Cory's Corner: Aaron Jones Is Championship X-Factor

The Packers really looked like a championship team on Sunday.

Was it because of the opportunistic defense? That was great, but no. Was it the amazing magic that Aaron Rodgers still has to complete throws at unbelievable arm angles? Again, that was fantastic; but no.

What makes teams championship-worthy is how well they can run the football. Aaron Jones was the best running back on the field at AT&T Stadium and it wasn't even close. He rushed for 107 yards on 19 carries, and oh yeah, he also tallied four touchdowns. The third year back has seven touchdowns in his last three games.

Coming into the game, everyone was concerned about Ezekiel Elliott and how the Packers defense was going to stop the third-year back. Coming into this season, Elliott has averaged 1,349 yards a season and was averaging 101 yards a game. Jones zoomed past him as Elliott only rushed for 62 yards on 12 carries.

"I think I made a pretty big statement, showing what kind of running back I am and what I can do," said Jones, who also caught seven passes for 75 yards. "I feel like I did go toe-to-toe with him."

Once the running game gets going for the Packers, everything else clicks. In years past, it seemed to be the opposite. Get the pass going and sprinkle in the run. Yesterday, the running game was the meat and potatoes of the Packers' offense. Kind of hard to believe with a quarterback like Rodgers.

But that just shows how far new head coach Matt LaFleur has come with this offense. It isn't just a new offense, it's a whole new mindset. No longer is Rodgers required to spin acrobatic throws while tip-toeing a consistent pass rush. And that's where the running game comes in.

And not just any running game, but a running game with a back that has nine rushes of 10 yards or more and 19 forced missed tackles. Many people don't want to admit this but Jones is a bona fide No. 1 running back. Yes, he's 5-foot-9 and 208 pounds, but speed is the ultimate equalizer in this game.

Linebackers may be big and bad, but they are completely helpless when a guy like Alvin Kamara, Christian McCaffrey or Jones is running circles around them.

Are there are injury concerns? Sure. There always are. But that shouldn't detract from his generational talent.

The weather is going to change in the next two weeks and Jones will be the perfect antidote for a greasy and slippery field. And he even makes great catches on third down to keep drives alive.

I think Jones is the No. 3 running back in the NFC behind Kamara and Dalvin Cook. He just does so many things that it's going to be hard to keep him off the field. Tra Carson did a great job spelling Jones, but there was a significant drop-off in quickness from Jones to Carson.

The Packers have future Hall of Fame quarterback and plenty of young talent at receiver. Yet, the measuring stick for a championship level team has been and will be the running game.

If you cannot run the football and control the clock and line of scrimmage there's no way that you can win consistently in the postseason.

That's where Jones comes in. He's the biggest little back in the league. And he can completely change the complexion of a game.

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Cory Jennerjohn is a graduate from UW-Oshkosh and has been in sports media for over 15 years. He was a co-host on "Clubhouse Live" and has also done various radio and TV work as well. He has written for newspapers, magazines and websites. He currently is a columnist for CHTV and also does various podcasts. He recently earned his Masters degree from the University of Iowa. He can be found on Twitter: @Coryjennerjohn

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Comments (45)

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Rak47's picture

October 08, 2019 at 06:15 am

Jones was a beast on Sunday. It was a pleasantly surprising performance on the road. I'm impressed he handled 26 touches so relatively easy.

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Sure Shot's picture

October 08, 2019 at 06:29 am

I hope he will not have to do it every week.
But I sense that MLF is really trying to cook is game plan depending of the strength of the opponent so the workload should fluctuate from week to week

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Sure Shot's picture

October 08, 2019 at 06:26 am

Aaron Jones has the talent.
We know this since 2 years ago.
Now, we have a coach who seems to understand how to use his talent.
This is very new.

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Kubyskins12's picture

October 08, 2019 at 06:32 am

Jones had a great game and looked like his old self. I have to give MLF a lot of credit for scrapping the wide zone and getting back to what jones and this offensive line does best and run inside zone runs and delay hand offs out of shotgun. Jones just seems to excel when running inside the tackles and then bouncing outside if he has too. Hopefully We can get the outside zone run going because that helps with the misdirection and play action but we need to make sure we stick with the inside zone too and then mix in some outside zone. It seems in the weeks prior that we are trying all outside zone and we always had defenders shooting the gaps and hitting Jones in the backfield. But we definitely have the inside zone run game going so hopefully MLF will stick with it. I think he will he’s not like McCarthy. He does what fits his players the best and is not stubborn and Has to stick with his scheme or his offense.

