The NFL Draft wrapped up yesterday and while the Miami Dolphins were making news with who they were taking, owner Stephen Ross took to radio to air out some of his teams issues a couple of years ago. In other words, Stephen Ross threw his previous head coach, Tony Sparano, under the bus.
Ross was speaking with Dan Le Batard on 790 AM when he told the host that his former head coach “damaged the entire organization”. Ross went on to say that following his flirtation with Jim Harbaugh while Sparano was still employed didn’t sit well with the coach. While that is a right, Ross upped Sparano’s salary and tried to make amends.
Of course it was never really going to work out either way. Sparano’s demeanor did change and the reality is that his disdain for Ross and Ireland was clear to see throughout the season. It was reported that following a victory, Sparano refused to acknowledge Ross’ presence in the locker room and at one point walked past him without so much as a nod.
It was a change in attitude that I witnessed first hand.
Rewinding the calendar to Sparano’s first two seasons in Miami, Sparano came off as the New Yorker with an attitude and despite his attempts to be brash, he came off spirited. On all three occasions of our web group meeting with the head coach, Sparano openly talked about his relationship with Ireland and how they worked together. Year four took on a more serious tone and it was easy to see the stress in Sparano’s eyes.
During his fourth visit with us “webmasters”, Ireland had lost that slight edge of humor and in it’s place was a harsher tone. Asked if the team would continue using the Wild Cat formation after the departure of Dan Henning, Sparano said it wasn’t likely. One of our group members made a comment regarding that it was about time. Sparano simply said, “Yeah, three years ago you called it genius”. Not one shed of humor.
Sparano appeared worn out in only the second week of the season and it was clear that the off-season events had taken it’s toll on him. It was an unfortunate mistake that happened to an otherwise good man. The impact of Ross’ decision to include Jeff Ireland on his flight to California did nothing to smooth over the relationship between coach and GM.
Ross made a point that Sparano was never his appointed head coach. He inherited Sparano a year after Bill Parcells was brought on board. While it’s probably not a smart thing to do, blaming a bad season on a bitter coach, there was and is definite truth to his statements. “I don’t think he was the right head coach for the Miami Dolphins”. Ross further stated that Sparano couldn’t put it behind him.
In the end it really doesn’t matter. Stephen Ross is the owner and can say whatever he likes and the reality is that in the four years that Sparano was the coach of the Dolphin, they didn’t win in three of them. It’s also true that Sparano was a different person in his final season and the team did indeed suffer as a result of it. Ross suffered as well. His image took a hit so big that to this day he is still trying to correct it.
I personally don’t have a problem with what Ross said. It’s the truth. Sparano was a pro and acted like a child, if in fact all of this is indeed true which from what I saw was. But then again, I agreed with Jeff Ireland calling a fan an “asshole”.