If the Miami Dolphins are to be successful in 2009, retaining both offensive and defensive coordinators will provide players and coaches with the continuity the team has lacked over the last decade.
Unfortunately, as the Dolphins changed head coaches over the last 10 years, they also went through offensive and defensive coordinators. Teams need to develop stability among players and coaches, and the Dolphins had to install a new scheme every other year.
This year, the only major change to the coaching staff is at offensive line, where new offensive-line coach Dave DeGuglielmo will bring a new attitude to the unit.
Sparano enters sophomore campaign in Miami
Tony Sparano’s rookie season as an NFL coach didn’t start well as the Dolphins sputtered to an 0-2 start. But he kept his cool, made adjustments, and his attitude won over the locker room—and brought in a division title.
Sparano began his coaching career in 1984 at the University of New Haven, where he spent four seasons teaching the offensive line. After serving in a variety of offensive positions, Sparano got his first head coaching gig at New Haven, where he worked from 1994 to 1998, before entering the NFL.
His rise to fame begun as a Dallas Cowboys assistant from 2003 to 2007, when he served in a range of offensive roles under Bill Parcells and Wade Phillips. Yet his first start in the NFL was with the Cleveland Browns in 1999, as an offensive-quality-control coach.
Despite Sparano never holding a head coaching position above Division II at the University of New Haven, Parcells saw enough of him while at Dallas to know he was an NFL-caliber head coach. Parcells was proved right, as Sparano led a 1-15 team the year before, to an 11-5 record and division title.
Sparano’s instinct to go for it on numerous fourth-down attempts helped reinforce to his Dolphins players that he believed in them, which resonated throughout the locker room and spurred the team to its success in 2008.
However, a rookie head coach needs good assistants with plenty of experience to have success, and Sparano’s staff had plenty of NFL seasoning to rely on.
Henning brings decades of experience to offensive
An NFL coach for nearly 30 years, offensive coordinator Dan Henning’s creativity and expertise allowed the Dolphins’ offensive to be more successful than the talent would allow in 2008.
With 28 seasons of NFL coaching under his belt, Henning is the most experienced coach on Sparano’s staff.
Henning’s stint in coaching began in 1968 as he served as the offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach at Florida State University. His first taste of the NFL came in 1972 as the quarterbacks and receivers coach for the Houston Oilers.
Over the years, Henning has seen just about every type of offensive and defensive scheme, as he as worked as a head coach, assistant head coach, quarterbacks coach, receivers coach and offensive coordinator in the NFL and in the college ranks as well.
He is even on his second stint with the Miami Dolphins as he worked under Don Shula from 1979 to1980 as the quarterbacks and receivers coach.
And with him entering his second consecutive season with the Dolphins, his familiarity with the players and vice versa, the Dolphins’ offensive should continue to exploit defenses in 2009.
Lee brings 'Wildcat' to Dolphins
Of course it was quarterbacks coach David Lee who brought the Wildcat formation from the University of Arkansas to the Dolphins last year. The formation helped turn around the Dolphins’ anemic offensive and win a division crown.
Another former Dallas Cowboy assistant under Bill Parcells, Lee spent more than 25 years developing college quarterbacks before his break with the Cowboys in 2003.
With Henning getting up in years, Lee could be the offensive coordinator waiting in the wings. If he does, the Wildcat may become a staple of the Dolphins for years to come.
Pasqualoni rebuilds Dolphins’ D
With the Dolphins converting from a traditional 4-3 defense to a 3-4 system in 2008, an experienced defensive coordinator was needed and Paul Pasqualoni was hired for the job.
Under Pasqualoni, the Dolphins improved their sacks, takeaways and, most importantly, they were able to control the opponents’ running game as they were ranked 10th in 2008 against the run, while finishing last in 2007.
Pasqualoni climbed to the NFL in 2005 as a Cowboys defensive assistant, after starting out as a high school coach and spending 29 years as a college coach, including 14 seasons as the head coach at the University of Syracuse.
After leading the Dolphins to a ninth-ranked defense in terms of points given up, Pasqualoni will be returning to the unit, which should only improve the chemistry.
Revamped secondary will rely on Bowles’ experience
With three rookies and two free agent signings, the Miami Dolphins’ secondary will need to grow together throughout the year to be successful, but the unit’s coach should help speed the process.
In his first year in Miami, secondary coach Todd Bowles led a unit that improved its interception total from 14 in 2007 to 18 in 2008. A former Cowboys assistant under Parcells, Bowles also has sixteen combined years of NFL coaching and playing experience to rely on.
The Dolphins were fortunate to retain Bowles as he had been interviewed for head coaching positions during the off season and should continue to be a strong candidate for the position.
For now, the secondary will benefit from his understanding of the NFL and with games against Randy Moss and Terrell Owens looming, Bowles will be heavily counted on to continue to improve the Dolphins’ revamped secondary.
With almost no turnover among the coaches, the Dolphins should be able to build on last year’s success and with a brutal schedule; they’ll need all the familiarity with each other they can get.