Sparano was amazing


Other Than John Harbaugh, Which Rookie Coach Has Done The Best Job, The Falcons' Mike Smith Or The Dolphins' Tony Sparano?

December 24, 2008|By BILL ORDINE

First of all, it is absolutely startling what both Mike Smith in Atlanta and Tony Sparano in Miami have accomplished. However, leaving the Ravens' John Harbaugh out of this particular discussion, I give the nod to Sparano for the most remarkable turnaround for not only this season, but perhaps all time.

A year ago, the Dolphins, now 10-5, were 1-15 and seemingly bereft of talent (that win over the Ravens notwithstanding). The few veteran stars they did have, namely linebacker Zach Thomas and defensive end Jason Taylor, headed off to Dallas and Washington, respectively.

Meanwhile, new front office honcho Bill Parcells' approach in the draft, taking offensive tackle Jake Long with the No. 1 pick, signaled that the Dolphins had a distant horizon for turning the program around.

But Sparano installed an offense - the so-called "Wildcat," with running back Ronnie Brown taking the snap - that allowed Miami to steal some early wins. And he created an environment for quarterback Chad Pennington, who performed unevenly with the New York Jets the previous three years, to have an incredibly efficient season (17 touchdown passes, seven interceptions), despite the fact that Pennington was a relatively late addition.

Sparano has also taken fringe players and plugged them in at key times.

Heard of Lousaka Polite? He's a fullback the Dolphins signed in October who has just 68 yards on 17 carries - but 13 have been for first downs.

Recall Maryland tight end Joey Haynos? Haynos has one catch for the Dolphins after being signed in September; it was for the winning touchdown against the San Francisco 49ers.

This is not to take away from Smith or even Harbaugh, but Sparano had neither the great fortune of catching lightning in a bottle with a franchise rookie quarterback nor the luxury of inheriting a fistful of Pro Bowl players. And with a win Sunday against the Jets, his club will be AFC East champions.

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