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If the losses pile up and Sparano is fired, who does Miami turn to as Head Coach?

To the legions of Dolfans crying “Armageddon!”: starting 0-2 shouldn’t be shocking to any of us. Shoot, I think odds are good this team could start 1-4 (or, gulp, worse). After all, this is the same team that was 1-9 at home going into this season, piloted by the same head coach, QB, and defense that propelled Miami to last year’s 7-9 finish. This is the team that packed it in to close the season with 3 losses, leading to Dolphins owner Stephen Ross courting Jim Harbaugh despite not firing Sparano. If my math is right, Miami has had 5 straight losses under Sparano, who better pull out all the stops to try to get a win against the Browns or he could quickly be looking at 8 straight loses with the Chargers and Jets next on the schedule.

Much like the “nature vs nuture” argument, are the Phins woes a product of the player acquisition (nature of the team) or the coaching (nuturing of the players)?

Fellow columnist Michael Fink makes the case that Miami’s woes liecompletelyatthefeet of GM Jeff Ireland. Fink argues that Sparano is handcuffed by thelackof playmakers,andthus the nature of the team.

I can’t argue with the premise that the talent acquisition on this team, while better under Ireland’s direction than previous regimes, leaves something to be desired. Sure, Ireland has done a good job of shoring up Miami’s overall depth. But his ability to secure elite playmakers is inadequate, particularly at critical positions like QB, pass rush, and CB. Miami’s record the past two years has been mediocre in large part because the foundation of the team, the talent, is mediocre.

But how can you give a pass to the coaching staff when players are out of position (see the defensive performance in most of the second half against the Patriots, or Carroll/Jones on the Johnson TD catch yesterday), are utilized in ways that don’t suit their skill set (see Bush running between the tackles), and you see quotes like the following:

4e76b1f4a6227.preview 300 If the losses pile up and Sparano is fired, who does Miami turn to as Head Coach?

OLB Jason Taylor reveals some players have lost confidence after a mere 2 games. AP photo via the Gettysburg Times

“It’s baffling to me, it really is. I don’t have any answers for it. We’ve just got to do a better job.”
-Head Coach Tony Sparano after yet another home loss, via MiamiDolphins.com

“[W]hen asked if the team has lost some confidence, [Jason Taylor] told the truth. “Yeah, to be honest, we have,” Taylor said.” via Ben Volin at the Palm Beach Post.

It’s the Head Coach’s job to have the plan, to have the answers. To openly admit that he doesn’t have answers reveals Sparano is clueless, not only because he feels this way, but because he foolishly admitted it. Football frequently uses warfare as a metaphor, and in this case does this sound like the general you want leading your troops to battle?

Worse, two games in and the troops have already lost confidence in themselves and/or the team as revealed by OLB Jason Taylor. Again, the mere fact that Taylor admits this is as telling as the fact that players are discouraged. Does this sound like a wounded animal in the corner, hair raised, growling, ready to lash out and devour anything foolish enough to approach it? To me it sounds like they’re licking their wounds, apathetic to the likely exposure to additional ones, tail between their legs, in a word… hopeless.

Last week I wrote the Texans game was a must win game, and boy was I right. It sure looks like the wheels are coming off this wagon quickly. A win against the Browns might slow the bleeding, but I don’t think a tourniquet can save this team if it losses to the Chargers and the Jets (after a bye week at that).

Many Dolfans envision this and are already calling for Sparano’s firing (obviously firing Ireland midseason won’t change anything). Even if the losses pile up, Dolfans shouldn’t expect any changes any time soon in the coaching staff. Miami after all, would need to name a new coach.

First off, no coach outside of the Dolphins is going to touch this team now that the season is underway. Sparano built this ship and no one worth their salt will want to hitch their reputation on his mess. So forget the über unrealistic pipe dreams of luring Bill Cowher or Jon Gruden to Miami before the season’s end.

