Miami Dolphins: 15 Possible Replacements for Tony Sparano as Team's Head Coach

Thomas Galicia@thomasgaliciaFeatured Columnist IVOctober 4, 2011

Miami Dolphins: 15 Possible Replacements for Tony Sparano as Team's Head Coach

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    The Miami Dolphins find themselves at 0-4 and looking at a bye week. 

    To a surprise to anyone who watches football, The Dolphins are likely to keep Tony Sparano as head coach at least through the bye week until after their Monday Night matchup against the New York Jets on October 17th. 

    Stephen Ross even said this about his embattled head coach:

    “Everybody involved with this team — the players, the coaches, are disappointed to be 0-4. We have to stay together and really get behind our coach. I believe Tony is the right coach. All the games we’ve played have been very close, could have gone either way. But when you see the team practicing and playing as hard as they can, I think that’s a good sign"

    Tony Sparano? Right coach? Does the NFL drug test their owners because based off of Mr. Ross' comments on Monday, they might want to consider it.

    Does anyone have $1 Billion they'd like to lend me to buy the team? I already have some semblance of a plan, I'll name Scott Altman my general manager, hire a competent head coach, and even get Chris J. Nelson to work out guys for the practice squad. 

    All kidding aside, its obvious that Ross' comments were a very thinly veiled vote of confidence like when Jerry Jones told the press last season that Wade Phillips would finish the year as Cowboys football coach. 

    Two days later the Cowboys were destroyed by Green Bay on national television, then Wade Phillips was relieved of his duties to fill out his resume and fax it to Houston, where he's now their defensive coordinator and likely on his way to the post-season. 

    Now the similarities are pretty eerie, except Miami doesn't really have a Jason Garrett waiting in the wings, and unlike Dallas, the Dolphins will likely fire their GM (at least one would hope). 

    Then I looked on Bleacher Report to see not one but two articles talking about why Tony Sparano should be fired as Miami Dolphins head coach. 

    I must say, I agree with both, however I'm not going to just talk about how Tony Sparano should be fired, I'm an optimist, an idea guy, I wanted to go with something bigger, something better, something with a shelf-life that will last the rest of the season. 

    So I've decided to write a semi-sequel to an article I wrote the day after the 2010 season finale when it looked like Sparano was out for good, I even lifted a few chapters from it. 

    But this time around, I scoured the country looking for more potential candidates, a few dark horses, and of course a few more candidates I named as a joke. 

    So here's 15 potential future Miami Dolphins Head Coaches. 

Jon Gruden

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    AGE: 48

    RECORD: 100-85 (Including Playoffs, where he's 5-4)

    PREVIOUS JOBS: Future Head Coach Of The University of Miami Hurricanes (One magical day in November 2010, reported, never confirmed, killed by hiring of Al Golden); Volunteer Assistant Offensive Line Coach, Carrollwood Day School, Tampa, Fla. (2010); Monday Night Football Analyst, ESPN (2009-present); Head Coach, Tampa Bay Buccaneers (2002-2008); Head Coach, Oakland Raiders (1998-2001); Offensive Coordinator, Philadelphia Eagles (1995-1997); Wide Receivers Coach, Green Bay Packers (1992-1994)

    Milestones: Super Bowl XXXVII Champion (with Tony Dungy's players, which I have to bring up). Last head coach to leave the Raiders with his sanity intact (an accomplishment when working for Al Davis).

    PROS: An experienced coach who already has a Super Bowl ring, won division titles with the likes of Brian Greise, Chris Simms and an over the hill Jeff Garcia.

    Rejuvenated the career of Rich Gannon while in Oakland after many thought Gannon was a career backup at best. Knows a good football player when he sees it and points it out every Monday Night.

    CONS: Only Super Bowl he won was with Tony Dungy's players. Fired after a major Buccaneers meltdown in 2008. .

    Just read this if you haven't read it yet, or read it again. I've been banging the Gruden drum since November, 2010; even before he was rumored to take over the Hurricanes job.

