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Where Are They Now? NFL Coaches Fired Last Year

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Eight NFL head coaches were fired by – or mutually agreed to part ways with – their employers last season. If you were wondering what they’re up to now, you don’t have to look far.

© Tony Medina/Icon SMI/Corbis

1. Mike Singletary

Last Job: Singletary, the leader of the Chicago Bears’ Monsters of the Midway defense during his playing days, compiled an 18-22 record as head coach of the San Francisco 49ers before he was fired following a Week 16 loss to the Rams.

New Job: Leslie Frazier, who replaced Brad Childress as the head coach of the Vikings, hired Singletary as Minnesota’s linebackers coach in January.

If This Doesn’t Work Out: Singletary is a motivational speaker and an ordained minister, as his former team can attest. In his coaching debut, Singletary famously dropped his pants during a halftime speech. He later explained, “I used my pants to illustrate that we were getting our tails whipped on Sunday and how humiliating that should feel for all of us. I needed to do something to dramatize my point; there were other ways I could have done it but I think this got the message across.”

2. Tom Cable

Last Job: Tom Cable led the Raiders to their first non-losing season since 2002 – no small feat for Oakland – but was fired anyway. Team owner Al Davis later accused Cable, who was 17-27 in his three seasons with the Raiders, of lying to him, putting the team in legal harm, and bringing guests on road trips. “All this stuff goes a long way against my wishes…and against the Raider way,” Davis told reporters. “And I just wasn’t going to take it anymore.”

New Job:

Seattle Seahawks head coach Pete Carroll hired Cable as his offensive line coach. Cable was an offensive lineman at the University of Idaho in the mid-80s.

If This Doesn’t Work Out: Cable, who was accused of breaking Raiders assistant Randy Hanson’s jaw during an altercation in training camp in 2009, might have a career as a bare-knuckle boxer.

3. Eric Mangini

Last Job: Mangini was fired after going 10-22 in two seasons with the Cleveland Browns.

New Job: Mangini, who was 23-25 in three seasons as head coach of the New York Jets prior to taking the Cleveland job, was hired to work as an analyst at ESPN. For a guy who grew up in Hartford and went to college at Wesleyan, Mangini should feel right at home in Bristol.

If This Doesn’t Work Out: Maybe he could land a recurring role on Sesame Street:

4. Jeff Fisher

Last Job: Fisher was the longest-tenured head coach in the league before he and the Tennessee Titans parted ways after 16 seasons.

New Job: Fisher, who previously served as the co-chair of the NFL’s Competition Committee, will continue to assist the committee as a consultant. “I wanted to have an opportunity to stay involved,” Fisher told The Tennessean. “I am very close with all the members on the committee and the support staff. You can imagine the time we’ve spent together over the years, it’s almost been like a second job.” The Competition Committee is tasked with recommending rules and policy changes to the league’s teams.

If This Doesn’t Work Out: If Fisher gets the itch to coach again, he’ll probably have plenty of suitors. His son, Brandon, is in his first season as an assistant to the defensive coaching staff in Detroit.

5. Wade Phillips

Last Job: Phillips was fired as the Dallas head coach in November after the Cowboys lost seven of their first eight games. Assistant coach Jason Garrett replaced the Texas native, who led the Cowboys to two division titles and a 34-22 record in his three-plus years at the helm.

New Job: Phillips wasn’t out of work for long. Houston hired him in early January to fill its vacant defensive coordinator position and improve a unit that ranked 30th in the NFL in total defense last season.

If This Doesn’t Work Out: The son of longtime Houston Oilers and New Orleans head coach Bum Phillips, Wade Phillips was born to coach. There will always be another team willing to bring him on in some capacity.

6. Brad Childress

Last Job: Like Phillips, Childress was fired midseason after the Vikings stumbled to a 3-7 record. In his previous four seasons as the head coach, Minnesota won two division titles and advanced to one NFC championship game.

New Job: Childress interviewed for the offensive coordinator position with the Miami Dolphins and later accepted a position as an analyst with the NFL Network. “I may just sit out this year and maybe two years,” Childress told the Minneapolis Star-Tribune. “But I’ve coached for 33 straight years and if the right position comes up, I’m going to give it strong consideration. I’m a football coach.” Before he was fired, Childress was one of three active NFL head coaches who attended Eastern Illinois University. (Mike Shanahan and Sean Payton are the other two.)

If This Doesn’t Work Out: Childress, who put his psychology degree to good use while coaching Brett Favre in Minnesota, might make a good therapist. He also has some experience as a flight attendant.

7. Josh McDaniels

Last Job: McDaniels went 8-8 in his first year with the Denver Broncos, but was fired in the middle of a disappointing 4-12 season last year.

