Seems as though this is a popular topic around the web. Especially for some reason today. All three major newspapers have articles up about Tony Sparano and his ever increasing hot seat. Some are of the opinion that there is no better options right now, others state that failing to beat the Browns should be the final straw. Others say he should ride out the season and then be replaced.
I am teetering on the fence here. In some ways, I really like Sparano. He could become a very good HC in the NFL. On the other hand, what’s best for this franchise is not waiting for that to happen. This team needs to turn itself around and in a big way. That means moving on from Sparano and possibly even Jeff Ireland is the only way to insure fans returning to the stadium.
Some are saying that Sparano has lost the locker room. I doubt it. He is well liked by most of his players. He has however lost the faith of most of the fans. I was at the game on Sunday and can tell you that I heard no boo’s or otherwise derogatory comments directed at Chad Henne. I did however hear repeatedly obscene comments directed at Tony Sparano. Stephen Ross wants to fill the stadium and to do that, the Dolphins need to win and win consistently. Sparano is not doing that and the ire of the fans will only further drive fans away.
The question really becomes what does Sparano have to do to keep his job for the rest of the year and/or beyond? For now, nothing. A win against Cleveland will be a start but in reality, the team will continue to face tough opponents in San Diego and New York before returning home to face the Broncos. One media member will say Sparano should be fired if he loses to the Browns. Another says if he enters the bye week 0-4. Another will say if he loses to Denver. The options? Not many.
If Stephen Ross deems it necessary to can Sparano in week 3, 4, or during the bye, he needs to have a plan in place to move on. The logical choice would be to name Mike Nolan the interim HC for the remainder of the season. However Nolan has the last ranked defense in the NFL. Ross could immediately go after a big name like Bill Cowher or Jon Gruden and try to coax them out of the booth. There are benefits to doing so.
The biggest benefit is that it shows faith in ownership to make a change that will appease the fans. It will show a commitment to trying to make the team better. Fans will likely show up to home games to simply see what the new face of the franchise is going to do. Secondly it gives that new HC almost a full season to evaluate the talent he has on his roster rather than a few months of reviewing game tape. It would also give that new HC an opportunity to work with Jeff Ireland for a season to make a smoother transition. Especially if Ross is intent on retaining his GM.
There are downsides as well. Any new coach will want his own system. Something that will not likely happen with an early season change to a permanent HC. For example, Bill Cowher would literally have to run Brian Daboll‘s offense for the year and evaluate the players in that style of offense. Still, it goes without saying that having an opportunity to have hands on experience with a roster for 3 months is far better than walking into a blind arena and decide how to proceed through game film.
I’m not advocating the firing of Sparano. I am only expressing a desire that if, IF, Stephen Ross decides to part ways early this season with his HC, it might be a good idea to try and get your long term plan in place early in the season as well. The bigger question is this. If Ross does decide to cut ties with Sparano, does he contact other coaches before or after he let’s Sparano go? Ross can ill afford to suffer anymore indignity this season.