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Tony Sparano's Expectations

First of all, let me say that this is the final time we'll really talk about Tony Sparano and what our expectations for him should and/or will be. This is it. After today, we need to begin looking forward and judging Sparano off of results.

With that said, there's seems to be a difference of opinion in terms of how Sparano should be judged in year one. And it's not just fans who are debating this. The media also has at least two different opinions on this. And below are two articles from two different writers who share their views.

The first one is by the Miami Herald's Dan Le Batard and says that despite all of the recent struggles, this job Sparano landed is still a very good one. Here's why:

Sparano was officially hired as Dolphins head coach Wednesday, and here's what Sparano, an assistant coach from the Dallas Cowboys, gets with his new promotion: an old and bad Miami defense, an unholy mess at quarterback, a franchise in unprecedented tatters, two broken running backs, echoing laughter at what a punch line his team has become -- and a really, really great job.


So Sparano will be given the time and patience and perspective that a Dolphins leader never gets. Mathematically, he can't be worse than what we just endured, so just about anything he does early will be viewed as improvement. He represents hope and change and has that lovely new-coach smell. Never mind that he is an anonymous no-name, and we have no earthly idea if he will be any good at this. The best thing about his flimsy résumé is what isn't on it. There is no 1-15.

Then there's the other point of view, which is brought to us courtesy of the Palm Beach Post's Greg Stoda. Stoda believes that Sparano didn't land in as great of a spot as some think he has:

Because anyone who thinks Sparano has landed in a soft spot is wrong. It'll be all but impossible for the Dolphins to be any worse than they were last season, but Sparano, working for The Great Parcells, will be asked to do something monumentally difficult working with a team with as little talent as Miami has on its roster.

He'll be asked to prove the Dolphins have promise.

The success will be measured most obviously in wins - four or five is a good guess for next season - but it will be measured most importantly in how effectively the Dolphins are restructured.

Will the aging defense be infused with youth, and refortified? Will the offensive line continue to improve? Will the receivers be better? Will the Dolphins identify a quarterback for the long term? Miami has become a laughingstock of an NFL franchise, and the coaching merry-go-round proves it.

Sparano says one of his goals is to change the Dolphins' culture. That's a fancy way of saying there's so much to change it's almost impossible to define.

Personally, I'm leaning more towards Stoda's point of view. I, too, think that Sparani's success in his first year as head coach won't be measured so much in terms of wins and losses as it will be by progress. His first season will be judged on the system he puts in on offense and how effective it is. It will be judged on how his players respond to his leadership. And a lot of it (probably unfairly, but that's how it is) will be based on what he does before his Miami Dolphins ever take the field. It's unfair because we shouldn't all judge offseason moves before we can see the end result. But we're humans and that what we do.

And please don't feed anyone the line that the offseason moves are more a decision for Bill Parcells and Jeff Ireland than it is for Tony Sparano. Because if you think Sparano won't have any say in this, you're wrong. Bill knows the importance of having your head coach have input. Hell, isn't that why the Dolphins brought in Sparano? Because he was compatible with Bill and Jeff? If Cam Cameron and Randy Mueller were a bundle deal, then the same bundle should be made for Parcells, Ireland, and Sparano.

So Tony, despite inheriting a 1-15 team that lacks talent in many areas, hasn't landed in such a safe spot. We need to see progress. We need to see good game management and good play calling. And if we are all as unimpressed with Sparano as we were with Cameron, then this franchise could quite possibly hit an even lower rock bottom.

Could you imagine?

I can't, either.