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  Sparano Just A Regular Guy
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by Chris Shashaty, Phins.com Columnist

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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 vernacular.


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 could coach.


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 at hand.


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 perspective.


“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 veteran leaders.


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 record suggests.


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.

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