The House That Parcells Built: A Look at the Miami Dolphins' Coaching Staff
I'm not going to lie, in the past I've never been a huge Bill Parcells fan.
As a die-hard Virginia Cavalier fan, I've become very familiar with the Parcells coaching tree, because Al Groh constantly talks about speaking with Patriots head coach Bill Belichick or former Cowboys head coach Bill Parcells for advice.
A lot of the coaches in the Parcells coaching tree follow the same outdated practices, such as not allowing their assistants speak to the media. Bill Parcells is a brilliant football mind, but practices like that one, I will never agree with.
Parcells, like Groh, was known in the past for his harsh ways of dealing with the media. The tuna will never be known as the "warm and fuzzy" type of personality.
However, his track record as a football mind is indisputable. With the name Bill Parcells comes instant football credibility and when he decided to join the Miami Dolphins, I was very intrigued by the move.
Sure enough, 11 surprising wins and a playoff berth later, not even the biggest critic of Bill Parcells can say it was a bad move to bring him to Miami.
He and GM Jeff Ireland were the key architects to the coaching staff that was able to install an entirely different culture in Miami. A staff of creativity, a staff that's not afraid to take risks, and most of all a staff willing to try different things.
They key pieces of the staff I plan to highlight are: quarterbacks coach David Lee, offensive coordinator Dan Henning, head coach Tony Sparano, and defensive coordinator Paul Pasqualoni.
Let's get down to it shall we.
Quarterbacks Coach David Lee
Before last season, not too many could tell you who David Lee was. Isn't he an NBA player for the Knicks? Played at Florida, right? Not that David Lee.
This is the man who is widely credited with bringing the "Wildcat formation" to the NFL last year. He ran the formation at Arkansas with running backs Darren McFadden and Felix Jones and decided to give it a try in Miami.
The offense worked so well that the "Wildcat" is one of the most popular offensive formations in the NFL and plenty more teams will likely experiment with it, as long as they have the personnel.
Lee played quarterback for three years for the Vanderbilt Commodores(1972-1974). He was named the MVP as a senior after he led the SEC in passing and led the 'Dores to a 24-10 upset win over the fifth-ranked Florida Gators.
In his final two years at Vanderbilt, Dolphins executive vice president/football operations Bill Parcells was the defensive coordinator there.
Lee has 29 years of college coaching experience, including five years as a head coach at UTEP.
He had three different coaching stints at Arkansas, 1984-1988, 2001-2002 and 2007. He ran the offense and coached the quarterbacks in 2007, when the Razorbacks posted a regular season record of 8-4 and earned a Cotton Bowl berth.
Using the "wild-hog" formation where running back Darren McFadden would take snaps out of the shotgun, the Arkansas offense put up the best numbers in school history, lighting up the scoreboard for over 37 points a game, while chewing up 450 total yards of offense per contest as well.
When Bill Parcells was the head coach in Dallas in 2003, Lee was hired as the offensive quality control coach. He was promoted to quarterbacks coach in 2005 and worked with Tony Romo.
Now, David Lee is one of the most well-known quarterbacks coaches in the country. The highly publicized "Wildcat" formation will forever be linked to his name, because he helped to introduce it to the National Football League.
His creativity and willingness to try new and different things should be commended. The trick plays and the "razzle-dazzle" were both things that were much needed to spice up the bland offenses in the NFL.
Teams simply don't try trick plays enough and maybe David Lee's philosophy will have them re-thinking their ways.
Dolphins General Manager Jeff Ireland spoke very highly of Lee when he was hired on the staff in January of 2008:
“It is critical to hire someone who understands the position and can develop players there, and David has the ability to do that. Bill (Parcells) and I are very familiar with David from our time working together in Dallas, and he is an outstanding coach.
"He has a blueprint for success in developing quarterbacks, and is widely recognized for his teaching and coaching acumen."
Dolphins fans have to be pumped that Lee is their quarterbacks coach. For as long as he's in Miami the 'Phins offense is going to be innovative, effective, and fun to watch!
Offensive Coordinator Dan Henning
Meet the man who held the keys to the NFL's most exciting offense last season and one of the more brilliant minds in the game of football today.
