There’s nothing flashy about
Tony Sparano. Prior to being named HC of the MD, he was unrecognizable. If you
ran into him on the street, you’d never figure him an NFL coach.
He doesn’t have the NFL head
coaching experience or winning credentials Don Shula did when he arrived back
in February 1970.
He doesn’t have the rings or
flamboyance of Jimmy Johnson…or the hair, for that matter.
He doesn’t have the
experience that Dave Wannstedt did, though one can easily see Wanny and Sparano
sitting on a front porch together somewhere in the northern Pennsylvania/southern
New Jersey region, slugging some brews and yakking it up in the local
Sparano’s reputation as a
fine football coach doesn’t precede him the way Nick Saban’s did when he came
to Miami in a literal
coronation. Lying, disloyal creep that he was, there’s no question that Saban
Sparano’s reputation for
offensive prowess doesn’t command the same league-wide respect that Cam Cameron’s
did, though comparisons to Cameron in terms of a lack of head coaching
experience have already been made.
So what is there about Tony
Sparano to be excited about?
Not much, aside from the
fact that Bill Parcells has faith in him.
Tony Sparano is a no-nonsense
coach and a hard worker, mandatory qualities for success in achieving the task
The no-nonsense part is what
a young team like the Dolphins, who figure to get even younger this offseason,
so desperately needs. He’ll command respect, though too much yelling can get
tiresome if you are losing.
The hard working part is, of
course, essential to having success in the NFL. Sparano has a reputation for
driving his coaches and players very hard. Nothing but elbow grease by Sparano
and his staff will do in returning the franchise to its rightful elite status.
That, and some smart personnel
decisions by Parcells.
No, I’m not forgetting about
new GM Jeff Ireland. But let’s be real here; this is THE Bill Parcells Show. Ireland
won’t do anything that is contrary to Mr. Parcells’ wishes.
Neither will Sparano. And,
so far, Sparano has said and done all the right things.
1) He has the proper
“We’ve got some challenges
ahead”, said Sparano. “There are no promises, there are no commitments, there
are none of those things right now. That’s not what I do. I coach. I’m here to
coach this football team, to help them get better, to help them improve in any
way I can and develop our young players, to do all the things that I believe in
and that I know Jeff and Coach Parcells believe in as well.”
2) He issued an immediate
call to action for his players.
“To my players that are out
there right now that I hope are listening, one of the most important things
that we’re going to start to get involved in here is our offseason program”,
declared Sparano. “It’s something that is going to build unity, chemistry and
build the character that we’re looking for this football team.”
3) He stated a commitment to
being flexible with the offensive and defensive systems to ensure that he gets
the best out of his players, something Cameron and his staff failed miserably at.
“I believe it’s important
that the system fits the players, not the players fit the system”, said
Sparano. “I think you’ve got to look at what we have here right now and when we
get our coaching staff together and we sit down and we’re in this place until
12, one o’clock in the morning, we’ll get some of these questions ironed out.
At the end of the day, whatever is going to be best for the Miami Dolphins is
what we’re going to do.”
4) He vowed to be objective
in assessing the players he inherits, even the ones with character questions
(e.g. Ricky Williams).
“I’m not going to pass
judgment one way or the other on anybody’s character because I don’t know them”,
promised Sparano. “For me, the score is 0-0 right now. I need to sit down and I
need to get to know these people and as we get to know one another I’ll make my
own judgments from that standpoint, as they will with me, I’m sure. But we’re
going to communicate and there’s no question about that.”
5) He reportedly met with
Jason Taylor and other veteran leaders even before his introductory press
conference, recognizing that he gets nothing done without the support of his
As Sparano assembles his
staff and dives into the rubble from last season’s disaster, one hopes he will quickly
recognize the causes of that failed season.
Yes, the talent was thin. That’s
a reason why Randy Mueller is history. But there was more talent than a 1-15
Firstly, the 2007 Dolphins
were a poorly conditioned team. They weren’t worked hard enough in training
camp, or during the preseason, and the unsatisfactory result was clearly
evident during the first quarter of the regular season. The spate of injuries,
among the worst bout in team history, was another telltale sign; poorly
conditioned athletes get hurt easier than well-conditioned ones.
There was too much change
too quickly, especially in the offensive and defensive systems. The Dolphins
scored more than 20 points only once during the first quarter of the season, and
only five times overall, while the defense plummeted from 4th best to 23rd. To
this day, it is difficult to understand why the departed Dom Capers didn’t
stick with the system that Saban left behind.
There was poor communication
between the head coach (Cameron) and the veteran players on the team, starting
with Jason Taylor and ending with the ejection of Keith Traylor from the team.
There was poor in-game
management, especially with playcalling and clock management. Parcells won’t be
able to help Sparano make spur-of-the-moment decisions, so you hope Sparano is
a quick and smart thinker. You also hope that he hires an offensive coordinator
to call the plays.
There’s more, but you know
how the story went.
Sparano will know it soon,
and realize just how much work he signed up for. You get a sense that he wants
to be left alone to do it, rather than hold press conferences and make more of
the empty promises that all of Dolphindom has choked on this decade.
In that regard, a regular
guy doesn’t sound so bad. Let’s just hope he can coach.