In a statement that will surprise no Miami Dolphins fans or players, New York Jets tight end Dustin Keller has told the New Jersey based Star-Ledger that new offensive coordinator Tony Sparano "runs a tighter ship than I've seen from anyone before." Sparano was the Dolphins head coach from 2008 to 2011, leading the team to an 11-5 record and the playoffs in his first season, before having three consecutive losing seasons.
After starting the season 0-7 last year, Sparano relaxed from his well documented strict rules and schedules, allowing the Dolphins to have more fun, and get more productive in practice. The loosening of the reins led the the Dolphins winning four of the next six games before Sparano was relieved of his coaching duties.
Now, as a member of a coaching staff in New York that has, at times, seemed to be the antithesis of his coaching mentality, Sparano is looking to bring a stricter scheme to the Jets. And, apparently, it's being well received.
"He's not going to let anyone skip up," Keller continued, speaking at the United Say of New York City's Gridiron Gala. "I think that's when problems do arise. It's going to continue. You can tell it's not just a one day or an OTA thing, this thing is going to keep on going and going, and I think we need it."
While never mentioning former offensive coordinator Brian Schottenheimer, who is currently holding the same position for the St. Louis Rams, Keller did continue to explain his fondness for the systems that Sparano uses. "When Sparano is in there talking, all eyes are on him," Keller said. "It's a change. Before, I would say it was a little more laid-back. But with him it's more stern, and he just has everybody's attention, and I think guys are paying more attention to details now more than ever.
"Most all the guys have been very accountable to themselves, to the things they're doing, but I think this year more than ever. Everything from the details of how far you need to line up and everything, guys already have that stuff down, and if you don't, he's kind of coming down on you. And that's how it's going to be all season, you can already tell."
Right tackle Wayne Hunter, however, wasn't afraid to mention Schottenheimer when he was discussing Sparano. "I like him," Hunter said of Sparano. "He's night and day from Schotty. I think it's a good change."
According to Hunter, it's Sparano's "attitude" and "presence" that will make a difference for the Jets this upcoming year.
"The one thing you can really appreciate about him is he's very honest," Keller added. "He told us that from the get-go. He's going to be honest with us, and if you want to know where you stand with the team, go in there and ask him, because he'll always be honest with you. That's something we really respect."
Quarterback Mark Sanchez also weighed in on his former AFC East rival coach, "He expects a lot of you, but he's fair. Just like a game plan, he'll let you know, ‘We're going to work on a specific situation; here's what I expect.' And if doesn't happen, that's when you hear the coach Sparano that everyone talks about.
"But at the same time, I said he's fair. When you throw a good ball, when somebody runs a good route, when you get the answer right, that's what he wants and he expects it, but he also rewards you for that and lets you know. His demeanor will be great for us."
The Dolphins will face their former head coach for the first time in Week 3 of the NFL season, when the Jets travel to Miami. The two teams will complete their season series during Week 8, when the Dolphins travel north to New Jersey.