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jannes bjornson's picture

October 08, 2019 at 08:33 pm

LaFleur is taking pressure off Bulaga and Bhaktiari while they tend to injuries and put it on the guard to dismantle the
ILBs of Dallas which they performed in an exemplary fashion. Great coaching. Eleven MORE game s to go. Just getting the timing down for the running game . Very pleased they brought Carson back on board to provide a power runner and he absolutely stoned Quinn in pass pro. He's a good quality NFL type of back. I would not put any bones on Dex Williams this year or ever.

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Packer Dave's picture

October 08, 2019 at 06:56 am

Props need to go out to Jenkins for opening up holes for Jones too. He is going to be an excellent guard for us going forward. He's better than Turner right now even. Bulaga also was a big factor keeping the right side clean. I still think the ground game can get better yet if Vitale and Lewis can effectively pave lanes at the second level.

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splitpea1's picture

October 08, 2019 at 11:15 am

I'd like to see Vitale get more touches, as well.

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flackcatcher's picture

October 08, 2019 at 04:00 pm

Jenkins has shown improvement in his footwork, primarily in his set. He is now an average NFL starter. That's coming a long way in a very short amount time. But he still gets beat on leverage on 30% on pass pro. Still, way too much. Turner is starting to scare me. There is no in between with this guy. Either his technique is there, or it's not. Talent from God, but his focus at times is elsewhere. Not good. Packers do miss Taylor. Still their best interior OL in both pass pro and the run game. It is telling that they started him, even thru he has a serious shoulder injury. This is the second straight time a Packer coaching staff has put a starting OL into a career threatening position over a gap in position. Not good, and not smart at all. (Part of that is MLF and his staff not knowing the medical history, and not enough time around his team. Thanks CBA.) Packers better find a way to resign Bulaga short term. Like Bahk, they got nothing to replace him. Two OT playing at a all pro level is a gift most NFL teams never see. I hope the Packers understand what they got, and need to do in the future.

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jannes bjornson's picture

October 08, 2019 at 08:39 pm

Turner was downfield and spinning LBs just as Jenkins pile drived Vanden Bosch. Watch all the film. The guards dominated the Cowhands inside and Patrickis an instinctive bad ass in the run game. Vitale has to get his mojo going early in the contests and he laid some hits. Bulaga was given quite a bit of TE help on the edge to protect his shoulder.

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flackcatcher's picture

October 09, 2019 at 12:41 am

Network casts focus away from line play, usually I go back over the video to see the line calls and blocking pattern. Takes something like the all-22 to get a whole idea of offensive sets. That said, my points stand. Most of the game on pass plays both Bahk and Bulaga were on an island, Bulaga did get some help when he was running inside blocking, but most of that went to both OG depending on which inside counter they ran at the Dallas in the first half. Key was getting the Dallas LB to over pursue and seal them off. MLF came up with great game plan and suckered Dallas defense good. Dallas adjusted in the second half and the offense stalled. All in all, they won. Don't let my criticism of the line play detract from that basic fact. But also, do not wash away problems seen, because the Packers next opponent haven't. And they are going to game against both Jenkins and Turners weakness, just as MLF did against the Cowboys.

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optimisticfan's picture

October 08, 2019 at 06:57 am

I agree that Jones was an x-factor and showed elite talent with some of those elusive moves to squirm into the end zone.

However I would add to the article above that his production was obviously a team effort:

1) the O line (especially Jenkins and Linsley at times) played well

2) schemes and play calling was better and varied (less predictable)

3) The defensive takeaways and offensive fast start helped get the Packers out to an ideal lead. This was crucial in pushing Dallas to pass more predominantly than they would have liked which limited Elliott’s run production. The Packers run defense did better but not great they were getting shredded by Elliott early on.

I would say it was less that Jones out played Elliott. More that the Packers team as a whole led to better run production. I think both backs are elite, but I would still say Elliott is better (would love to see Jones continue to make elite moves and continue his great yard gains after blocks and YAC). Not sure he is top 3 RB in the NFC yet.

