Writers of Pro Football Prospectus 2008

07 Jan 2011

Dolphins Retaining Tony Sparano

After all-but-publicly begging Jim Harbaugh to become their next head coach, the Dolphins have suddenly decided that Tony Sparano is their best option and will apparently retain him as their head coach.

Posted by: Bill Barnwell on 07 Jan 2011

37 comments, Last at 11 Jan 2011, 12:54am by Noah Arkadia


by mansteel (not verified) :: Fri, 01/07/2011 - 12:18am

Way to publicly insult and embarrass your head coach, Ireland. Great job.

by coboney :: Fri, 01/07/2011 - 4:10am

I doubt this is Jeff Ireland - this read much more like something from the owner Stephen Ross with his personal watching of the game, flying across the country and such.

by Anonymouse (not verified) :: Fri, 01/07/2011 - 12:19am

This is good news. For the rest of the AFC East.

by V. Barbarino (not verified) :: Fri, 01/07/2011 - 1:16am

All these coaching decisions are getting very odd. It seems as though everything that people assumed about just about every job has been proven incorrect; what was thought to be a massive purge now looks to be just down to a few teams, and it looks like it's all just a game of poker to get Harbaugh. It certainly looks like all the 'names' that were supposed to have their pick of jobs are going to remain out of a coaching job this season. Cowher, Gruden, Fox, et al. Where are they going now? Looks like nowhere.
Is this all down to the CBA fight, and what does this indicate, exactly?
I would say, if I was Sparano, I'd probably tell them to take their job and pack sand. You cut a man's balls off in the fashion they did, I don't see what alternatives he has at this point. Nice work, Dolphins!

by are-tee :: Fri, 01/07/2011 - 11:44am

This has been discussed many times by Peter King, Cris Collinsworth, etc. - owners are afraid that a lockout will prevent any kind of team activity until late summer/early fall. That makes it impossible to install a new system that might come with a new coach and have it workable in time for the season.

by The Other Ben Johnson (not verified) :: Fri, 01/07/2011 - 3:37pm

In that case, God Bless Al Davis for being the Al Davisiest.

by andrew :: Fri, 01/07/2011 - 1:53am

At first I thought the Dolphins thought they could work a deal to get Harbaugh and Luck.

But now its sounds like football people in the organization prevailed upon Ross to not make this move. (either that or he thinks there will be a lockout (no pun intended) next season.

I actually think Sporano is a damn good coach. He needs a new offensive coordinator, but his overall approach I think is good.

by Loadser :: Fri, 01/07/2011 - 10:30am

Completely agree, Stephen Ross is slowly finding ways to kill the Dolphins organization. First he hires a bunch of famous part time owners, gets jimmy buffet to write a horrendous new anthem to replace to iconic Miami Dolphins theme song and now probably alienates a damn good coach. All Sparano needs is a new OC and a new QB, our defense was pretty solid and we struggled with injuries this year.

by Dean :: Fri, 01/07/2011 - 11:27am

Getting Jimmy Buffet to write a new theme song is a great idea. Maybe it didn't work, but as an idea, it's a good one.

by andrew :: Fri, 01/07/2011 - 12:55pm

It wasn't a new song was it? Just new lyrics for Margaritaville IIRC...

by andrew :: Fri, 01/07/2011 - 12:55pm

It wasn't a new song was it? Just new lyrics for Margaritaville IIRC...

by Dean :: Fri, 01/07/2011 - 1:48pm

Don't know.

by andrew :: Fri, 01/07/2011 - 3:19pm

Well I was close. It was new lyrics for "Fins"..

Hey, who am I to criticize. The Vikings last year got something much lamer from Prince...

by Marko :: Sat, 01/08/2011 - 5:06pm

They would have been better off getting Darius Rucker to write the theme song, since he is such a big fan that the Dolphins make him cry.

by Chocolate City (not verified) :: Mon, 01/10/2011 - 2:20pm

I thought Live sang "The Dolphin's Cry"?

by Eddo :: Mon, 01/10/2011 - 2:57pm

They do, but Hootie and the Blowfish's "Only Wanna Be With You" contains the line, "The Dolphin's make me cry".

by PatsFan :: Sat, 01/08/2011 - 12:09pm

I thought the "iconic" theme song was a ripoff of the Houston Oilers theme song.

by TomC :: Sat, 01/08/2011 - 3:23pm

I always suspected that it must have been used for the Dolphins first, because it scans so much better as "Houston Oilers, number one" that I can't imagine someone would have stolen it and crammed more syllables in so that it sounded awkward. And I think this supports my hunch:


by tuluse :: Sat, 01/08/2011 - 3:38pm

I feel the Oilers theme song should have been Big Bad Earl

by Marko :: Sat, 01/08/2011 - 4:59pm

Whenever I think of that Houston Oilers song, I always think of Earl Campbell running wild against the Dolphins in that classic Monday Night Football game in 1978: http://espn.go.com/abcsports/mnf/s/greatestgames/miamihouston1978.html. I can still hear the Oilers' fans singing it after Earl Campbell's electrifying 81 yard TD run to clinch the game.

by Noah Arkadia :: Fri, 01/07/2011 - 10:46am

I think Harbaugh said no to him. About Sparano, I like him, too, but it will be very awkward to keep him at this point.

by A fake Rodney Harrsion (not verified) :: Fri, 01/07/2011 - 7:14am

Stephen Ross:" Harbaugh does not want us, what I gonna do now!"

Assistant " What about Tony Sparano, sir?"

