection in each of their first eight NFL seasons, alongside Hall of Famers Lawrence Taylor (10) and Derrick Thomas (9).

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Buffalo Bills at Los Angeles Rams to open 2022 season; Denver Broncos at Seattle Seahawks on Monday Night Football

The NFL will open its new season where the last one kicked off — in Los Angeles’ SoFi Stadium, as the Super Bowl-champion Los Angeles Rams host the Buffalo Bills on Thursday, Sept. 8, the teams revealed.

The Bills-Rams matchup features elite quarterback play between Matthew Stafford and Josh Allen, who has guided the Bills to back-to-back playoff appearances. This game highlights a challenging calendar for the Rams, whose opponents have the league’s highest winning percentage from last year (56.7%). NBC will broadcast the game.

The Monday Night Football opener offers a spicy storyline

Russell Wilson making his Denver Broncos debut against his old team, the Seattle Seahawks, in Lumen Field.

Wilson guided the Seahawks to two Super Bowl appearances and nine winning seasons over 10 years. Seattle traded Wilson to Denver in March for multiple draft picks and veteran players.

Other key Week 1 matchups include the Tampa Bay Buccaneers at the Dallas Cowboys on Sunday night, a rematch of last season’s Thursday night opener; the Los Angeles Chargers hosting the Las Vegas Raiders, reigniting a dramatic 2021 regular season finale with playoff implications; the Cincinnati Bengals at the Pittsburgh Steelers, a clash of fierce AFC North rivals; and the Kansas City Chiefs making the trip west to play the Arizona Cardinals, two high-powered offenses in the desert.

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The Buccaneers will face serious firepower in the first month of the campaign, with a Sept. 25 home opener versus the Green Bay Packers and a clash with the Chiefs the following week.

Other Week 1 matchups include the Jacksonville Jaguars, with new coach Doug Pederson, at the Washington Commanders, with new quarterback Carson Wentz. Pederson coached Wentz in Philadelphia and won a Super Bowl with the Eagles, although Nick Foles was behind center with Wentz injured.

Several key division matchups, meanwhile, are also on tap for Sept. 11: the New Orleans Saints at Atlanta Falcons, Indianapolis Colts at Houston Texans, New England Patriots at Miami Dolphins, and the Packers at Minnesota Vikings.

Also, it will be the Cleveland Browns at Carolina Panthers, San Francisco 49ers at Chicago Bears, Eagles at Detroit Lions, Baltimore Ravens at New York Jets, and New York Giants at Tennessee Titans.

NFL teams started releasing information on their home openers a few hours before the 8 p.m. league-wide schedule reveal.

Teams have known their opponents since the end of last season, but the NFL builds drama around the schedule release, announcing the order, kickoff times and broadcast networks for all 272 games on one night each May.

This will be the second NFL season that follows a 17-game schedule, as agreed upon by the NFL and players union during recent labor negotiations.

The regular season runs through Jan. 8, with the Super Bowl set for kickoff Feb. 12.

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Green Bay Packers sign veteran wide receiver Sammy Watkins

The Green Bay Packers are finally adding to their receiver room by signing veteran Sammy Watkins.

The team revealed the deal on Thursday but didn’t reveal terms. A source told ESPN’s Adam Schefter that Watkins’ contract is for one year and worth up to $4 million.

The Packers have lost three of their top receivers this offseason, headed by All-Pro Davante Adams in a trade to the Las Vegas Raiders. They also lost Marquez Valdes-Scantling (Chiefs) and Equanimeous St. Brown (Bears) in free agency.

The Packers’ top remaining receivers are Allen Lazard, Randall Cobb and Amari Rodgers.

They haven’t used a first-round pick on a receiver since 2002 (Javon Walker) but have two picks in each of the first two rounds after the Adams trade, putting them in position to address that spot high in the draft.

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Packers head coach Matt LaFleur coached Watkins with the Rams in 2017, and Packers receivers coach Jason Vrable was in Buffalo when the Bills drafted him fourth overall in 2014.