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jannes bjornson's picture

October 08, 2019 at 08:46 pm

There is no I in TEAM. etc Unity of Purpose. Do Your Job. Run to Daylight. Synergetic Superiority. Sound Familiar?

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LambeauPlain's picture

October 08, 2019 at 07:43 am

Coach Matt seems adept at evaluating the talent of the guys he will play for an upcoming game and run plays that will maximize their strengths.

MM was intent to run his scheme that required players to fit into a role. For many years it worked. But eventually it became predictable and when the talent waned during the last years under TT, losing seasons forced a needed change.

ML seems more adaptable...willing to adjust his players to the upcoming opponent and put them in positions to win plays.

This is an interesting start and a lot of fun to watch.

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EddieLeeIvory's picture

October 08, 2019 at 09:21 am

The Cows defense played badly too.
Notice how far back ILBs Jaylon Smith, Leighton Vanderesch, & Sean Lee were & compare that to the Eagles the week before.

Philly had their backers much closer to the LOS & they were filling the gaps immediately. Jones got hit behind the LOS all night long vs Eagles.
That's why even at 1st & goal at the 1, MLF didn't want a 3 yard loss on a typical run (that game) & he bet that Rodgers might be able to complete 1 out of 4 passes from the 1 yard line.
Without Davante, that proved impossible, sadly.

Where was Jordy?

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jannes bjornson's picture

October 08, 2019 at 08:49 pm

Philly has a better D Line.

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RCPackerFan's picture

October 08, 2019 at 08:11 am

One of the reasons why I was excited for the hiring of LaFleur was because he has come from the lineage of coaches that actually use the RB's as weapons in the offense. This means using them in the passing game. Which is something that we haven't really seen in GB for a while now.

Now that defenses will have to put more focus on Jones coming out of the backfield, it will help open up things down field for the WR's and TE's. MVS every game has been getting deep on at least a play. Defenses can't stop everything. Do they try to double Adams once he comes back? Do they try to stop the deep play from MVS? Do they try to load up the box to stop the run game and the RB's coming out of the backfield in the passing game? This will open the offense up a ton!

This offense just got a lot more scary after putting up a game like they did against the cowboys.

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jannes bjornson's picture

October 08, 2019 at 08:50 pm

Back to Bill the First (Walsh)...picked up from Paul Brown ...picked up from Sid Gilman...picked up from Bud Wilkinson...

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murf7777's picture

October 08, 2019 at 08:12 am

I would say the running game, not just Jones, is one of the main X factors. J. Williams n Vitale will need to be part of the equation throughout the year. They do the dirty work and very good at blocking and catching passes. Their size will make them important for short yardage situations and cold weather. Group effort is needed!

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jannes bjornson's picture

October 08, 2019 at 08:52 pm

Carson will be the stabilizing Force. Not flashy, but a real player.

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Matt Gonzales's picture

October 08, 2019 at 08:26 am

Aaron Jones isn't a Top 3 NFC running back, but he doesn't have to be. Aaron may never be the same player he was in 2011-14, but he is still a top tier QB, and the threat of the pass and threat of the run work well in tandem. This looks like the most balanced offense GB has had since at least 2014, with a strong defense to back it up.

I think we will see a dip in production from Jones, not because he isn't a great RB, but because teams are going to start more consistently stacking the box to contain him, and that is exactly what the Packers had been missing for the last several years - a run game opposing defenses are forced to account for so it doesn't take the game over. That bodes extremely well for the passing attack going forward.

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jannes bjornson's picture

October 08, 2019 at 09:01 pm

This offense is just getting the kinks out and Adams was no where to be found. Very Similar to the second/third Holmgren squad when Farve started to figure it out or the 2010 squad. Za brings the Bad to the D!. Those who still live in Ted land will be moved out. The pieces are falling in place. Superb effort by Redmond and a highlight pick by Sullivan. Jaire has to focus or get some bench time. Never let the Wr move beyond your set. Keep moving ahead of him. He may snag the throw in front of you but he will not beat you for the unacceptable gains and TD given up.

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Oppy's picture

October 08, 2019 at 10:22 pm

Are we sure Aaron Jones isn't a top 3 NFC running back?

