Could the Miami Dolphins be the Dallas Cowboys of 2010? ESPN's Chris Sprow thinks that's a very good possibility. In his article, published in ESPN's Insider section, Spraw discusses how the 2010 Cowboys, and Detroit Lions, both started that season poorly, losing early and often, before making a turn around once they were out of playoff contention, and winning some games.
As Sprow puts it, "the Dolphins suddenly look like the Dallas Cowboys or Detroit Lions of 2010, the awful-starting team that gets hot after being knocked out of playoff competition, and gets the 'Rising' label headed into the next season."
And, this is after the Dolphins disappointing loss to Cowboys on Thanksgiving Day. The Dolphins dropped the game 20-19, despite leading 19-17 until the final seconds.
Sprow continues, "A bad performance on Thanksgiving aside, Detroit actually has lived up to those expectations. It went 6-10 last year but finished hot, and already has seven wins in 2011 and a good shot at the playoffs with a young team. Same for Dallas, which started 1-7 last year, fired the coach and finished 6-10. It has also seen a carryover effect."
Sprow then poses the question: "If Sparano was a new coach hired to take over an 0-7 team, the 2010 version of Jason Garrett, who inherited Wade Phillips' 1-7 Cowboys, we'd say he deserved the credit for righting the ship. Instead, we know he also crashed it. So does he get rewarded, or ridiculed? And what about the carryover effect? Does a good second half by a bad team really say something about next year?"
What would be the right decision in Miami? To fire Sparano and start all over - or ride a waive of moment (assuming it's there) into next year with the embattled coach back for one more year?
Sprow makes a case that, despite what we as fans may think, if the Dolphins finish the year hot, and three straight wins followed by a one point loss to a probably playoff team seems to point to that happening, they should stick with Sparano and company.
By looking at the teams with the largest jump in wins from the first half of a season to the second half, and using data from the last 15-years, Sprow points out that those teams have averaged just 7.2 wins over the first season, but then jumped up to 9.2 wins the next year - a number that will increase this year assuming the Cowboys reach 10-wins. And, the majority of the "win jumps" were 3-4 wins, which the Dolphins are already reaching.
Eight teams, over the fifteen years, made the jump into the double-digit win total, with only three of those teams making coaching changes. Two of those changes were the retirements of Bill Cowher in Pittsburgh, and Tony Dungy in Indianapolis.
As Sprow puts it, "Teams that were utter disasters to begin a year and showed a very high level of improvement do show a true carryover effect, if recent history is a guide. And it's not because they either found a new coach (most were the same coaches), or dramatically shifted their personnel."
So, maybe, if the Dolphins continue to play at a level where they are competing with some of the best teams in the NFL, and with Oakland, Philadelphia, Buffalo, New England, and the New York Jets they will have their chance, Tony Sparano being kept in place isn't such a bad thing. If the Dolphins can pull off a few more wins, that might actually be a consideration for owner Stephen Ross.