There are three major papers in south Florida. The Miami Herald, the Sun-Sentinel, and the Palm Beach Post. Of the three, the PBP is the least well known. That does not however mean they don’t write well or provide valuable information. In fact, of the three they are the second paper I peruse each and every morning behind the Sun-Sentinel. While each paper has their “guy” to cover the Phins, Ben Volin at the PBP has been doing a great job of late. An article that he published on Sunday really drives home some food for thought.
It’s solid article and puts the mindset of the Miami Dolphins into perspective. Take a moment to read it here.
The article attributes the players turnaround to words that Tony Sparano spoke following the loss to Denver. It’s a rare glimpse into the behind the scenes arena of the Miami Dolphins. Traditionally, Tony Sparano keeps what is said to his team private. He won’t let it slip to the outside and only his players know how he feels. Now, with the help of Kevin Burnett and the reporting of Volin, we get a peak inside what Sparano said to his team to get them fired up to play.
Read more after the jump.
“He said, ‘You know what? If you guys want to lose and be 0-16 and get me out of here, no problem. But guess what? I’m not going to be the only one gone, and that’s just the reality of this business.’ ” – Said Kevin Burnett
“He said, ‘It’s on you now.’ He didn’t give us any more excuses – tired, hurt, scheme, whatever. It’s on you now, so if you want to lose, that’s on you.’ “
Direct, to the point, and every bit Tony Sparano. Sparano is a no-nonsense type of coach. He has been rigorous in his practices, dead set on physicality, and earlier this season he was voted the one of the coaches that players would not want to play for, coming in second behind the Giants head man, Tom Coughlin. According to Burnett, the team just wasn’t having fun.
That has all changed now. Players are speaking out to the media with smiles on their faces. Jason Taylor said the team is playing looser and Cameron Wake said that they are probably having the most fun than any other team in the NFL. It’s a confidence that the national media is taking notice of. In fact, several national media guys have said that the Dolphins are playing like the best team in the AFC right now and had it not been for the 0-7 start, this team would be a major factor in the playoff chase.
That really means nothing at this point but it does bring up the question of Sparano’s future, especially with Stephen Ross watching from the birds eye view of his offices. The debate on Sparano won’t simply go away. A month ago it was a foregone conclusion that he would be replaced but after changing everything he has been taught to do to get a team prepared, Sparano has thrown it all in the trash and started anew.
Gone are the early morning practices, replaced with late morning workouts to allow the players to sleep in. Gone are the heavy doses of padded contact practices, replaced with more refined scheme practices. The players have responded by turning around the dismal season into something that is far more respectable, and possibly saving their jobs in the process.
Everyone on the team is playing at a higher level. Guard John Jerry who has been on his last leg played an outstanding game against the Oakland Raiders and the combination of Jerry and center Mike Pouncey pulling in the run game opens up more opportunities to make big plays. The list goes on. Kevin Burnett’s pick-6, the first of his career highlights the change of preparedness on the defense. Suddenly Burnett and fellow MLB Karlos Dansby are on the same page and reading the same offensive formations.
Fans may not be ready to simply forget the first seven weeks and Tony Sparano still speaks as though the first 7 games didn’t happen, answering a reporter after the Raiders game, “I only look at the next game” in regards to the question “do you ever think back to the first seven games and say, ‘darn why couldn’t we have done this then”.
Sparano has always been respected by his players but not necessarily liked. He isn’t out to make friends but to coach a team, he has promised to do the Jared O’drick “Pee Wee Herman” dance if Odrick makes a meaningful sack in a major situation, coming off the field on Sunday he jumped up to shoulder bump LT Jake Long. It appears that the warning had the effect he was looking for, even though his words were not so much to inspire as to blatantly warn the players of their own impending future.
The team is having some fun, finally and it appears that maybe, the head coach is too.