The news came to me as I sat waiting for my son to finish basketball practice. Normally I check the news wire throughout the day and never expect to see much “newsworthy” at 5PM. Yesterday however, the headline screamed “Tony Sparano Fired”.
Now, I have spent my first few posts here defending Jeff Ireland. I believe he has built a good (NOTICE THE WORD GOOD, NOT GREAT) roster that is almost playoff caliber. I also believe that after the draft debacles of 2002 – 2007, that’s good work. Remember that only 26 of the 73 men taken to Cam Cameron‘s first and only training camp are still in the NFL. The proverbial cupboard was proverbially bare.
However it was shocking to see Ireland fire Sparano with 3 games left. As my son got in the car and started spilling his guts about practice, my mind wandered thinking about the curious timing (when it come to the Dolphins my Father of the Year trophy gets tossed aside!!!)
Then it hit me … of course … should have thought of it right away. The already frayed relationship between coach and general manager broke over playing time. I’m sure Ireland, with the team now having 9 losses, wanted to see younger players over the next 3 weeks to get a better read on their futures. Sparano, being the competitor he is, probably declined the invitation. Ireland felt it was best to recommend to Stephen Ross that Sparano be fired, clearly thinking the bad publicity was worth the evaluation time.
So this Sunday while you watch the game, if you see Koa Misi, Chris Clemons, Jared Odrick, Philip Merling and Jimmy Wilson on defense and Daniel Thomas, Steve Slaton, John Jerry and Nate Garner on offense, we can be assured that is the back story. If you see Clyde Gates do more than watch kickoffs sail over his head, we can be convinced.
As for Ireland, keep in mind he is one of the younger GMs in the league. He has made mistakes, both talent wise and publicity wise (see Dez Bryant). He is painfully shy in front of the camera. The time, however, has come for him to “man up”. Whether intentionally or not, it appears this franchise is now firmly in his hands. No Bill Parcells to distract him and now no Sparano to foil his plans.