It’s easy to let frustration get the best of us. In the moments following the Dolphins’ disastrous fourth quarter collapse against the Lions on Sunday, the majority of a frustrated fan base was ready to call for Tony Sparano’s head. A knee-jerk reaction to the emotions that come with such a humiliating loss.
Shortly after the game, I tweeted that I thought it was time for Stephen Ross to clean house. But after having time to step back and think about the situation rationally, I have since changed my mind.
Has this 2010 season been a complete failure? Absolutely, considering most fans had playoff expectations, and owner Stephen Ross had Super Bowl aspirations. This team was 7-9 a year ago with a below average defense and a first-year starting quarterback who didn’t have a legitimate go-to receiver to work with. Well, a loss this Sunday in Foxboro and the Dolphins would have themselves back-to-back below 500. seasons despite getting their alpha receiver in the offseason and improving to currently the league’s third ranked defense in total yards surrendered.
That obviously isn’t acceptable, but is it fair to blame Tony Sparano for the Dolphins’ inability to emerge as a playoff caliber team? I will admit, Sparano has done some things that I haven’t necessarily agreed with. Benching Sean Smith in favor of Jason Allen for the first seven games of the season was one. Shuffling the offensive line all preseason and essentially preventing any cohesiveness to take place was another.
But can you really blame Sparano for Chad Henne’s implosion? Is it Sparano’s fault that Dan Henning left countless points on the board throughout the season by being content to just settle for field-goals?
The lack of consistent play from the quarterback position is what is holding the Dolphins back from being contenders. No, a new quarterback wouldn’t solve all of the Dolphins’ issues. They still could use more playmakers on offense and their interior offensive line needs a complete makeover, but there isn’t a team in this league that is perfect. Give a football team that should have a very good, if not elite defense for years to come some consistent play at quarterback, and you have yourself a winner.
Tony Sparano can get the most out of every player in that locker room, but you can’t coach a guy to be a franchise quarterback. He either has it, or he doesn’t. After two seasons of enduring Chad Henne’s roller coaster ways, it’s clear he doesn’t have it. The topic isn’t even up for debate anymore; the Dolphins need to find themselves a new potential franchise quarterback. Whether one will become available in free agency or fall to them in the draft is a conversation for another day.
Simply firing Tony Sparano and bringing in a big name like Bill Cowher or Jon Gruden may sell the team better to the fans next season, but it’s not going solve the Dolphins’ quarterback problems. Don’t get me wrong, a proven winner like Bill Cowher would be an upgrade over Sparano, but if I’m Stephen Ross, I’m not firing Sparano just because some rumor says Cowher has interest in the Dolphins. Unless Ross hears from Cowher himself that he will take the job once Sparano is out of the picture, he should keep the sure thing.
Sparano may not have a ring like Cowher, but he’s proven to be a good coach in his three years in Miami. We all saw firsthand what a quality coach he was back in 2008, when he inherited a 1-15 team and took them to the playoffs in his first year on the job. Sparano was just what the Dolphins needed that year, but in reality, if it wasn’t for Chad Pennington falling into the Dolphins’ lap, that team doesn’t win more than four or five games. Consistent play at the quarterback position made all the difference.
You can coach em’ up until your blue in the face, but if you don’t have a quarterback, you’re not going to win in this league. Well, Sparano doesn’t have a quarterback. He’s got a guy in Henne who’s flashed all the potential in the world, but just can’t grasp the mental aspect of the game, and can’t get over rookie habits like starring down his receivers. That’s been the Dolphins’ biggest issue this season, not Tony Sparano. And unless the Dolphins find themselves a quality starting quarterback this offseason, they’re not going to win in 2011. Not with Tony Sparano, not with Bill Cowher, not with anybody.