Watkins, 28, has had difficulty staying healthy throughout his career.

He continued to struggle with injuries in his only season with the Baltimore Ravens in 2021, ending with career lows in receptions (27) and receiving yards (394).

He has missed 30 matches over the past seven seasons, and he hasn’t played a full season since his 2014 rookie season.

He made two of the biggest catches of the season for Baltimore, setting up winning scores versus the Detroit Lions and Chicago Bears, but Watkins had no catches — and just three targets — in his final four games as he fell behind Marquise Brown, Rashod Bateman and Devin Duvernay on the depth chart.

In his eight-year career, Watkins has totaled 348 receptions for 5,059 yards receiving and 34 touchdown catches for the Bills, Los Angeles Rams, Kansas City Chiefs and Ravens.

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Pro Bowl LB Bobby Wagner reaches five-year deal with Los Angeles Rams; worth $50M

Pro Bowl linebacker Bobby Wagner will be staying in the NFC West next season despite his release by the Seattle Seahawks earlier this month.

Wagner agreed to terms on a five-year contract with the Super Bowl champion Los Angeles Rams, the team revealed Thursday.

Financial terms were not disclosed, but sources told ESPN’s Adam Schefter the deal is for $50 million and can be worth up to $65 million if Wagner reaches incentives.

It will mark a homecoming for Wagner, who was born in Los Angeles and attended high school in Ontario, California, about 35 miles east of the city.

Wagner becomes the latest big-name player to join a star-studded Rams defense that already involves defensive tackle Aaron Donald and cornerback Jalen Ramsey.

Donald (five), Wagner (four) and Ramsey (three) have all earned at least three first-team All-Pro selections over the past five seasons. Only six defensive players in the NFL have achieved that feat over that time period, according to ESPN Stats & Information research.

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The Rams had a need at one of their inside linebacker spots after they declined to tender Troy Reeder as a restricted free agent.

The Baltimore Ravens also were in the mix to sign Wagner before he decided to sign with the Rams. The Dallas Cowboys also had interest in Wagner.

Wagner publicly and privately voiced his unhappiness over how the Seahawks handled his release earlier this month. Seahawks general manager John Schneider and coach Pete Carroll expressed their regret over how they communicated those plans to Wagner.

Wagner, 31, was the last remaining member of the star-studded defenses that led Seattle to its lone world championship and a return trip to Super Bowl XLIX after the 2014 season.

Wagner, the Seahawks’ all-time tackles leader with 1,383, is coming off a 170-tackle season that earned him his eighth Pro Bowl nod in 10 seasons. He posted that personal best despite missing all but one snap of the final two matches with a knee sprain.

While Wagner didn’t make as many impact plays as in some of his best seasons, he recorded an interception, a sack, a forced fumble and five passes defended in 2021 en route to a second-team All-Pro selection.

In 2020, Wagner was one of 22 defenders named by the Pro Football Hall of Fame to the All-Decade Team for the 2010s. His Hall of Fame-worthy résumé also includes six first-team All-Pro selections, two second-team All-Pro selections and eight Pro Bowls nods, tied for second most in franchise history.

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Los Angeles Rams lock up QB Matthew Stafford with $160M extension

The Rams and Matthew Stafford have reached agreement on a four-year, $160 million extension that includes $135 million guaranteed and should allow the veteran quarterback to concluded his career in Los Angeles, sources tell ESPN’s Adam Schefter.

Stafford is cashing in on his spectacular debut season with the Rams after 12 seasons with the Detroit Lions, who traded the 2009 No. 1 overall pick to Los Angeles a year ago. Stafford would be 38 years old in the final season of the extension.

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Stafford is headed into the final year of his previous five-year, $135 million deal signed in Detroit, but he repeatedly stated he had no interest in going anywhere.

His new deal also is clearly calculated to allow the Rams to retain more of their championship core while adding new pieces, since Stafford almost certainly could have received more money at the top of the quarterback market. Aaron Rodgers’ new deal with the Packers is essentially a three-year, $150 million contract.

