Fourth quarter collapse dooms Miami Dolphins; will heads roll?

MIAMI - DECEMBER 26: (L-R) Quarterback Chad Henne #7 coach Tony Sparano and running back Ricky Williams #34 of the Miami Dolphins look on from the sidelines against the Detroit Lions at Sun Life Stadium on December 26 2010 in Miami Florida. (Photo by Marc Serota/Getty Images)

Those final minutes of the Dolphins' sickening loss to the Lions felt like a funeral. I guess that's what blowing a ten point lead at home with under five minutes left to one of the worst teams in the league will do. For Detroit, it was the first time they won back-to-back road games since 2004. For the Dolphins, it was just another game at Sun Life Stadium.

Now we've reached a point that it's impossible to not wonder who will return next year and who will not.

Rather than our usual recap post the day after a game, I'm going to break this up into two conversations. One about the coaches today. The other centered on the quarterback tomorrow.

Sparano's days numbered?

This is obviously the most pressing issue right now in light of Sunday's loss to the Lions. Consecutive home losses to the Browns, Bills, and Lions is usually a sign of major problems. It's also kind of funny to think what things would be like if the Dolphins had beaten those three teams - teams that happen to be a combined 14-31 this year. If the Dolphins beat those three lowly teams, they are 10-5 and we are discussing the battle we are in with the Jets for the final playoff spot.

Instead, we are wondering about the future of this entire organization.

SI's Peter King is one of the many who believe head coach Tony Sparano's seat is getting very hot. His exact line? "His seat actually has flames rising from it," King writes on Twitter. Omar Kelly says that Sparano's seat is not just hot, it's "blazing."

Fair or not, Sparano is clearly in the middle of a bad situation. This loss in particular has pissed off ownership. That's clear. Just read Jeff Darlington's tweets below from his conversation with owner Stephen Ross immediately after the game:

I spoke privately with Dolphins owner Stephen Ross as he left the stadium after Sunday's meltdown. He was very clearly upset. When I asked Ross about evaluation for Sparano & Ireland, he said he’s "starting to evaluate now. You’ve seen what’s going on, you know?"

Ross did not want to discuss specifics of his decisions when I first approached: "Don’t ask me now. I know what you want to ask me."

At one point, Ross turned to me and said that he's walking out of his stadium with a loss -- and he expected a win. The point was taken. As we finished our short conversation, Ross said he wanted to cool down before making evaluations based on Sunday. He wasn't happy at all.

Not exactly a glowing endorsement by Ross. Nor should there be one.

This is the first game in which is just looked like the team quit late in the fourth quarter. They seemed disinterested - and that's not a good sign for the head coach. I'm also told that the post game locker room was not exactly a pleasant place to be. I was told it was "ugly" within those walls and that "battle lines have been drawn."

There are also unsubstantiated rumors on Twitter and on message boards that claim Ross has already decided to fire Tony Sparano and most of the coaching staff - but hasn't informed the coaches or Jeff Ireland of that decision. I call BS on that, though, because all of these "reports" are from guys who know guys who know guys. When I hear it from somebody I trust, then I'll believe it.

What about the others?

Still, it's easy to believe those rumors. There are going to be some big fish available in the head coaching sea - Bill Cowher, Jon Gruden, and possibly Jeff Fisher to name a few. But the obvious question that follows is who exactly should go if/when it is decided to let Sparano go?

Does GM Jeff Ireland go with him? What about Mike nolan?

In my opinion, it's not fair to fire Sparano but keep Ireland. I think Ireland and Bill Parcells are more at fault for this current mess than Sparano is. It was the front office that drafted Chad Henne and pinned the team's future to him. It was the front office that wasted a second round pick on Pat White and a third round pick on Patrick Turner.

Does Sparano have some say in personnel? I'm sure he does - particularly along the offensive line. And that is worrisome considering the offensive line has regressed under Sparano - a former OL coach.

I was one of those who was very much in favor of keeping Sparano. But this loss to the Lions has changed my mind. I like Sparano. I think he's a good coach. He seems like a good person - a likable man for sure. But change is needed from the top down - including Ireland and Sparano.

If there weren't some intriguing big name head coaches out there, I'd be more inclined to give Sparano one more season. But with some big fish for Ross to reel in, it's time to cut bait on Sparano and cast off in search of someone new.

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