Joe Philbin

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    AGE: 50

    RECORD: No Head Coaching Experience

    PREVIOUS JOBS: Offensive Coordinator, Green Bay Packers (2007-present); Offensive Line Coach, Green Bay Packers (2006); Tight Ends Coach/Assistant Offensive Line Coach, Green Bay Packers (2004-2005); Assistant Offensive Line Coach, Green Bay Packers (2003); Offensive Line Coach, Iowa (1999-2002); Offensive Coordinator/Offensive Line Coach, Harvard (1997-1998); Offensive Coordinator/Offensive Line Coach, Northeastern (1995-1996); Offensive Line Coach, Ohio (1994); Offensive Coordinator/Offensive Line Coach, Allegheny College (1990-1993); Offensive Line Coach, United States Merchant Marine Academy (1988-1989); Offensive Line Coach, Worchester Polytechnic Institute (1986-1987); Graduate Assistant, Tulane (1984-1985).

    Milestones: Offensive Coordinator of an offense that so far this season ranks first, ranked ninth in 2010, third in 2009, fifth in 2008, and 4th in 2007. Yes, the season his team won the Super Bowl was his lowest ranked offense. Oh yeah, his team won the Super Bowl last season and are favorites to repeat this season. 

    PROS: Still fairly young, has a proven track record as an offensive line coach as well as offensive coordinator, two huge areas of need for Miami. 

    CONS: No NFL or College head coaching experience.

    Philbin seems like he'd be a good NFL coach, however one has to wonder if the performance of his offensive units might have a lot to do with the fact that his teams head coach Mike McCarthy is himself a great offensive coach, as well as the fact that his two quarterbacks have been Brett Favre and Aaron Rodgers

Rob Ryan

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    AGE: 48

    RECORD: N/A (never been a head coach at any level)

    PREVIOUS JOBS: Defensive Coordinator, Dallas Cowboys (2011); Defensive Coordinator, Cleveland Browns (2009-2010); Defensive Coordinator, Oakland Raiders (2004-2008); Linebackers Coach, New England Patriots (2000-2003)

    Milestones: Grew up with Rex as his twin brother and managed to not be too annoyed by him. In all seriousness though, has coached some decent defenses.

    PROS: A young, hungry head coach who's had yet to prove himself in the NFL.Very energetic and possesses the sense of humor of his brother and father (former Bears Defensive coordinator and former Eagles head coach Buddy Ryan.) Being Rex Ryan's twin brother could be a pro.

    CONS: Only top-5 defenses he's ever coached was with the Patriots and in 2006 with Oakland, although currently his Dallas squad ranks fourth in the league. Rex Ryan's twin brother, could be a major con as well.

    Two Ryans, one division. For some, this would be a dream. For others, a nightmare. 

    Take a heated rivalry and now add the sprinklings of a sibling rivalry and at the very least Miami has one Monday Night Game scheduled per year.

    (Quick Rex Ryan-related Tangent alert! Imagine this scenario Dolfans: January 1st, 2012. Final day of the regular season. The Jets stand at 9-6, already set as the AFC's number six seed, and already set to play Houston, Tennessee or San Diego the next week in the playoffs. The Dolphins meanwhile sit at 2-13 with one of the two wins coming against Kansas City, who's at 3-12 and would get the tie breaker for the number one pick if they lose and Miami wins since Miami beat them. Would you put it past Rex Ryan and the Jets, who obviously wouldn't want Andrew Luck in Miami, to tank that final game of the season? Or would Stephen Ross go up to Rex and tell him that Rob already has the job first thing Monday morning and hope Rex doesn't do this in the hopes that he'd want his brother to succeed? This is what you think about when writing at 3am.)  

Urban Meyer

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    AGE: 47

    RECORD: 104-23 (College, never been a head coach in the NFL, however he's 7-1 in Bowls, 4-0 in BCS Bowls)

    PREVIOUS JOBS: Head Coach, University of Florida (2005-2010); Head Coach, University of Utah (2003-2004); Head Coach, Bowling Green University (2001-2002)

    Milestones: One of only two coaches to win two BCS Championships. Took Utah to their first BCS Bowl (2004 Fiesta Bowl).