Stephen Ross: "What? Yes, Tony. He knows the system, but I fired him on Monday"

Assistant " No, sir. You just wanted to fire Sparano on Monday, acted as an owner who just fired the HC, but actually all you did was not to call back Tony."

Stephen Ross: "Really? Wow, thanks. That is what I call positive thinking..."

by johonny (not verified) :: Fri, 01/07/2011 - 12:38pm

Just pointing out I don't see why this changes anything. It was pretty well understood if Tony came back for another season it was going to be a make or break type season. The Dolphins looked at who they could replace him with and at what price and decided they couldn't get/afford the upgrade. To me they'd look dumber if they hadn't looked into all their options, than doing so because either way Tony has that lame duck feel to him. Not every coach in his situation has his team fall apart, but many have. If it was an easy job, Norv Turner would be going to the Super Bowl.

by Revenge of the NURBS (not verified) :: Fri, 01/07/2011 - 1:26pm

I don't think anyone's saying they look dumb for exploring their options. I have no doubt that a lot of teams do that, and ultimately decide to stick with the devil they know. The reason they look dumb is for doing it so brazenly. Sparano is now set up to fail, because the team has all but stated that he'll be gone at the first opportunity. And this is a coach that really hasn't done a bad enough job to deserve this treatment.

I also wouldn't be the least bit surprised (although we'll probably never know) if the handling of this situation didn't play a part in Harbaugh deciding not to take the job. It's kind of like marrying a girl who cheated on her last husband.

by johonny (not verified) :: Fri, 01/07/2011 - 8:38pm

but Sparano was always set up to fail if he returned. He was a coach that needed to get to the play offs or else and has no QB, middle of his oline and 2 running backs unlikely to return. At the same time he coaches in the same division as the team of the decade. Until the team stops drafting projects like Pat White and interior linemen that don't fit the teams blocking schemes I don't see why any coach is well off in Miami. Some coaches given that second chance survive, must end up like Mangini.

by Revenge of the NURBS (not verified) :: Sat, 01/08/2011 - 7:51am

Well, there's set up to fail, and then there's set up to FAIL. I agree that the Dolphins are stuck in a division with 2 better teams, and that they don't have the roster to compete for a playoff spot. I'd say there's set up to go about 6-10 to 8-8, which is exactly what they have done. That's what I mean when I say Sparano hasn't done that bad of a job. Given the circumstances, 7-9 is a respectable result. This whole saga would have had the Dolphins on the fast track to 3-13, because it was a recipe for losing the locker room next season once players realized they weren't accoutable to the head coach anymore.

In any case, this all became moot when the Dolphins gave Sparano the "financial apology".

by lionsbob :: Fri, 01/07/2011 - 12:51pm

Where is Don Shula to bitch and complain about the Dolphins talking to a guy who is currently under contract with his current team (while the Dolphins still have a head coach) like he did about Saban leaving the Dolphins for Alabama.

by Noah Arkadia :: Fri, 01/07/2011 - 2:42pm

You must be a relative of Saban. The two situations couldn't be more different.

by are-tee :: Fri, 01/07/2011 - 2:25pm

It's ironic that the post-season firings involved coaches who didn't have a lot of talent to work with (Cable, Mangini), while those coaches who did appear to have a lot of good players on their rosters (Marvin Lewis, Fisher) have kept their jobs for now.

by dbt :: Fri, 01/07/2011 - 3:16pm

Cable was probably let go to retain Hue Jackson instead. It's unfortunate, because I think he did a good job and I wouldn't be surprised if Al gave him a good reference anywhere he went (despite the punch in the face incident).

by greybeard :: Fri, 01/07/2011 - 9:31pm

I think Oakland has a lot of good players on the roster. They lack talent on receivers but besides that I don't think they are lacking and they have quite a few very talented guys (McFadden, Namdi, Bush - if they can keep him-, Miller, the fullback, Seymour -if they can keep him-, both DEs, MCClain)

by Bright Blue Shorts :: Sat, 01/08/2011 - 7:52am

Every team looks talented when they're winning.

And don't forget special teams - Lechler, Seabass, Jacoby Ford.

by andrew :: Fri, 01/07/2011 - 6:36pm

Update - the Dolphins had a press conference scheduled at 4:15 then 4:45 both were postponed indefinitely, a lot of south florida media at the dolphins facility but were forced to leave the media room, the announcement may or may not happen.

There is some speculation that Sporano may have refused their offer (supposedly a one year extension) and now no one is certain who the coach will be (some have speculated if that does fall through they would turn to Nolan).

by you're-wrong-as-usual (not verified) :: Sat, 01/08/2011 - 6:19am

Schefter says a contract offer was never made. What was that about begging? Wrong again.

by Noah Arkadia :: Sat, 01/08/2011 - 12:30pm

It's called damage control PR. How do you think those inside guys like Schefter get their hands on all the scoops? By paying back favors.

by you're-wrong-as-usual (not verified) :: Sun, 01/09/2011 - 5:51am

Stephen Ross just sent a letter to season ticket holders saying an offer was never made. So Schefter and Ross are liars, knowing Harbaugh could contradict them, and you and FO are correct? The FO view is based on what evidence exactly?

by Noah Arkadia :: Tue, 01/11/2011 - 12:54am

The truth is nobody knows exactly what happened other than those personally involved, but there are good reasons to suspect Ross is not telling the truth. As to Schefter, saying he's lying would presume he knows the truth himself, which I doubt. Whether he believes what he reported is also uncertain.