The Ireland Sparano Conundrum

The Miami Dolphins flirted a few short months ago with replacing head coach Tony Sparano.  It was rumored that Jeff Ireland, the teams general manager would also find his rear on the hot seat soon enough as well if the team didn’t start turning it around.   In the end, Stephen Ross had egg on his face, Jeff Ireland was pulling his best “Black Swan” routine around the coaching fiasco, and Tony Sparano had a 2 year extension.

Then, the lockout hit.

Many fans and members of the media believed that regardless of the extensions handed out, both were still on a short leash moving forward through the 2011 season.  Ross’ infatuation with the celebrity lifestyle seemed to point more towards a future date with someone like John Gruden or Bill Cowher than allowing the ride to continue much longer with Sparano and Ireland.  Especially if the teams offense woes continued.  Ross said that he wanted an exciting offense but has since refined those thoughts to a “good product” instead.  Maybe he learned something from his “we are going to go to the Super Bowl” comments last year or his “Chad Henne will be a Hall of Famer” comment.

While Ross may seem a little wishy-washy, let’s remember this is still only his first full calendar year as “THE” boss, what the future holds for his two top guys will remain uncertain.  The lockout may or may not have an affect on that outcome.  Poll on page 2.

If many believed that Sparano, Ireland, or both were on the hot seat depending on their 2011 performance, the fact that teams are not practicing and no one can contact anyone else makes you wonder if that hot seat will cool when the reality of expectations set in.  The Dolphins have a very tough schedule this year facing their own division and the NFC East division as well.  They also play the AFC West as well.  Add to that the addition of a new offensive coordinator in Brian Daboll, a new system that supposedly is a far cry from the Dan Henning open book offense, new faces on the offensive side of the ball, and what will be a revamped line, it’s hard to imagine that if the season doesn’t get underway soon, teams like the Dolphins are going to struggle in divisions where at least two teams are seasoned with contracted veterans.  The Jets and Patriots in Miami’s case.

The expectations for Sparano to turn the team around are enormous but in the end, if the lockout doesn’t end until sometime in July or August, thus eliminating the entire off-season mini-camp programs, will Stephen Ross fire his HC for the lack of efficiency and offensive improvement or is this a level of football that shouldn’t need those off-season activities to make relative.  In other words, is training camp sufficient time for them to coach up the team?

Another aspect of this is the fact that Ross is one of the 32 NFL owners and thus in some way is responsible for the fact that players are not meeting with coaches, the GM’s are not signing new contracts, and no one is practicing.  So where does Tony Sparano fit into all of this?

Are their jobs still on ice regardless of the lockout or does the lockout buy them another year no matter what?

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Tags: Brian Daboll Dan Henning Jeff Ireland Miami Dolphins NFL Lockout NFLPA Stephen Ross Tony Sparano

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