    PROS: Young, successful and innovative Head Coach. Considered a pioneer and one of the most accomplished practitioners of the Spread Offense. Likely will have already spoken to Stephen Ross by the end of the season due to the Dolphins honoring Meyer's 2008 Gators National Championship team.

    CONS: No NFL Head Coaching experience. Once commented that coaching Notre Dame would be "A Dream Job" meaning if named head coach of the Dolphins after next season, could only last one season and pull a Saban if Brian Kelly doesn't work out in South Bend and they pursue Meyer, which they have their last couple of coaching searches. Plus he might wind up giving Denver a second round pick for Tim Tebow.

    Yes, we've come to the "Big Time College Coaches" section of our slideshow. 

    I'm wary about the big timers as far as college coaches go because as we've seen with Steve Spurrier in Washington, Bobby Petrino in Atlanta, Lou Holtz with the Jets (it was in the 1976 but it must've been bad because NFL Films narrator John Facenda said about the 1976 Jets in their NFL Yearbook: "Perhaps the best thing to say about the 1976 New York Jets season is that it's over"), and of course our own experience with Nick Saban, success in college doesn't translate to the NFL. 

    Of course Jim Harbaugh looks to be bucking that trend in San Francisco (it's just too bad Stephen Ross never flew out to meet with him, oh wait), so who knows.

    Plus if there's anyone who could likely succeed in the NFL, it would be Meyer. Belichick has been taking elements from Meyer's offenses for years, so why not bring in the master to show him how its really done?

Les Miles

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    AGE: 57

    RECORD: 95-38 (as coach of Oklahoma State and LSU as of October 4, 2011) 

    PREVIOUS JOBS: Head Coach, Louisiana State University (2005-present); Head Coach, Oklahoma State (2001-2004); Tight Ends Coach, Dallas Cowboys (1998-2000); Offensive Coordinator, Oklahoma State (1995-1997); Offensive Line Coach, Michigan (1987-1994); Offensive Line Coach, Colorado (1982-1986); Graduate Assistant, Michigan (1980-1981)

    Milestones: 2007 National Championship. 2002 Big 12 Coach of The Year.

    PROS: A successful collegiate head coach who has won both in Oklahoma State and at LSU. Coach of a team that could very well win the National Championship in 2011.

    CONS: Never been an NFL head coach. His clock managing skills leave much to be desired and make Andy Reid seem like a genius at dealing with two minute drills. His age is also a bit of a concern. Also, remember the last time Miami hired someone out of LSU?

    A great collegiate head coach who at times is eccentric, Miles has never held an NFL head coaching job. Is it possible that with an LSU National Title he might consider a jump to the pros? Maybe. 

    If he does get the Dolphins Head Coaching job (and that's very pie in the sky by the way), the 'Phins might want to consider adding flavoring to their grass due to his weird habit of eating a couple of blades of grass. 

Chris Petersen

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    AGE: 46 (turns 47 on October 13, 2011)

    RECORD: 65-5 (with Boise State as of October 4, 2011)

    PREVIOUS JOBS: Head Coach, Boise State University (2006-present); Offensive Coordinator, Boise State University (2001-2005); Wide Receivers Coach, Oregon (1995-2000); Quarterbacks Coach, Portland State (1993-1994); Quarterbacks Coach, Pittsburgh (1992); Wide Receivers Coach, UC Davis (1989-1991)

    Milestones:  2x Bear Bryant National Coach of The Year (2006, 2009); Bobby Dodd Coach of The Year Award (2010); 2007 Fiesta Bowl Champion (the Statue of Liberty play); 2010 Fiesta Bowl Champion (pictured above). 

    PROS: Few coaches have done more with less. Along with his predecessor Dan Hawkins transformed Boise State into a mini-College Football power and perennial BCS buster. Still very young and likely hungry to prove himself in a place where the only way you're shut out of a chance for playing for a championship is if you can't lead your team there. 