New Job: McDaniels, who landed the Denver job after serving as the offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach for the New England Patriots, agreed to become Steve Spagnuolo’s offensive coordinator with the St. Louis Rams. Interestingly, Spagnuolo was the defensive coordinator of the Giants when they slowed McDaniels’ offense and upset the Patriots in Super Bowl XLII.

If This Doesn’t Work Out: McDaniels, still only 35, has plenty of coaching ahead of him. Perhaps one day he’ll return to his roots in Ohio, where his dad, Thom, was a legendary high school coach.

8. John Fox

Last Job: The Carolina Panthers fired Fox after nine mostly successful seasons, including a trip to the Super Bowl in 2003.

New Job: Fox was hired to replace Josh McDaniels as head coach of the Broncos.

If This Doesn’t Work Out: Fox, who went to high school in San Diego, received his degree in physical education and earned a secondary education teaching credential at San Diego State. He’s not ready to give up the headset just yet, but Denver may be the last coaching stop of his career. “I’m not ready to retire to sitting on the beach,” he told reporters during the offseason.

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Man Buys Two Metric Tons of LEGO Bricks; Sorts Them Via Machine Learning
May 21, 2017
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iStock // Ekaterina Minaeva

Jacques Mattheij made a small, but awesome, mistake. He went on eBay one evening and bid on a bunch of bulk LEGO brick auctions, then went to sleep. Upon waking, he discovered that he was the high bidder on many, and was now the proud owner of two tons of LEGO bricks. (This is about 4400 pounds.) He wrote, "[L]esson 1: if you win almost all bids you are bidding too high."

Mattheij had noticed that bulk, unsorted bricks sell for something like €10/kilogram, whereas sets are roughly €40/kg and rare parts go for up to €100/kg. Much of the value of the bricks is in their sorting. If he could reduce the entropy of these bins of unsorted bricks, he could make a tidy profit. While many people do this work by hand, the problem is enormous—just the kind of challenge for a computer. Mattheij writes:

There are 38000+ shapes and there are 100+ possible shades of color (you can roughly tell how old someone is by asking them what lego colors they remember from their youth).

In the following months, Mattheij built a proof-of-concept sorting system using, of course, LEGO. He broke the problem down into a series of sub-problems (including "feeding LEGO reliably from a hopper is surprisingly hard," one of those facts of nature that will stymie even the best system design). After tinkering with the prototype at length, he expanded the system to a surprisingly complex system of conveyer belts (powered by a home treadmill), various pieces of cabinetry, and "copious quantities of crazy glue."

Here's a video showing the current system running at low speed:

The key part of the system was running the bricks past a camera paired with a computer running a neural net-based image classifier. That allows the computer (when sufficiently trained on brick images) to recognize bricks and thus categorize them by color, shape, or other parameters. Remember that as bricks pass by, they can be in any orientation, can be dirty, can even be stuck to other pieces. So having a flexible software system is key to recognizing—in a fraction of a second—what a given brick is, in order to sort it out. When a match is found, a jet of compressed air pops the piece off the conveyer belt and into a waiting bin.

After much experimentation, Mattheij rewrote the software (several times in fact) to accomplish a variety of basic tasks. At its core, the system takes images from a webcam and feeds them to a neural network to do the classification. Of course, the neural net needs to be "trained" by showing it lots of images, and telling it what those images represent. Mattheij's breakthrough was allowing the machine to effectively train itself, with guidance: Running pieces through allows the system to take its own photos, make a guess, and build on that guess. As long as Mattheij corrects the incorrect guesses, he ends up with a decent (and self-reinforcing) corpus of training data. As the machine continues running, it can rack up more training, allowing it to recognize a broad variety of pieces on the fly.

Here's another video, focusing on how the pieces move on conveyer belts (running at slow speed so puny humans can follow). You can also see the air jets in action:

In an email interview, Mattheij told Mental Floss that the system currently sorts LEGO bricks into more than 50 categories. It can also be run in a color-sorting mode to bin the parts across 12 color groups. (Thus at present you'd likely do a two-pass sort on the bricks: once for shape, then a separate pass for color.) He continues to refine the system, with a focus on making its recognition abilities faster. At some point down the line, he plans to make the software portion open source. You're on your own as far as building conveyer belts, bins, and so forth.

Check out Mattheij's writeup in two parts for more information. It starts with an overview of the story, followed up with a deep dive on the software. He's also tweeting about the project (among other things). And if you look around a bit, you'll find bulk LEGO brick auctions online—it's definitely a thing!

