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Thoughts on Tony Sparano

Let's talk a bit about new offensive coordinator Tony Sparano. Like any hire, he has positives and negatives. I will take you through what I like about the hire and what I do not like about the hire.


-Sparano and Rex Ryan are probably going to be on the same page about the need to commit to the run game. They are both run first coaches. In this way, Rex never meshed with Brian Schottenheimer, who liked to run a(n) (overly) complicated passing attack. In two years as Dallas' run game coordinator and four as Miami's head coach, his teams ran for more yards than the league average, ran more times than the league average, and passed less than the league average. Sparano's Dolphins also helped popularize the Wildcat, which Rex insisted the Jets utilize late in 2011. Rex always seemed to have to step in to get Schottenheimer to run more.

-Sparano seems to be a hard nosed guy, which is a good contrast with Ryan, who has tried to be the ultimate players' coach. He can be the bad cop to Rex's good cop to restore order.

-He has a bit of experience calling plays as Dallas' run game coordinator.

-He has a strong record as an offensive line coach from his time with the Cowboys so he can help replace what the team lost with Bill Callahan.

-While I think people can overblow this effect, he does have a bit of insider information on the tendencies and subtle strengths and weaknesses of players on the Dolphins, a division rival.

-I like having former head coaches on the staff. Even if somebody was a bad head coach, the only reason he got the chance is that he was an excellent assistant coach. Head coaching experience gives an assistant a greater perspective of how all of the pieces of a staff and team should work together.


-While Rex might want a team that runs the ball as a first, second, and third option, I do not think that is what is best for the team. The Jets certaintly needed to stick to the run more in late 2011 with a mortibound passing game, but this team really needs a guy who can fix what is wrong with the passing attack. To win big in the NFL, you need to be able to make big plays in the passing game. When all you can do is run the ball, you have to play close games with limited possessions. You need your defense to be perfect. You cannot allow the other team to score a lot because you are incapable of winning shootouts. You keep inferior opponents around instead of blowing them out. You will notice some teams playing this weekend are run first teams, but they got to where they are because they are capable of making big plays in the passing game when they need to do so. Sparano's teams have not only not passed the ball. Even when he was calling plays, his official duties were primarily related to the run game. Todd Haley handled the passing game.

-On the same note, Sparano has no experience developing quarterbacks. Mark Sanchez is clearly a guy who needs to be coached up. Again, Tony Romo came of age with Sparano in Dallas, but Sparano's job was to handle the run game.

-His playcalling experience is not extensive, a short stint with the Cowboys.

-His only experience as an offensive coordinator was with Boston University. His time with the Cowboys gave him a taste of the duties, but he has never been in charge of the entire offense on the NFL level.


I cannot say I am a huge fan of this hire. I had two pieces of criteria I hoped the Jets would follow. I wanted an experienced coordinator with a track record of success. I also wanted somebody with a history of developing quarterbacks. This hire is too important to roll the dice. Despite the mess we have seen, the foundation of this team is strong. There is enough talent and quality defensive coaching on the team for the window of opportunity to remain open for a few years if the offense and the quarterback get straightened out.

I cannot help but think back to the process that landed the team Eric Mangini and how this search resembled it. That felt hasty and netted two finalists, one of which would have been horrible (Mike Tice, Dirk Koetter) and the other would be uninspiring (Mangini, Sparano). I also think back to the process that landed the Jets Rex Ryan. I think of how wide of a net the Jets cast and how thorough they were to make sure they landed the right guy.

I reserve the right to change my opinion, however. If, for example, the Jets land Todd Haley to pair with Sparano, I will be much happier. Haley has experience producing quality passing attacks. He has teamed successfully with Sparano before. Having Haley run the passing game and Sparano the run, where both are established, sounds like a good combo.