    CONS: Never been an NFL head coach. Never coached in the NFL period. Since he's only been a head coach at Boise State, somewhat skeptical as to how he'd handle the media scrutiny that comes from being an NFL head coach, especially in a place like Miami where NFL reigns supreme.

    Petersen has courted offers from other schools and turned them down to stay at Boise. Odds are he'd do the same when an NFL team comes calling. However an innovative offense along with a reputation for teams that are well disciplined would help his case as an NFL head coach.  

Mike Shula

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    AGE: 46

    RECORD: 26-23 (at University of Alabama, however due to NCAA infractions his record is officially listed as 10-23)

    PREVIOUS JOBS: Quarterbacks Coach, Carolina Panthers (2011); Quarterbacks Coach, Jacksonville Jaguars (2007-2010); Head Coach, University of Alabama (2003-2006); Quarterbacks Coach, Miami Dolphins (2000-2002); Offensive Coordinator, Tampa Bay Buccaneers (1996-1999); Tight Ends Coach, Chicago Bears (1993-1995); Coaches Assistant, Miami Dolphins (1991-1992); Offensive Assistant, Tampa Bay Buccaneers (1988-1990)

    Milestones: So far has done a good job of getting Cam Newton up to the speed of the NFL game. 

    PROS: Very young, very hungry coach who was considered for the job as Dolphins head coach in 2007 before the job went to Cam Cameron. Has worked well with young quarterbacks, especially mobile athletic quarterbacks. While his time at Alabama was marred by scandal and while he only had one 10-win season, most of the time he was cleaning up a mess left by former Alabama head coach Dennis Franchione. While he might not have recruited many of the players that won a National Championship for Nick Saban in 2009, he did lay the groundwork for that team before being let go in 2009.

    CONS: With that being said about his struggles with Alabama having to do with cleaning up a scandal and mess left behind by his predecessor at Alabama, it's still worth noting that Shula's tenure with the Tide was fairly uneventful. 

    Mike Shula would be a nice hire for the Dolphins because he does have the name recognition and did grow up in South Florida. However this would be a long shot for a myriad of reasons, namely the fact that his tenure as a head coach at Alabama is mainly looked at as a failure. 

Pat Riley

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    AGE: 66

    RECORD: 2,075-1,321 (including playoffs where he's 171-111.)

    PREVIOUS JOBS: Team President, Miami Heat (1995-present); Head Coach, Miami Heat (1995-2003, 2005-2008); Head Coach, New York Knickerbockers (1991-1994); Head Coach, Los Angeles Lakers (1982-1990.)

    Milestones: Five Time NBA Champion as Head Coach (four with Los Angeles, one with Miami.) Acquired LeBron James and Chris Bosh while retaining Dwyane Wade. Screwed over the Knicks.

    PROS: A proven winner who has some football experience (played Football while at Kentucky and was an All-American Defensive Back who was actually drafted by the Dallas Cowboys in 1966.) Could probably convince LeBron to play football, where he'd likely be unstoppable.

    CONS: No NFL Head Coaching experience. Most likely no desire to leave his current job. This was a joke selection put in in order to break the monotony of Head Coaching Candidates and help Miami remind Miami Sports fans that all is not lost.

    Really? You thought I was serious? Granted, I think he'd do a better job than at least Sparano. Sadder still, this is completely recycled material from my last list of Sparano replacements, yet I know a lot of you will be outraged that I even included Riley on this list. 

Jeff Fisher

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    AGE: 53

    RECORD: 141-116 (including playoffs, where he's 5-6)

    PREVIOUS JOBS: Head Coach, Houston Oilers/Tennessee Titans (1994-2010); Defensive Coordinator, Houston Oilers (1994); Defensive Backs Coach, San Francisco 49ers (1992-1993); Defensive Coordinator, Los Angeles Rams (1991); Defensive Coordinator/DB Coach, Philadelphia Eagles (1886-1990); Defensive Assistant, Chicago Bears (1985)

    Milestones: 1999 AFC Championship. Until he parted ways with the Titans on January 27, 2011 he was the longest tenured Head Coach in the NFL.