That means Miami will need to name a head coach from within. Normally this would be one of the coordinators. Defensive coordinator Mike Nolan is the senior assistant and most likely man for the position, particularly given his past experience as a head coach at the NFL level. But given Nolan’s inability to coach the defense the past couple of games do you honestly think promoting him will help the team improve at all this season? I think the defenders have given up on Nolan as much as they have Sparano, otherwise they wouldn’t be out of position, arrogant about their ability, or losing confidence already as revealed by Jason Taylor.

220x If the losses pile up and Sparano is fired, who does Miami turn to as Head Coach?

Could OC Brian Daboll be this close to becoming Miami's head coach if Tony Sparano is fired? AP Photo via DayLife.com

That leaves new offensive coordinator Brian Daboll, who to his credit has helped bring some life to Chad Henne and the Dolphins offense. Daboll’s resume is short: 3 years experience as offensive coordinator, 2 as QB coach with the Jets, 5 as a WR coach for the Patriots, and his first 2 years in the NFL as a defensive coordinator for the Patriots. Daboll has no experience as a head coach in the NFL. Some will point to the fact that he cut his coaching teeth under Bill Belichick, although I would counter that Belichick’s disciples haven’t exactly set the NFL on fire without Tom Brady as their QB. Daboll, if promoted, would inherit a difficult situation with little time to effect change, not to mention face possible resentment from Nolan. It’s only been two games but I like the change the Daboll has effected on offense. I also think Daboll, being younger, is more apt to be hungry and challenge the team. However, he’s barely had time to install his offense and acclimate his players to it, and now you want to ask him to do something he’s never done before and run the entire team? I think promoting him would be akin to covering him with barbecue sauce, hamstringing him, and throwing him to the wolves. If I had to pick I think I would take Daboll later in the season, after he has a chance to implement more of the offense and because I think he might actually rise above the morass.

When push comes to shove, I think Jeff Ireland will view firing Sparano anywhere before week 8 or 10 about as symbolic as cutting Benny Sapp – an empty gesture that puts the team in a worse position and doesn’t offer any really hope for improvement. Despite Nolan’s experience and tenure he doesn’t make an attractive candidate for head coach in 2012 and beyond. That leaves Daboll, who would get my vote for a try-out if the offense continues to improve between now and the midpoint of the season.

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9 Responses to If the losses pile up and Sparano is fired, who does Miami turn to as Head Coach?

  • Our defense is a huge concern right now. However, I think they will pull it together. What I think would be the biggest benefit to our defense is a consistant offense. While I like what Daboll has done so far, what I don’t see is enough to keep defense’s honest and guessing. Where are the delayed screens and delayed handoffs to our RB’s? Where are the dump passes? How about tossing in a roll out once in a while. Play calling is doing nothing to help out the OL. We line up and run it between the tackles, or throw out of the pocket. Our players are making more plays, but lets help them out with different play calling. I also love the no huddle. More of that please!

    For the defense….. I think the combination of a shortened off season, and starting off the first 2 games in the Miami heat is hurting. The offense needs to give them more breaks with some longer drives. I guess they could help themselves with creating a turnover once in a while, or if the coaches would make the obvious adjustments sometimes. But overall, I look for them to pull things together.

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  • I think we have more talent than you’re giving Ireland credit for. Brandon Marshall needs to get his head (and hands) in the game. Bess is one of the best at his position. Bush is good when used properly (I give Sparano some credit for finally seeing Bush is not good between the tackles but then again, why did he think he would be?) Daniel Thomas looks promising. I hope Gates can unseat Hartline by year end. His speed is tremendous……if he can get some routes down we’ve found a compliment to our other 2 receivers. Fasano is serviceable at tight end and sometimes shines. Our oline seemed to like run blocking for Thomas yesterday. Thomas seems just patient enough to let a hole develop yet doesn’t hesitate when it does. Henne looks like he’s ready to take significant steps forward under Daboll.

