Miami Dolphins Head Coaching Candidates: Tony Sparano

Right when you were settling into these posts, I throw you a curve ball. Why would I do such a thing? Because Matt Moore and Tony Sparano are hot topics these days because of Miami's current winning streak.  This is Miami's first three-game winning streak since the end of 2008, when Miami finished the regular season with five consecutive wins.

As we all know, Sparano came to Miami from Dallas, of course, in 2008. He was the choice of the Big Tuna over other candidates such as Rex Ryan, Jim Schwartz, and Leslie Frazier.  In his first season, he unleashed the Wildcat after an 0-2 and start and led Miami to an 11-5, tying a record for the largest turnaround in a season en route to an AFC East division title.  Miami followed the 2008 campaign with two consecutive seasons of 7-9, the second of them leaving fans bitter and nearly costing Sparano his job.

Before this season began, many fans already wanted Sparano fired.  The calls for his firing increased after an 0-2 start and grew louder after Miami blew a fourth quarter lead in Cleveland, falling to 0-3 on the year.  Each passing week was "Sparano Watch" as fans watched intensely on Mondays to see if Sparano was packing his bags.

Finally, after an 0-7 start, Sparano and the Dolphins won their first game of 2011.  This meant fans could relax on Monday since Miami surely wouldn't fire him after a win, especially when Miami won in such a decisive manner.  Sparano and the Dolphins followed that up with a win against the Redskins, notching their first victory at home in nearly a year.  The thumping of the Bills this past weekend has many thinking Miami is turning it around and playing well.

While Miami has undoubtedly played very well, it should be noted the victories came against teams currently in a downward spiral as they lose grip on their season.  Should we be excited for the turnaround or should we temper our enthusiasm because of who the wins came against?

While it's easy to be excited for a three game winning streak, the fact that Miami hasn't won three games in a row since 2008 is pretty damning.  In fact, before this current winning streak, Miami hasn't won consecutive games since Weeks 1 and 2 of the 2010 season when they won in unimpressive fashion against the Buffalo Bills and Minnesota Vikings.  Their last home victory was November 14, 2010.  They wouldn't win at home again until November 13, 2011.  Until this last week, they haven't won consecutive home games since December 6, 2009 when they defeated the New England Patriots.  That is awful considering teams are supposed to play much better at home than on the road, but Miami has gone nearly two full years since recording consecutive victories at home.

Should this three game winning streak absolve Sparano of everything that has happened in the past, including Miami's terrible performance at home and their 0-7 start this season? Does he get a pass for the 0-7 start to the season because Miami brought in Brian Daboll to run the offense. Surely it takes awhile for the offense to learn a new system and get acclimated to a new coach. Many would point to Jim Harbaugh of the San Francisco 49ers and to a lesser extent, Hue Jackson of the Oakland Raiders as counters to the theory behind Miami's slow start. Jackson runs the same offense in Oakland as they did last year when he was their Offensive Coordinator.  In San Francisco, they have a new Offensive Coordinator as well with Greg Roman. So while Miami was struggling to adjust during their 0-7 start with a new Offensive Coordinator, San Francisco was cruising with new coaches and led their division with a 6-1 record.

If Sparano is excused for the offense's slow start in what agonizingly seemed like Miami was misusing their personnel, how could we explain the failure on defense?  Mike Nolan wasn't a new hire and Miami brought back the majority of their defense. You could point to injuries playing a factor, which appears to be true. Teams are prepared for injuries and the fact that Miami didn't fare well could be blamed on Sparano and the Dolphin front office not assembling a team with solid depth.

There is something to be said about the players still playing hard for Sparano and they still back him.  Until the win against Kansas City, they were playing hard, but they were playing bad.  Now they're playing hard and playing good, a difficult task for an 0-7 team to accomplish. If their scheme as working and the players are playing hard, even despite a backup QB and the equivalent of a WalMart Greeter at RT, should we stand pat and see if this continues to work? It's a debate that is starting to divide the fanbase, much like the case of "Suck for Luck" or a debate about keeping Matt Moore as our QB and looking to other positions with our first round pick. It's easy to root for Sparano because he's a good, respected man and the players back him. He's open and honest to the media, a refreshing change from past Dolphin personnel such as Bill Parcells and Nick Saban, possibly the two most hated men in Dolphin history.

For my personal take on the situation, I don't think anything changes.  I believe Sparano has earned the right to finish the season as there is currently nobody better to do the job. However, a three-game winning streak doesn't absolve Sparano of past failures and we must remember he did coach us into an 0-7 hole that has buried the team in irrelevance this year. Perhaps Sparano can stick around for another year, but he's going to have to finish very strong to earn respect back among the fan base and allow people to even wonder if he should be let go. A three-game winning streak isn't enough, but a nine-game winning streak makes the debate a much tougher one that would lead to a heated off-season.

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