He led the league in yards per carry last season.. Rodgers just wouldn't hand him the ball.

He very well might actually be the guy we saw last Sunday. If he is.. He might actually be a top 3 RB in the NFC. Maybe even Top 5 in the league.

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PatrickGB's picture

October 08, 2019 at 08:28 am

“ It isn't just a new offense, it's a whole new mindset.” That’s what is the difference this year. Every game this year has its flaws and every game this year has had its strengths. Rodgers has mentioned it and so have other players. I like it...a lot!

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Matt Gonzales's picture

October 08, 2019 at 09:45 am

This. The Packers have yet to play a complete game, and they're still 4-1. You obviously don't want that to continue, but this definitely isn't the kind of one-dimensional team the Packers have been putting on the field for most of the last 9 years

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EddieLeeIvory's picture

October 08, 2019 at 09:17 am

Packers gave a look to WRs Ryan Grant & T.J Jones yesterday.
Also RB Roc Thomas, QB Tyree Jackson, and DL Eddie Vanderdoes.

Our WRs are proving to be subpar, at best.

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flackcatcher's picture

October 08, 2019 at 03:20 pm

Rebuilding teams are always going to churn the bottom third of the roster. Packers are no different. Got to find talent when you can. GM Gute and his team are no different. The lost of ESB has left a far bigger hole than the Packers expected. Gutes team is working to fix that and other short term holes. Give them credit for understanding and trying to support his coaching staff.

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jannes bjornson's picture

October 08, 2019 at 09:05 pm

Just move on a trade and get better.

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Packer Fan's picture

October 08, 2019 at 09:55 am

I like how the offense worked in this game. The running game was working, Rodgers was passing off to Jones and Jones was making people miss. And the Packers scored 34 points.

I hope Rodgers keeps feeding short passes to Jones. Most of his yards were after the catch with defenders missing tackles. Those short passes which Jones can extend the yardage keeps drives going and puts the offense into a rhythm. We were missing that the last few years. When Williams comes back they can trade off to give Jones a breather. And I like how they are platooning RB's. Not like last year when the RB played the whole series. Now one starts and another comes in after a while.

My prediction is that if they keep the RB's as a major part of the pass offense, this offense will get going even more. If not, the Pack will continue to struggle.

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bassman's picture

October 08, 2019 at 09:57 am

Last week they were ripping on him. This week he's the second coming of Walter Payton. I know there are ups and downs in the season but maybe try some even keel reporting.

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Old School's picture

October 08, 2019 at 10:45 am

This is hubris. Jones had a good game.....best of his career. But he needs to Survive the season and have multiple games like this before he earns the kind of buildup he’s getting.

I do think adding Jenkins to the line helps.

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Lare's picture

October 08, 2019 at 10:54 am

Lots of people were talking about the Packers trading for another veteran WR after Adams was injured (which I'm not opposed to). It was just nice to see LaFleur & Rodgers utilizing the RB's & TE's more in the passing game against the Cowboys.

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Since'61's picture

October 08, 2019 at 11:16 am

I think it is a little premature to be discussing championship caliber play. Yes Jones had a great game and the running game and short passing game were very effective against Dallas. But Dallas was probably very overrated going into the game against the Packers.

I’m not taking anything away from the Packer’s effort but Dallas was moving the ball very well until Alexander’s pick off of Cooper’s hands. That play set the tone for the rest of the game and Dak was exposed as an average QB.

On the other hand a championship defense does not allow nearly 600 yards of offense and a couple of easy TDs.

A big win for sure, especially on the road. But the Packers need to improve on 3rd downs on offense, find some goal line plays that work on offense and tighten up the defense when they play with a lead.

We look pretty solid but the tests will come on the road against KC, SD and SF later in the season. For now a win is a win and we’re 4-1 and I’ll take it. I’d like to see a little more consistency before I think about championship caliber. The NFL is a week to week league nowadays. Thanks, Since ‘61

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cheesehead1's picture

October 08, 2019 at 11:54 am

Well said Since’61. Impressive start to the season, but still need more consistency. Let’s start with the Lions!

