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Sparano Future

this is a discussion within the NFL Community Forum; DAVIE, Fla. -- Like an attorney making his case for the defendant, Miami Dolphins quarterback Chad Pennington was well prepared Monday to present an argument on behalf of his coach. "Everybody needs to take a look at these last three ...

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Old 01-03-2011, 09:45 PM   #1
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Sparano Future

DAVIE, Fla. -- Like an attorney making his case for the defendant, Miami Dolphins quarterback Chad Pennington was well prepared Monday to present an argument on behalf of his coach.

"Everybody needs to take a look at these last three years and realize that before Tony Sparano got here, this organization was 16-32 in three years," Pennington said. "In the three years he has been here, the Dolphins are 25-23 with an AFC East championship. The right man for this organization is Tony Sparano."

Pennington's facts were accurate but might not be enough to affect the verdict on Sparano's future. For the second year in a row, the Dolphins faded at the finish of a disappointing 7-9 season.

Sparano said he'll discuss his status in a meeting with owner Stephen Ross. When asked if he's worried about his job, Sparano all but said yes.

"Listen, I don't take my job for granted one day, not one second," he said. "I have the greatest job in the world, and I enjoy this organization and the people here, and I enjoy coaching this team. I don't take it for granted at all. In fact, it's kind of the other way around for me. I've put it before a lot of personal things in my life."

No one questions Sparano's work ethic, but after Miami's surprising run to the 2008 AFC East title in his first season as an NFL head coach, there's a sense of regression. That feeling was reinforced by three consecutive losses to end the season, including Sunday's 38-7 drubbing at New England.

Two years ago, Sparano outcoached Bill Belichick, unveiling the Wildcat offense for the first time to help the visiting Dolphins humiliate the Patriots. This time, it was the Dolphins left red-faced by their trip to New England.

"The things that happened in that game are not Miami Dolphins football," linebacker Cameron Wake said.

Or maybe they are. Ross said before the season that he expected the Dolphins to reach the Super Bowl, but this is the eighth time in nine years they've fallen shy of the playoffs. It has been 18 years since they played in the AFC Championship Game and 26 years since they made the Super Bowl.

Now they have endured consecutive losing seasons with the same coach for the first time since 1968 and 1969 under George Wilson.

"As much as I hate to say it, I think we're a middle-of-the pack team right now," running back Ronnie Brown said. "We haven't separated ourselves from the good teams, and we haven't reached the upper echelon of the great teams that consistently go to the playoffs.

"We have some work to do in that area, where you consistently know what you're going to get from the Miami Dolphins."

The question now is if Sparano will be given another chance to lead the Dolphins to that elusive elite level. His players' lackluster effort Sunday did nothing to help Sparano's cause, but they remain in his corner.

"It would be good for him to get another shot," Brown said. "He's passionate. You see him running up and down the sideline, and that's what gets some of us excited. To know you have a guy like that behind you means a lot."

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Sparano and general manager Jeff Ireland aren't the only ones with uncertain futures. An offensive overhaul is likely after the Dolphins finished next to last in the AFC in scoring, and whoever the coach is in 2011, he might seek to replace Brown, quarterback Chad Henne and running back Ricky Williams.

It's likely the injury-plagued Pennington has played his last game for Miami. He lasted just two snaps this season and is considering retirement after undergoing surgery on his throwing shoulder for the fourth time.

Henne was benched briefly at midseason, threw 19 interceptions and lost the support of leading wide receiver Brandon Marshall. Brown and Williams failed to produce a single 100-yard rushing game, and both are unrestricted free agents this offseason.

Brown packed up his belongings in the locker room Monday, then contemplated the conclusion of his sixth season with the Dolphins.

"It's different, because there's the possibility come next season I won't be putting my stuff back in this same locker," he said. "I could be somewhere else. That's the difference. Not knowing is kind of weird."

On the first day of the offseason, his coach and many teammates shared Brown's uneasy uncertainty.

Copyright 2011 by The Associated Press


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