    PROS: A proven coach who has gone to the post-season six times in 17 years, including three division championships.

    CONS: Despite coaching for 17 seasons (really 16 and a half) has only made it to the Super Bowl once.

    In fact, three of those six playoff years the Titans were one and done. Plus at times it looked like the Titans had quit on him last season.

    However that could be attributed to the fact that sometimes you reach a point in a working relationship where it is best for both parties to part ways. Right now the Titans look decent and have an outside shot of contending for the AFC South, this isn't a knock on Fisher, just an acknowledgement that it was right for the Titans to let Fisher go.

    In the same vein, it could possibly turn out to be the best thing to happen to Jeff Fisher to have parted ways with Tennessee, then take a year off to decompress away from the NFL Head Coach life style.

    Turning 54 in February, Fisher is still relatively young and still has plenty to prove. It might only be a stop gap lasting for five seasons, but Fisher doesn't seem like the Parcells type to leave the job incomplete. He might come in with a team of young assistants including one he'll groom for the job when he feels he's done. I'd feel very good about Jeff Fisher becoming Miami Dolphins head coach.   

Brian Schottenheimer

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    AGE: 37

    RECORD: No Head Coaching Experience

    PREVIOUS JOBS: Offensive Coordinator, New York Jets (2006-present); Quarterbacks Coach, San Diego Chargers (2002-2005); Quarterbacks Coach, Washington Redskins (2001); assistant coach, University of Southern California (2000); assistant coach, Syracuse University (1999); assistant coach, Kansas City Chiefs (1998); assistant coach, St. Louis Rams (1997)

    Milestones: His offenses have been to two AFC Championship games. 

    PROS: Very young, has so far proven to get the most out of the least on offense.  

    CONS: No NFL or College head coaching experience. Coaches the Jets as of right now. Already turned down the Dolphins twice (2007, 2008). 

    Schottenheimer likely turned down Miami the first two times to stay with the Jets because he felt he wasn't ready to be a head coach at the time. It is likely he might feel differently now. He will definitely get a call from whoever is named Miami's new general manager at the end of the year. 

Mario Cristobal

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    AGE: 41

    RECORD:  19-34 (While at FIU, he's never coached in the NFL)

    PREVIOUS JOBS: Head Coach, Florida International University (2007-present); Tight Ends and Offensive Linemen coach, University of Miami (2004-2006); Tight Ends and Offensive Lineman coach, Rutgers (2001-2003); Graduate Assistant, Miami (1998-2000)

    Milestones: Took FIU to their first bowl game, which they wound up winning (2010 Little Caesar's Pizza Bowl).

    PROS: Young disciplined player's coach who knows the South Florida Area well. His Cuban-American background is also a plus as it would help in the community. Has proven he can build and lead. 

    CONS: No NFL Head Coaching experience. 

    Cristobal is probably five years away from being considered a real Head Coaching candidate, however it would benefit the Dolphins to at least give him an interview. Not only would he fulfil the Rooney Rule, but more importantly it would benefit the Dolphins in the South Florida Community. 

Gregg Williams

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    AGE: 53

    RECORD: 17-31 (as coach of the Buffalo Bills)

    PREVIOUS JOBS: Defensive Coordinator, New Orleans Saints (2009-present); Defensive Coordinator, Jacksonville Jaguars (2008); Defensive Coordinator, Washington Redskins (2004-2007); Head Coach, Buffalo Bills (2001-2003); Defensive Coordinator, Tennessee Titans (1997-2000); Defensive Assistant, Houston Oilers (1990-1996), Graduate Assistant, University of Houston (1988-1989).  

    Milestones: Won Super Bowl XLIV with the Saints. . 

    PROS: Runs an aggressive defensive strategy that has accentuated his players talents. 

    CONS: See record with the Bills. 

    Williams would be a safe bet as Dolphins coach, not too big of a name, not too expensive, and odds are, not being someone the fanbase will get behind. 

