Confessions of a Simplistically Complex Group of Masterminds

Wilson ManigatContributor IMay 28, 2009

Confessions of a Simplistically Complex Group of Masterminds

Miami Dolphins Coaching Staff PROFILE Edition


So you think you have what it takes to be an NFL Head Coach?

Can you develop a team winning strategy while ensuring each and every person, from coaches to the maintenance crew, performs on one accord? Assess your team’s strengths and weaknesses day in and day out? Battle endemic insomnia, survive a grueling and tedious sixteen game schedule all while your job security is probably in limbo.

Most importantly win, win, and win!

Then while you’re at it, rewrite a couple of records in the record book and voila; you get to keep your job for another year.

Well, obviously someone failed to give Cam Cameron, former head coach of the Miami Dolphins, that memo.

In the NFL, the right coaching decisions combined with focused preparation can turn a last place team into a championship contender-Introducing Tony Sparano and his staff of quintessential masterminds.

Tony Sparano: The Leader

Born October 7, 2961; Tony Sparano’s road to glory may have been long, but it is indeed unique. Sparano went from head coach of the University of New Haven to becoming the first coach in NFL history to lead a one win NFL team to a playoff berth the following year.

Sparano is a veteran of nine seasons in the NFL and this will be the fifth different team he has been with. The New Haven native, who has 24 years of coaching experience overall, got his start in the league with the Cleveland Browns in 1999 as the offensive quality control coach. He was promoted to offensive line coach in 2000, and then became the Washington Redskins' tight ends coach in 2001.


Why you have to respect him…

The guy just has a knack for understanding what it takes to win and receives very little credit. Let’s just admit it, the guy is brilliant. He wasn’t afraid to test the waters by putting Matt Roth at linebacker, Ronnie Brown at QB etc.

The NFL is like a dynamic game of chess; every move counts. In this league your every move is already assessed before you make it and Sparano knew that. By taking the chances he did last year he reached a plateau that many didn’t expect from him in his first year, so you have no choice but to respect him.


Offensive Coaches: The Voices

Dan Henning (OC) was the offensive coordinator with the Carolina Panthers from 2002-06. He embarks on his second stint with the Dolphins, having served as the team’s quarterbacks and receivers coach from 1979-80 under Don Shula.

James Saxon (RB) comes to the Dolphins after having spent eight years as an NFL assistant, including the past seven as running backs coach with the Kansas City Chiefs. In Saxon’s seven-year stint with the Chiefs, three different backs earned Pro Bowl status, including running backs Priest Holmes (2001-03) and Larry Johnson (2005-06), as well as fullback Tony Richardson (2003-04).

David Lee (QB) comes to the team with four years of experience at the NFL level, all with the Dallas Cowboys from 2003-06. In 2007, Lee ran the offense and tutored the quarterbacks at the University of Arkansas when the team posted a regular season record of 8-4 and went on to appear in the Cotton Bowl. Following the 2007 season, he had assumed a similar role at Ole Miss under Head Coach Houston Nutt.

Karl Dorrell (WR) comes to the Dolphins following a five-year stint as the head coach at UCLA (2003-07). During that time the Bruins went 35-28 and appeared in a bowl game all five seasons. In 2002, they went 10-2, recorded a victory over Northwestern in the Sun Bowl and finished with a No. 13 national ranking in the USA Today Coaches poll, and were No. 16 by the Associated Press. For the team’s performance that year, Dorrell was named the Pac-10 Conference co-Coach of the Year. Before that, he was wide receivers coach with the Denver Broncos from 2000-02. In Denver, Rod Smith’s first two career Pro Bowl selections coincided with Dorrell’s first two years with the team. In fact, Smith surpassed the 1,000-yard receiving mark all three years that Dorrell was there, and also attained the 100-catch plateau the first two seasons. In addition, Ed McCaffrey went over the 100-catch and 1,000-yard receiving plateaus as well in 2000, as the pair combined for 201 receptions, 2,919 receiving yards and 17 touchdowns that yea

