It Was the Best of Times…
Remember when Tony Sparano was just a newbie? When folks decided to call him Tony Soprano because haha their names are similar and The Sopranos was still a hit on HBO? Well, can you believe Tony is already in his fourth season in South Florida? It is all true. And, of course, Sparano’s seat is almost universally deemed the hottest in the NFL following the ‘Phins 0-6 start and most recent collapse against the Tebow-led Broncos. So it’s hard to recall that just a few seasons ago a spry, first-year head coach with the mobster-like name was hot for a whole ‘nother reason. Lest you had forgotten (as we clearly had), we’re here to remind you of when Tony Sparano was the bee’s knees in South Beach.Let’s take a step back in time. The year is 2008. The Dolphins have recently finished a 2007 campaign where they posted a franchise-worst 1-15 record under Cam Cameron. Tony. Time. Appointed by then-GM Bill Parcells, Sparano inherited this embarrassment of a Miami roster following assistant stints in Cleveland, Jacksonville, Dallas and Washington. During his stint in D.C., Wikipedia makes the bold claim that he was responsible for “launching the career of Ross Tucker
” (we LOVE Wikipedia…read that last line again).Joking aside, we were floored when we took a look back at that rookie season. In case you didn’t recall (since we sure as hell didn’t), Sparano only orchestrated one of the all-time turnaround stories in NFL history. He remains the only coach to take a previously one-win team to the playoffs in the following season. Sparano is one of two to pull off a 10-win improvement from one year to the next.
>His 2008 Dolphins, led by none other than 32-year old cannon-armed Chad Pennington (as a Jets fan, I poke fun with nothing but love for Chadwick), went 11-5 and won the AFC East. Their leading receivers? A young Ted Ginn Jr. and the always-dangerous Greg Camarillo. Strong safety Yeremiah Bell led the team in tackles. Although we should admit that Joey Porter’s 17.5 sacks were pretty impressive.Still, all in all not a bad little body of work for a rookie head man with that roster AND coming off a 1-15. Unfortunately, Sparano’s on-field talent has gotten no better, nor has his record. I actually give him credit for leading lesser versions of the ‘Phins to competitive 7-9 seasons in 2009 and 2010. Sadly, though, it’s hard to maintain greatness. Like my memory, the recollections of surprising success have long left the hearts and minds of Miami fans.
Sparano is as good as gone they say. For Dolphins fans, though, it’s hard to see that a chance will make a hold lot of difference.