Following another Miami Dolphins loss, this time to the Cleveland Browns, Head Coach Tony Sparano headed to the microphones to meet with the media. With the Dolphins' record falling to 0-3, and the team failing to execute plays throughout the game, the media, and all of us fans, were anxious to hear what Sparano would say.
The first question posed to him about the Dolphins dominating the game, yet still finding a way to lose it. Sparano replied:
"Statistics don't matter, that's what I can say. The end result matters, winning the football game. At the end of the game they made more plays than we did. Quite honestly, the last drive of the game we did a couple of dumb things. We had a couple of penalties that gave them opportunities to extend drives. The fourth quarter we had four penalties and that is not good in crunch time. We had some opportunities in the red area again, and we didn't score touchdowns and we kicked a few field goals and those kind of things can hurt you in these kinds of games. It could have worked either way for both teams, but they ended up winning the football game. In other words, we get in their red zone and we settle for field goals. In our case, this is a couple weeks in a row that we didn't play well in the red area."
The attention then turned to what the Dolphins do next:
"If you look at game one to game three right now, there was a lot of progress made in the way we are playing. Obviously, statistically, today it doesn't really matter, but another good game rushing the ball. The quarterback played well again, we got off the field on third downs several times. So there was a lot of progress made and that is the thing we have to tell them. They just have to believe that we are going to win and I do believe the group in that room believes we are going to win, and I do think we are going to win. Now all that being said, we are 0-3 and that is what we have to show for it. You have to give the people on the other side credit, because they took the ball down the field when it mattered the most. At the end of the game we had a chance, four downs, and we didn't make a play."
The media then focused on some of the players and their performances Sunday. First up was guard Vernon Carey, and how his injury affected the team:
"The next guy has to step up; I mean [Cleveland] played without [running back] Peyton Hillis, we played without [cornerback]
When asked about quarterback Chad Henne's performance, Coach Sparano responded:
"I thought Chad played well. At times we didn't protect him well enough. I think we had five sacks and that is not good news. We kind of got into a thing where we were making a bunch of good plays moving the ball with ease and then we would have a negative play. Then we would move the ball and have another (bad) play and then we would be second and 15. Those negative plays when you get behind the chains are hard to overcome. We came up short a couple of times. We would go for it on fourth down and then make it. Then we would come back and make a negative play and take ourselves out of the red area. Those inconsistencies, that's part of the efficiency thing when we talk about practice. Now practice was a whole lot better this week and we played better, but we don't have anything to show for it."
Bringing up rookie running back Daniel Thomas, Sparano stated:
"Yeah he played a good game. He ran hard and he was hard to tackle and he did a good job. He had a mistake out there and it cost us at one point, but again he is a young player and he is going to make those mistakes. But he gives you a good effort every time he's out there and I will take it."
The media then turned Sparano's attention to The Magician, wide receiver Brian Hartline and the big plays he made:
"It is encouraging. You guys (reporters) ask me the same questions all the time and I give you guys the same answers about Brian Hartline - that's not a surprise to me. The guy's a good football player and he makes good plays. He also has one of the highest averages per catch on the team and he is a game player."
The media then returned to focusing on Sparano and his management of the game. Asking him about the team wasting two time outs early in the second half:
"Maybe, at least we would have been able to take our time. We had to use one early offensively when the clock got down on us. Then we had to use one defensively from a personnel standpoint. We ran guys in and out and we needed to get it right, because it was a big third down play. I think it was a third and seven or third and eight and then they converted it. So we ended up using the timeout and then [the Browns] ended up making the play in that situation."
Finally, Sparano was asked about the final drive of the game, when Cleveland drove down the field and scored the winning touchdown, with little resistance from the Dolphins defense:
"I didn't think they were going to go after any particular matchup. We were in a good coverage and the ball just went over the top of [cornerback]
"We were probably in dime, and that is Sean Smith so that he can match the tight end in those situations. So it's setting us back one way or another, somebody has to go in there and step it up."
As the rhetoric for Sparano's firing crescendos this week, the team is still looking for a way to win that first game of 2011. Hopefully they figure something out prior to visiting the San Diego Chargers next Sunday - because the demand for wholesale change is getting louder, and attracting more and more fans. For a fan base that has lived through mediocrity for the past decade, and a 1-15 season just 4 years ago, another struggling season won't be accepted.