Tony Sparano has not lost his job and while a part of me is off that support bandwagon, the other part of me says give him another year and see what he can do with a more “octane” OC. I can’t help but like Sparano. His no nonsense approach to the media, his honesty, the way he doesn’t throw anyone under the bus and always take criticism and bites the bullet of responsibility first and foremost.
Still, that does not preclude him from sharing most of the blame, you can read later today in my “Blame Game: Tony Sparano” article. Should be up around 4:00.
Aside from my liking of Sparano, the reality of this business puts a different spin on what happens in the off-season. There are a lot of vacancies this off-season. San Francisco, Dallas, Denver, Minnesota, Carolina, with strong possibilities in Cincinnati, Houston, Cleveland, and possibly New York Giants and Tennessee Titans. That’s a lot of teams for a relatively short list of true candidates. Jim Harbaugh of Stanford, Super Bowl winners Jon Gruden, Brian Billick, and yes, Bill Cowher. Which brings me to the point of all this. Is Cowher the man for the Dolphins?
Make no mistake. Bill Cowher will sell tickets. It will go a long way to Stephen Ross putting his own imprint on this team. Cowher alone will return the team instantly to respectful. They will no longer be considered a “re-build” project regardless of what they do in the off-season. They will be a competitor because that is one thing that Cowher brings. A blue collar attitude that accepts nothing short of 110%. Just like Tony Sparano. The difference? Cowher has the experience and the rings to prove he can do it. But is he right in Miami?
Cowher was the perfect fit in Pittsburgh. A team who was hell bent on winning, a franchise that was an NFL historical great. Fans that cared for little else than Sunday afternoons at Three Rivers Stadium. A blue collar coach for a blue collar town. The Pittsburgh faithful could relate to their head coach because he was just like them. In 15 seasons he only had two losing seasons and six below the 10 win mark. He only won 1 Super Bowl but appeared in two. He won 9 division championships in Pittsburgh. And he did it, the same way that the Miami Dolphins play football now. Grind it out hand to hand combat. Time consuming drives and ball control. For a city like Pittsburgh who is all about steel work and manual labor, the product on the field was a reflection of the city as much as it was their HC.
In Miami? That likely won’t work.
Miami is a dance town filled with techno rock and Southbeach sound. It is a Cuban infused community with high octane energy and 24 hour excitement. Like NY, it’s a city that rarely sleeps and the endless parties in Southbeach draw as much attention to the community as anything else. In other words, it’s not a town filled with hard labor and iron ore.
The Miami Dolphins have been a grind it out football team since Jimmy Johnson decided to take up the team. Oh, he used Dan Marino from his “cookie jar” but that was because he didn’t have a choice. He never made this team into the balanced attack he had in Dallas. Instead, he took his lumps, his losses, and his money to Islamorado in the keys and went back to TV.
Dave Wannstedt, well, you know we all know these stories because we have been talking about them since the late 1990’s. Nothing has changed. It’s still the same grind it out boring offense and a young defense that is bordering on becoming great. And the Miami fans are not buying it. They want exciting. They want New Orleans style offense, New England, Atlanta, Green Bay. They want deep passes and fast paced crossing patterns. They want 40 points on the scoreboard at halftime. They want this team to revert to what it was. A winner. A perennial winner that owns the division and the rest of the AFC. More than anything, they want to be relevant.
Bill Cowher has the name and the attitude, but Cowher is a defensive minded coach which means that he will bring in someone to run the offense for him. It means that person will be a mold of Cowher. Hard nose grind it out punishing football. In other words, a running team. That may not be what Miami needs and it may not be something that will fill the seats immediately and please Stephen Ross.
If Ross wants spectacle to go along with his off-field celebrity fan fare, his orange carpet affairs, and parking lot concerts, than he needs to be frugal in his decisions moving forward. He needs to find a coach who will come in with the offensive pedigree of Scott Linehan but the experience and knowledge of Bill Cowher.
That doesn’t leave much. Jon Gruden is an offensive coach and perhaps he could come in and work with Mike Nolan, leaving Nolan as the DC and assistant HC. But Gruden has never built a team, he has only molded them. In Miami, he may need to build an offense. Which also means questions will arise with the future of Jeff Ireland as the GM. Gruden won’t buy the groceries per se’ but Cowher surely will.
Bill Cowher is a good coach and some may even say a great one. Miami has failed in previous attempts with the big names, Johnson, Saban, and Parcells. Jerry Jones has pointed out that no team has won the Super Bowl with a castoff coach of another team who has won the Super Bowl. Cowher may be the answer to change the mentality of this team which desperately needs it, or he may be just another name that gets to Miami and realizes that the Miami fans are not all blue collar iron workers and that grind it out football doesn’t work here anymore.
Fans want the same excitement on the field that Stephen Ross is providing off of it. Cowher may not be that man, but at least in year one, he might sell more tickets. But what happens after that?