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8 Common Dog Behaviors, Decoded
May 25, 2017
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Dogs are a lot more complicated than we give them credit for. As a result, sometimes things get lost in translation. We’ve yet to invent a dog-to-English translator, but there are certain behaviors you can learn to read in order to better understand what your dog is trying to tell you. The more tuned-in you are to your dog’s emotions, the better you’ll be able to respond—whether that means giving her some space or welcoming a wet, slobbery kiss. 

1. What you’ll see: Your dog is standing with his legs and body relaxed and tail low. His ears are up, but not pointed forward. His mouth is slightly open, he’s panting lightly, and his tongue is loose. His eyes? Soft or maybe slightly squinty from getting his smile on.

What it means: “Hey there, friend!” Your pup is in a calm, relaxed state. He’s open to mingling, which means you can feel comfortable letting friends say hi.

2. What you’ll see: Your dog is standing with her body leaning forward. Her ears are erect and angled forward—or have at least perked up if they’re floppy—and her mouth is closed. Her tail might be sticking out horizontally or sticking straight up and wagging slightly.

What it means: “Hark! Who goes there?!” Something caught your pup’s attention and now she’s on high alert, trying to discern whether or not the person, animal, or situation is a threat. She’ll likely stay on guard until she feels safe or becomes distracted.

3. What you’ll see: Your dog is standing, leaning slightly forward. His body and legs are tense, and his hackles—those hairs along his back and neck—are raised. His tail is stiff and twitching, not swooping playfully. His mouth is open, teeth are exposed, and he may be snarling, snapping, or barking excessively.

What it means: “Don’t mess with me!” This dog is asserting his social dominance and letting others know that he might attack if they don’t defer accordingly. A dog in this stance could be either offensively aggressive or defensively aggressive. If you encounter a dog in this state, play it safe and back away slowly without making eye contact.

4. What you’ll see: As another dog approaches, your dog lies down on his back with his tail tucked in between his legs. His paws are tucked in too, his ears are flat, and he isn’t making direct eye contact with the other dog standing over him.

What it means: “I come in peace!” Your pooch is displaying signs of submission to a more dominant dog, conveying total surrender to avoid physical confrontation. Other, less obvious, signs of submission include ears that are flattened back against the head, an avoidance of eye contact, a tongue flick, and bared teeth. Yup—a dog might bare his teeth while still being submissive, but they’ll likely be clenched together, the lips opened horizontally rather than curled up to show the front canines. A submissive dog will also slink backward or inward rather than forward, which would indicate more aggressive behavior.

5. What you’ll see: Your dog is crouching with her back hunched, tail tucked, and the corner of her mouth pulled back with lips slightly curled. Her shoulders, or hackles, are raised and her ears are flattened. She’s avoiding eye contact.

What it means: “I’m scared, but will fight you if I have to.” This dog’s fight or flight instincts have been activated. It’s best to keep your distance from a dog in this emotional state because she could attack if she feels cornered.

6. What you’ll see: You’re staring at your dog, holding eye contact. Your dog looks away from you, tentatively looks back, then looks away again. After some time, he licks his chops and yawns.

What it means: “I don’t know what’s going on and it’s weirding me out.” Your dog doesn’t know what to make of the situation, but rather than nipping or barking, he’ll stick to behaviors he knows are OK, like yawning, licking his chops, or shaking as if he’s wet. You’ll want to intervene by removing whatever it is causing him discomfort—such as an overly grabby child—and giving him some space to relax.

7. What you’ll see: Your dog has her front paws bent and lowered onto the ground with her rear in the air. Her body is relaxed, loose, and wiggly, and her tail is up and wagging from side to side. She might also let out a high-pitched or impatient bark.

What it means: “What’s the hold up? Let’s play!” This classic stance, known to dog trainers and behaviorists as “the play bow,” is a sign she’s ready to let the good times roll. Get ready for a round of fetch or tug of war, or for a good long outing at the dog park.

8. What you’ll see: You’ve just gotten home from work and your dog rushes over. He can’t stop wiggling his backside, and he may even lower himself into a giant stretch, like he’s doing yoga.

What it means: “OhmygoshImsohappytoseeyou I love you so much you’re my best friend foreverandeverandever!!!!” This one’s easy: Your pup is overjoyed his BFF is back. That big stretch is something dogs don’t pull out for just anyone; they save that for the people they truly love. Show him you feel the same way with a good belly rub and a handful of his favorite treats.

The best way to say “I love you” in dog? A monthly subscription to BarkBox. Your favorite pup will get a package filled with treats, toys, and other good stuff (and in return, you’ll probably get lots of sloppy kisses). Visit BarkBox to learn more.

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