    It’s our defense that flusters me. I thought we’d have one of the better units in the league on that side of the ball! I’ll wait and see what Nolan comes up with. I can live with Andre Johnson getting his. But I couldn’t live with those 6-7 yard gashes right up the gut!!! Thought our defensive line was a strength before our first 2 games.

    If I’m giving out blame, Sparano deserves more than Ireland. Sparano goes first in my book!!!

    Good point Airik…about Sparano having veto powers on the plays…..if he doesn’t he should….some of those red zone plays were terrible against New England….we all know the fade I’m talking about to hartline!!!

    @michael fink…marshall is not too slow….maybe he’s not a burner like gates, but he’s got the size to create mismatches with jump balls and good route running. I’m so happy not to see the wildcat this year!!! I just want to see the T-train up the gut until they stop it@!!!

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  • Please fire Tony Sparano asap. He has unequivocally lost this team. The usage of the timeout on 4th and 1 and the conditioning of the players seriously seems it all up.

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  • Let’s be realistic here folks. There is too much apathy and wasted realestate to not build some condos and a high end mall where Dolphins stadium now sits. It just makes sense.

    Yup. It’s time to start talking about the LA Dolphins!

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  • Sparano has only one way of running a team. It’s his way, or we are going to lose trying it his way. He doesn’t put his players in the best position to succeed. I know he said he took a long look in the mirror this off season, but I think he forgot to take off his shades. The longer I think about it, the more I would like to see him let go as soon as possible. Let Nolan or Daboll take over. I think we would see what this roster can really do without the Sparano handcuffs. I’m not predicting we win a bunch of games, but I bet we play with a lead more often than trying to play catch up.

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  • we’re in trouble….PERIOD! i think tony lost this team ’cause he’s too busy over thinkin’ everything and not just goin’ out there and knockin’ people around! if i were a miami dolphin, the one thing the rest of the nfl would understand very clearly is that if i get near you your gonna get knocked the flunk out. i would play the rest of this season for me….i know that’s not a team mentality and am very sorry for that, but tony made this bed. we’re not tough and we respect the rest of our division too much! nobody in our division respects us and that’s our fault. we need a bench clearin’ brawl just like the yanks and boston! there needs to be some hatred (not personal) for the division or they’ll roll over you! until we get passed bein’ a bunch of pussies we won’t do shiznit against them. i’m tired of hearing i some good things out there we can build on….stop buildin’ and start tearin’ some sh!t up!!!

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  • Well, you could line up in a 2 TE set, Henne under center. Soliai and anyone else in the backfield besides Bush. Send Marshall on a slant, play action fake up the middle, the TE crosses Marshall’s slant, and hit the TE in the flat. Almost unstoppable. That is just an example. Football is a game of mismatches yes, but sometimes that mismatch can come from a smart play call, not just about the players.

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  • Hartline explained they use a different package in the redzone because the defense tightens. He also said the players lacked proper execution in that area of the field. Still think it all comes back to mismatches. Who do you see winning those down there? Marshall is too slow. Aside from him, who creates true problems for the defense?

    It’s only game 2. Maybe they reestablish the wildcat :)

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  • I love what Daboll has done with the offense in the short time he has had to put things together. With him, i see the ability to change things up and take chances. I also would love to know if Sparano, being a micro manager, is vetoing some of the play calling. Especially in the red zone, because the offense looks very different until that happens. It seems that if you were to put a highlight reel together blurring out numbers, you wouldn’t be able to tell this season from that last 2 based on red zone play calling.

    I like the foundation that has been layed here, but when it comes to chiefs and indians so to speak, I think Sparano is an indian trying to do a chiefs job. He has no answers because he is, and always has, broken every little thing down to the smallest fragments. It’s so hard to see the bigger picture when you are always looking at all those fragments. Again, I would so love to see the day to day on this team just to see how much Tony is getting in everyone else’s way. Heck, Sparano is even getting in his own way when it come to his strong point, the offensive line. He is lost, and has lost control of this team. The only answer is to ride out the rest of this season on his sinking ship, and once again start all over. So sad…. So very sad.

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