Stafford never won a playoff game in 12 seasons with the Lions, but he realized the enormous potential of winning a Super Bowl immediately after joining coach Sean McVay and a talented offense including Cooper Kupp, who became the NFL’s receiving leader in the first year of their partnership.

Stafford set a franchise record with 4,886 yards passing in the 17-game regular season, and he tied Kurt Warner’s team mark with 41 touchdown passes while leading the Rams to the NFC West title.

He then excelled in the first four playoff victories of his career, passing for 1,188 yards and nine touchdowns with just three interceptions. He led game-winning drives in the fourth quarter of the Rams’ final three postseason games, including their Super Bowl victory over Cincinnati at SoFi Stadium.

The Rams also are working on a contract extension for All-Pro defensive tackle Aaron Donald.

Stafford’s deal will alter the amount of room under the salary cap for the Rams, who have already lost several free agents this month. But Los Angeles signed talented veteran receiver Allen Robinson this past week, and the team is hoping to keep Odell Beckham Jr. as well.

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Las Vegas Raiders releasing LB Cory Littleton after 2 seasons

The Las Vegas Raiders are releasing high-priced linebacker Cory Littleton after two underwhelming seasons, a source told ESPN’s Jeremy Fowler.

The Raiders are expected to designate the move with a post-June 1 designation, according to the source.

After spending his first four campaigns with the Los Angeles Rams, Littleton, 28, signed a three-year, $35.25 million free-agent deal with $22 million guaranteed with the Raiders in 2020 and was expected to help in sideline-to-sideline pass coverage. Instead, he lost his starting job to rookie Divine Deablo late last season.

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The post-June 1 designation will save Las Vegas $11.75 million against the cap after that date but will cost the Raiders $4 million in dead money this year and $10 million in 2023.

Earlier Thursday, the Raiders restructured the contracts of foundation left tackle Kolton Miller and versatile running back Kenyan Drake to save $14.525 million in cap space.

They also informed fullback Alec Ingold they were not tendering his contract.

Littleton started 27 of 31 games for the Raiders and had just 0.5 sacks and a fumble recovery. He did not have an interception among his four passes defended. He also had six tackles for a loss among his combined 180 tackles.

The Raiders have a new regime with general manager Dave Ziegler and coach Josh McDaniels, who came over from the New England Patriots.

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Sean McVay says he’s committed to coaching Los Angeles Rams

Coach Sean McVay is not pursuing any television opportunities and is committed to helping the Los Angeles Rams defend their Super Bowl title, he told ESPN’s Adam Schefter on Friday.

The New York Post, citing sources, reported Friday that McVay was set to meet with Amazon next week, with Amazon possibly willing to offer him as much as five years and $100 million.

Amazon will stream “Thursday Night Football” exclusively on Prime Video beginning this fall.

In the days leading up to the Super Bowl, the 36-year-old McVay spoke introspectively about eventually attaining a healthier work-life balance, telling reporters, “I know I love football and I’m so invested in this thing and I’m in the moment right now. But at some point, too, if you said what do you want to be able to do? I want to be able to have a family and I want to be able to spend time with them.”

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He sparked further speculation regarding his coaching future a day after the Rams defeated the Cincinnati Bengals 23-20 in Super Bowl LVI, responding to a question about returning in 2022 with, “We’ll see.”

Two days later, however, McVay appeared to telegraph his intentions at the Rams’ Super Bowl parade, initiating a chant of “Run it back!” and playfully trying to coax three-time Defensive Player of the Year Aaron Donald out of a potential retirement.

McVay’s comments on family — he is set to marry fiancée Veronika Khomyn this summer after their nuptials were twice postponed for pandemic-related reasons — and his coaching future came against the backdrop of multiple sources telling ESPN’s Lindsey Thiry in the past and again recently that McVay has considered working as a television analyst as an alternative to coaching.

In January, several league executives suggested to ESPN’s Jeremy Fowler that McVay could follow a similar coaching/broadcasting path to Jon Gruden, whom McVay coached under in Tampa Bay in 2008, and take a break from coaching for a lucrative TV job.

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