Better Coach for the Miami Dolphins: Tony Sparano or a Meatball?

Bruce TContributor IJanuary 30, 2011

The Sparano "fist pump"
The Sparano "fist pump"Jim Rogash/Getty Images

After consecutive, uninspiring 7-9 seasons, Dolphins owner Stephen Ross made a failed attempt this winter to hire hot college coach Jim Harbaugh and, apparently, made no attempt at all to hire former Super Bowl winners Bill Cowher and Jon Gruden. Instead, he extended the contracts of Dolphins coach Tony Sparano and GM Jeff Ireland.

While the proven winners available didn't seem desirable to Ross, there was one other option he should have considered. Instead of sticking with Sparano, should Ross have considered hiring a meatball? Let's compare.


Game Day Strategy

Sparano's offensive strategy is designed to take maximum advantage of his kickers; focused, as it is, on settling for an occasional three-pointer between punts. A meatball likely would not celebrate a field goal and, since it has no hands, it certainly couldn't do so with a fist pump.

Advantage: Meatball


Handling QBs

Chad Henne came into the league with all the attributes needed to be a starting NFL QB. Pat White came into the league with none of them. They both failed. Though adeptly preparing QBs is clearly not a Sparano strength, the meatball hasn't done any better.

Advantage: Neither


Player Personnel Decisions

The Dolphins finished fourth in the NFL in rushing in 2009, so Sparano quickly rearranged his offensive line and the result was the NFL's 21st ranked rushing attack in 2010. That's results you can use—if you plan to lose. The meatball preferred to stand pat and do nothing with last year's offensive front. That was the better plan.

Advantage: Meatball


Relationship with Players 

The players claim to like Tony, though several current and former players took issue with his "micro-managing." Everyone loves a meatball.

Advantage: Meatball


Hiring Staff

After his offense struggled through a dismal season, Sparano came to the defense of much reviled offensive coordinator Dan Henning, saying he would be happy to keep him on. After Henning wisely retired, Sparano searched far and wide before hiring an OC who ran one of the only two offenses that was worse than the Dolphins in 2010.

Sparano then proceeded to hire six more assistant coaches; almost none of them with any experience at their new jobs. A meatball is incapable of hiring anyone.

Advantage: Neither



Unhappy with the level of preseason play, Sparano played his starters in the Dolphins' final warm-up game against the Dallas Cowboys' second- and third-stringers. All-Pro tackle Jake Long suffered an injury and was nagged by it for most of the season.

The Cowboys' scrubs won. The Dolphins were not inspired. A meatball inspires everyone.

Advantage: Meatball



Sparano wears cool sunglasses during games while a meatball does not.

Advantage: Sparano



Sparano's teams have lost the last three games in each of his last two seasons. Down the stretch in 2010, hanging onto a thread of a hope for a playoff berth, the Dolphins lost home games to perennial league doormats (the Detroit Lions, the Buffalo Bills and the Cleveland Browns).

A meatball is tasty.

Advantage: Meatball


Though sometimes a whole is greater than the sum of its parts, it appears from this analysis (a 5-1-2 advantage), that a meatball might be the wiser choice to guide Miami into the 2011 season.

Still, Sparano does have those cool shades.