Rob Chudzinski

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    AGE: 43

    RECORD: Never been a Head Coach

    PREVIOUS JOBS: Offensive Coordinator, Carolina Panthers (2011); Tight Ends Coach, San Diego Chargers (2009-2010); Offensive Coordinator, Cleveland Browns (2007-2008); Tight Ends Coach, San Diego Chargers (2005-2006); Tight Ends Coach, Cleveland Browns (2004); Offensive Coordinator, University of Miami (2001-2003), Tight Ends Coach, University of Miami (1996-2000)

    Milestones: Won a National Championship as Offensive Coordinator at Miami.

    PROS: Young offensive coach who's known for coaching up Tight Ends both in college (Bubba Franks, Jeremy Shockey, Kellen Winslow) and in the pros (Kellen Winslow, Antonio Gates, Jeremy Shockey, Greg Olsen). 

    CONS: No Head Coaching experience. 

    Chudzinski mainly made my list because he's a University of Miami guy and because of his skills as an offensive coordinator in working with tight ends. He might not be ready for a head coaching gig just yet but look out for him. 

Herm Edwards

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    AGE: 57

    RECORD: 56-79

    PREVIOUS JOBS: Analyst, ESPN (2009-present); Head Coach, Kansas City Chiefs (2006-2008); Head Coach, New York Jets (2001-2005); Defensive Backs Coach, Tampa Bay Buccaneers (1996-2000); Defensive Backs Coach, Kansas City Chiefs (1992-1995); Scout, Kansas City Chiefs (1990-1991); Offensive Assistant, San Jose State (1987-1989) 

    Milestones: The Miracle in the Meadowlands (he returned the fumble for a touchdown). 

    PROS: Plenty of NFL Head Coaching experience, made the playoffs three times as coach of the New York Jets, plays to win the game and can build on this, whatever this is. 

    CONS: His last two years coaching the Chiefs were a disaster. Likely got former Chiefs GM Carl Petersen fired. 

    Because of the relationship with Petersen, expect Edwards to get an interview. 

Bill Cowher

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    AGE: 54

    RECORD: 161-99-1 (Including Playoffs where he's 12-9)

    PREVIOUS JOBS: Panelist on NFL Today, CBS (2007-present); Head Coach, Pittsburgh Steelers (1992-2006); Defensive Coordinator, Kansas City Chiefs (1989-1991); Secondary and Special Teams Coach, Cleveland Browns (1985-1988)

    Milestones: Super Bowl XL Champion. Two time AFC Champion (1995, 2005) Two time NFL Coach of the Year (1992, 2004)

    PROS: An experienced coach who already has a Super Bowl ring, won division titles with the likes of Neil O'Donnell, Kordell Stewart, and Tommy Maddox at quarterback. 

    CONS: Possibly more likely to be a reincarnation of the Jimmy Johnson era, which wouldn't be an improvement. Could find after a year that he's not as into it coaching as he thought and once was in Pittsburgh. Also take into account that the Steelers seem to have not missed a beat since he left.

    Now Cowher would really be great if he could convince Dick LeBeau to leave the Steelers and become the defensive coordinator for the Dolphins.

    This defense needs all the help they could get after all. 

    By the way, I'd love to credit the lady or gentleman who photoshopped the wonderful picture that seemed to pop up on every Dolphins fan Facebook page and group over the course of the last week, if anyone knows who originally did it, please let me know. 

    Cowher is likely the most popular choice, but fair warning, he might not be the best. 


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    Thanks for joining me on this long ride through possible Miami Dolphins head coaches. 

    As you can see the list is long and diverse, and any one of these guys would either be as good as Sparano (which isn't a stretch) or better.

    Of course none of this matters unless Jeff Ireland is fired as Miami Dolphins General Manager, but alas, that's another story for another time, sometime this season. 

    Thomas Galicia is a Miami Dolphins Featured Columnist who also writes about music, movies, the Miami Heat whenever this stupid lockout ends (and he's praying its soon), the Chicago Cubs, and the WWE. He also knows that most of you will disagree with him on this subject. That's what the comments are for, tell him he's wrong, or if you agree with him, tell him he's right. Then visit and follow him on twitter, @thomasgalicia.