George DeLeone (TE) is a veteran of 37 seasons as a football coach, primarily in the collegiate ranks and in a myriad of roles. Most recently, he was the offensive coordinator at Temple University the past two seasons, while also tutoring the interior offensive linemen in 2007 and the quarterbacks in 2006. Prior to that, he was the run game coordinator/offensive line coach at the University of Mississippi in 2005. DeLeone’s one year of NFL experience came in 1997 when he coached the offensive line with San Diego Chargers. A bulk of his coaching career has been spent at Syracuse, where he served as an assistant from 1985-96 and 1998-2004. During that 19-year span he served in a variety of roles including offensive line coach (1985-86, 2000-04), offensive coordinator (1987-96), defensive coordinator (1998), quarterbacks coach (1999). He also held the title of associate head coach from 1998-2004

 Dave DeGuglielmo (OL) spent the past five years as assistant offensive line coach for the Giants, who won the Super Bowl last season and led the NFL in rushing in 2008. DeGuglielmo and Dolphins head coach Tony Sparano worked together from 1991-93 at Boston University, where Sparano was offensive coordinator and DeGuglielmo coached the offensive line. DeGuglielmo also coached at South Carolina and Connecticut.

Defensive Coaches: The Muscle

Paul Pasqualoni (DC) spent the past three years with the Cowboys (2005-07), the first as tight ends coach and the past two tutoring the team’s linebackers. In Pasqualoni’s lone season as tight ends coach, Jason Witten caught 66 passes for 757 yards and six touchdowns, as he was named to the NFC Pro Bowl squad. In 2006, three of the Cowboys’ top four tacklers were linebackers, while two of the team’s top three tacklers in 2007 were linebackers. DeMarcus Ware, a first-round draft choice of the team in 2005, was selected to the Pro Bowl in each of his two seasons under Pasqualoni’s tutelage.

George Edwards (ILB) is entering his third season as the Dolphins’ linebackers coach in 2007. He possesses nine seasons as an NFL assistant coach on his résumé, including one as a coordinator.

Kacy Rodgers (DL) brings 10 years of defensive line coaching experience to Miami, along with a stellar career at linebacker/defensive end for the University of Tennessee. Rodgers was the defensive line coach at Arkansas prior to joining the Cowboy's, where he helped the Razorbacks to a 9-5 record, the Western Division title of the Southeastern Conference, a berth against Georgia in the SEC title game and an appearance in the Music City Bowl. The Hogs defense ranked second in the SEC, 18th in the nation, against the run, allowing just 113.6 yards-per-game, and in posting two shut-outs, finished the season ranked 26th in the nation in points allowed at 19.8 per-game.

Jim Reid (OLB) joined the Dolphins as a defensive assistant. Reid, who compiled a 3-19 record at VMI the past two seasons, will work for his former boss, former Syracuse coach Paul Pasqualoni, the Dolphins newly appointed defensive coordinator.

Todd Bowels (DB) Bowles joins Miami with eight years of experience as an NFL assistant, the past three of which were spent with the Cowboys, where he served as the team’s secondary coach. In his three years in that post, three Cowboys defensive backs were chosen to a combined five Pro Bowls, including three by safety Roy Williams.


Dan Henning: The Secret Weapon

The key member of this Miami Dolphin staff has to be the always critical, creative and open minded Dan Henning. He added the spread offense, which we have come to know as the “Wildcat offense”. Similar to Pop Warner’s singe wing offense; it is an unconventional, college type offense that many believed wouldn’t work.

With the Wildcat offense, Dan Henning knew that it presented a disadvantage no one would expect; that disadvantage is 11 vs. 11.

In a typical game, with the QB under center, the game now becomes 10 vs. 11. With the QB as a receiver and the RB as the direct snap QB, the playing fields are even. For the play to work you need a versatile player who can, not only run the ball but pass as well. Knowing that the Dolphins drafted Pat White who will be able to present mismatches and create space.

With all that being said, once the space has been created, and the defense doesn’t know what’s next, Dan Henning will be able to open up the playbook.

Take Care.