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ShooterMcGee's picture

October 08, 2019 at 11:21 am

Watching the 49er game made me excited about the future of our offense. I saw some plays and concepts that were similar, however, many of their plays seemed quite unique. Maybe these have yet to be incorporated by the Packers. Then when you take a look at the rosters they also seem similar. I don't think we are as deep at RB , their #1 TE is better, but our QB and #1 wr are better. Vitale can play the Juschek (spelling?) role. Our future is bright my friends.

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CAG123's picture

October 08, 2019 at 11:32 am

I still can’t believe the Packers didn’t make a run on Tevin Coleman the guy is 6’1 210 with 4.4 speed and excellent receiving out of the backfield. The 49ers got him for cheap and he’d be a great duo with Jones I like Williams as more of the third option because Coleman also runs with power. And I say this mainly because I don’t have the utmost confidence in the running game on a week to week basis and believe a guy like Tevin Coleman would give them everything Williams does but better. Hopefully I’m wrong and Jones can continue to produce similar to last Sunday.

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Matt Gonzales's picture

October 08, 2019 at 12:13 pm

With Jones being the powerful but elusive runner, I think the Packers want that third down or change of pace back to be a cannonball/hammer type. I want to see more out of Vitale in this role, as he looks like he has the power to convert the short and goal situations, and could be the guy that the Packers start leaning on to close out games and keep Jones fresh.

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CAG123's picture

October 08, 2019 at 01:27 pm

Williams can still be that the difference is Coleman would have offered both power and speed despite the running style you still want a guy with some “giddy up” to him. Neither are as elusive as Jones though.

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jannes bjornson's picture

October 08, 2019 at 09:10 pm

I'll side with Carson.

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NMPF's picture

October 08, 2019 at 11:57 am

Going into the season with new HC,OC,QBC, a re-building roster, expectations on my part along with a majority of the fanbase were Comme ci Comme ca. Kind of getting that RUN THE TABLE feeling of not questioning or over analyzing. Just ride the wave and enjoy the growth process both good and not so good. Getting upset over 600yds given up in a 34-24 W is pointless. A.Jones & A.Rodgers had their best games in this Off. to date. The D is flying around making the most of opportunities. Come Monday night ,some tasty waves, a cool buzz. GO PACK GO!

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ILPackerBacker's picture

October 08, 2019 at 11:59 am

Zak is not an average quarterback, he is below average.

If anyone thinks taking 12 touches from Jones and giving them to a slow at best bad blocking fullback, or to J Williams would have meant a victory you need to go seriously look at some tape.

Jones was dominant.

The fb less than average. Williams with 12 carries would have meant a loss. williams is not an nfl level back. He is guy who needs to be replaced

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dobber's picture

October 08, 2019 at 12:39 pm

They did give a bunch of carries to "Williams" on Sunday....it's just that he was wearing #32 with the name "Carson" on the back of his jersey.

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PackfanNY's picture

October 08, 2019 at 12:18 pm

Unless I missed it, I would add that Aaron Jones appears to be a little quicker on the artificial surface. Maybe I am crazy but he seemed to explode around the edges and hit holes in the middle with a great deal of pace. Its a positive for those in door stadiums that have given the Packers some trouble over the years.

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T-Buck's picture

October 08, 2019 at 04:24 pm

Hey Mashed Potato - Look what happens when you give him the damned ball!

Regards,
Point Packer

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flackcatcher's picture

October 08, 2019 at 04:33 pm

Critical X-factors to this point in the season. Growth of the second and third year players. Rookies playing within themselves and understanding what this coaching staff wants. Never forget that this is, despite the veteran presence, a very young team. (Special Teams. SIGH.....) Finally, avoiding the wave of season ending injuries to date. In the past three years, by this point in the season critical position groups had lost core and starters and had no replacements on roster. By the end of last season, the Packers had five guys name 'Moe' starting on their offensive line. Year before that, the defensive backfield. Football teams can't win when that sort of thing happens. Packers are so thin across the board that it's not funny. If they avoid any more serious injury this team will be in the playoff hunt. They did not over the last three years and we all know what happened. So, enjoy the ride and as '61 reminded us all, the NFL is a week to week league.

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4thand1's picture

October 08, 2019 at 05:25 pm

Mike McCarthy watching Sunday's game.....................who is this 33 running all over the place and catching passes? Why didn't we have a guy like this when I was coaching, I'd still have a job......sob sob sob!!

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