Miami offensive coordinator Dan Henning made a splash and in a big way last season in Miami as he and quarterbacks coach David Lee teamed up to unveil the "Wildcat" formation.
It was one of the most impressive offenses in the NFL and under Henning's watch, quarterback Chad Pennington had one of his best seasons in years, throwing for over 3,000 yards.
Many people might be wondering about the connection between Dan Henning and Bill Parcells; they both coached at Florida State in 1970.
Henning was also the offensive coordinator under Parcells while he was with the New York Jets in the late 1990s, helping guide quarterback Vinny Testaverde to his best season ever.
As a player, Henning was a signal-caller for William and Mary in college. He played professionally in 1966 for the AFL's San Diego Chargers.
He has six years a head coach in the NFL on his resume a 1983-1986 stint with the Atlanta Falcons and an 1989-1991 stint with the San Diego Chargers.
Henning was also a college head coach with the Boston College Eagles from 1994-1996, and in his final year there he discovered that some of his players bet against their own team.
He was more recently the offensive coordinator for the Carolina Panthers from 2002-2006.
Dolphins fans know that with Henning at the reigns of the offense, the offensive system is in excellent hands and it should be exciting to watch what new wrinkles he comes out with in the future.
Head Coach Tony Sparano
It shouldn't be a surprise to anybody that Miami Dolphins head coach Tony Sparano is the one with the strongest ties to Bill Parcells. Sparano was the Cowboys offensive line coach from 2003-2007, when Bill Parcells was the head coach in Dallas.
Parcells is the man calling many of the shots down in Miami behind the scenes, and he wanted to make sure he got his guy in there.
I'll admit when the Dolphins hired Tony Sparano as their head coach, I was a bit skeptical. An offensive line coach? I'm so used to hearing the words former offensive or defensive coordinator before somebody is hired as an NFL coach, it was definitely a surprise.
After the Dolphins posted a 10-win turnaround this past season--tying an NFL record, Sparano silenced many of his critics, myself included.
Taking a look at his background, it's not a surprise why the coaching trio of David Lee, Dan Henning, and Tony Sparano seem to think alike—they all three have extensive backgrounds on the offensive side of the ball.
Sparano was the offensive coordinator in Dallas in 2006.
He has several years of professional coaching experience with NFL tight ends and offensive lines, so it shouldn't be surprising to anyone that tight end Anthony Fasano has excelled with the Dolphins.
As a player, Sparano was a center and a four-year letterman for the Division II New Haven Chargers.
He's not a very flashy guy, but seems to do pretty well in press conferences and interviews. His style of just going to work and staying humble is refreshing.
While he might be watching one of the NFL's flashiest and most-exciting offenses, Sparano makes sure that his players stay humble and focused.
For all the attention he's received for the Dolphins turnaround, he has taken it in stride. A class act, Sparano has been seen shaking hands with Dolphins fans in front of the team's facility before.
Tony Sparano, the head coach that shocked the NFL for his willingness to try new things. Thus, the "Wildcat" was introduced and for that many Dolphins fans should be forever grateful.
Defensive Coordinator Paul Pasqualoni
Dolphins defensive coordinator Paul Pasqualoni shares the "Cowboys Connection" with Bill Parcells. He coached for them from 2005-2007.
He coached the Cowboys' tight ends in 2005, where he's credited with the development of Pro Bowl tight end Jason Witten.
Many college football fans across the country will always know Pasqualoni as the former head coach of the Syracuse Orangemen. He coached there from 1987-2004. He only had one losing season at Syracuse, in 2002, but most of his teams there were in the top 25.
He coached such stars as Dwight Freeney and Donovan McNabb while at Syracuse, and he posted an impressive overall record of 107-59-1 during his 14 years there.
During the 2008-2009 season with the Dolphins, Pasqualoni's 3-4 defensive scheme was noted for its attacking, blitzing style that produced 40 sacks. Linebacker Joey Porter had one of the best seasons in his career last season in his scheme, racking up an eye-gouging 18 sacks for the 'Phins.
With the addition of defensive end Jason Taylor and help in the secondary, Pasqualoni's scheme will only improve this season.
Dolphins fans are certainly excited to see how much their team's defense will improve in the years to come!