Tony Sparano life and biography

Tony Sparano picture, image, poster

Tony Sparano biography

Date of birth : 1961-10-07
Date of death : -
Birthplace : West Haven, Connecticut
Nationality : American
Category : Sports
Last modified : 2010-10-19
Credited as : Football coach NFL, head coach for the Miami Dolphins, Super Bowl/NFL Draft player

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Anthony "Tony" Sparano III is the current head coach for the Miami Dolphins of the National Football League. At age 17, Sparano had an incident which burnt his eyes, which is why he wears his sunglasses at night. Sparano is the only National Football League head coach to lead a one-win team to the playoffs the following year, which he accomplished in his first season with the Dolphins.

Tony Sparano, entering his 12th season in the NFL and his 27th year in the coaching profession overall, was named the eighth head coach in Miami Dolphins history on January 16, 2008. He came to the Dolphins after spending the previous five years with the Dallas Cowboys. He also joined the team with five years of experience as a head coach at the collegiate level.

In 2009, his second year in Miami, Sparano had the Dolphins in playoff contention right until the end of the season despite season-ending injuries to four key starters - Chad Pennington and Ronnie Brown on offense and Will Allen and Jason Ferguson on defense. Rebounding from an 0-3 start, Sparano’s team won seven of its next ten contests, all coming with quarterback Chad Henne playing his first games as an NFL starter, to get right back in the middle of the playoff picture.

Sparano accomplished the difficult task of balancing the need to add youth to his squad while keeping the Dolphins in the thick of the playoff hunt. Like he did with Henne, who won seven of his 13 overall starts in his first season seeing regular action under center, Sparano furthered the growth of fellow second year players Davone Bess, who led the team in receptions, Jake Long, who was named to his second consecutive Pro Bowl squad, defensive ends Kendall Langford and Phillip Merling, as well as Pro Bowl kicker Dan Carpenter, who set Dolphins special teams records.

Sparano also accelerated the development of many of the team’s 2009 draft choices. Rookie cornerbacks Vontae Davis and Sean Smith excelled defensively while starting most of the season, while other draft picks, including quarterback Pat White and wideout Brian Hartline, made significant offensive contributions.

On the other side of the spectrum, Sparano coaxed productive seasons from the teams veteran players, as Ricky Williams became the seventh running back in NFL history to rush for 1,000 yards at age 32 or older, while a number of experienced players led a pass rush that accounted for 44 sacks and ranked first in the NFL in sacks per pass play. In addition, the offensive line proved to be one of the most effective in the league, as the team finished fourth in the league in rushing yards per game and was second in the NFL in third down efficiency, with another veteran, fullback Lousaka Polite, playing a key role in those conversions when called upon.

In 2008, Sparano’s first year as the Dolphins’ head coach, he guided the team to a single-season turnaround matched just once in NFL history. Taking over a 1-15 squad from a year earlier, he led the Dolphins to an 11-5 record and the AFC East title. His ten-game improvement has been achieved only one other time in league annals, in 1999 when the Indianapolis Colts went from 3-13 to 13-3.

In addition, since the NFL went to a 16-game schedule in 1978, there have been eight teams that have experienced a 1-15 season, including the 2007 Dolphins. With their 11-5 finish in 2008, the Dolphins under Sparano posted the best record of any of those teams the year following their 1-15 season and are the only one of those teams to qualify for the playoffs the next year. In fact, of the previous seven teams, just two went on to post a winning record the following season, most recently the 1997 Jets, who under the guidance of first-year Head Coach Bill Parcells, went 9-7 a year after finishing with a 1-15 mark in 1996.

For his efforts, Sparano was named as 2008 NFL Coach of the Year by the NFL Alumni and the Pro Football Weekly/Professional Football Writers of America, and AFC Coach of the Year by the Kansas City 101 Committee. He shared USA Today’s Coach of the Year honors with Atlanta’s Mike Smith. In addition, he finished second by one vote for the Associated Press (AP) NFL Coach of the Year and was a finalist for the 2008 Motorola NFL Coach of the Year.

Working under Sparano’s mantra of “Tough, Smart, Disciplined,” the 2008 Dolphins lived up to those words by playing aggressive and intelligent football all season long. Sparano had the team playing hard, rebounding from a 2-4 start to win nine of their last ten games to finish at 11-5 and capture the AFC East title. That strong finish was reflective on an individual game basis as well, as the Dolphins outscored their opponents 82-62 in the fourth quarter and held the ball for ten minutes or more in that quarter in seven of their games in 2008.

Sparano and his staff were innovative in introducing a new offense, the “Wildcat,” in the midst of the season, and that formation went on to pile up 580 yards (including an average of 6.1 yards per rush) and eight touchdowns in the 91 times it was used. He emphasized the importance of protecting the football, a lesson that was well-learned by the team. The Dolphins committed just 13 turnovers and, along with the New York Giants that year, set a new NFL record for fewest turnovers in a 16-game season, breaking the old mark of 14 turnovers set in 1990 by the Giants. In addition, the Dolphins’ takeaway-giveaway ratio of plus-17 led the NFL in that category in 2008. As another measure of the team’s discipline, Miami committed only 81 penalties, the fewest by a Dolphin team since 1993 (81).

With the Cowboys, Sparano served as the team’s tight ends coach from 2003-04, offensive line/running game coordinator in 2005, assistant head coach/offensive line/running game coordinator in 2006 and assistant head coach/offensive line in 2007. During those five years, the Cowboys qualified for the playoffs three times, including 2007 when they won the NFC East with a 13-3 record.

In 2006, with Sparano as the Cowboys’ primary play caller, the team ranked fifth in the NFL in total offense, as they averaged 360.8 yards per game. In addition, their 425 points scored was the fourth-highest total in the NFL. Of the team’s 52 touchdowns on the year, 21 came via the ground, the third-highest figure in the league. Quarterback Tony Romo – in his first season as an NFL starter after having joined the team as an undrafted college free agent in 2003 – completed 220 of 337 passes (63.5%) for 2,903 yards with 19 TDs, 13 INTs and a passer rating of 95.1 despite only starting the final 10 games. He was one of four Cowboys on the offensive side of the ball to be selected to the NFC Pro Bowl squad (T Flozell Adams, C Andre Gurode, TE Jason Witten), the most offensive players to represent Dallas in the annual all-star game since 1996, also the last time the team sent a quarterback to the Pro Bowl. In addition, Dallas produced a pair of 1,000-yard receivers in 2006 (Terrell Owens, Terry Glenn) and a 1,000-yard rusher (Julius Jones), just the second time in team history that feat had occurred (1979).

In Sparano’s first year with the Cowboys, rookie tight end Jason Witten, a third-round draft choice that year, caught 35 passes for 347 yards and a TD. His reception total that year tied for fourth among all NFL rookies and was first among the league’s rookie tight ends. The following season, Witten established himself as one of the NFL’s premier tight ends as he totaled 87 receptions for 980 yards and six TDs, becoming the first Cowboys tight end to make the Pro Bowl since Jay Novacek in 1995. Witten’s reception and yardage totals both led all NFC tight ends and ranked second in the NFL. Over a three season span (2005-07), four different Cowboys offensive linemen were selected to the Pro Bowl a total of five times, including three in 2007 (T Flozell Adams, G Leonard Davis and C Andre Gurode). Over the last two seasons in that period (2006-07), the Cowboys totaled 35 rushing touchdowns, the fifth-highest total in the NFL in that stretch and the top figure among NFC clubs. Julius Jones surpassed the 1,000-yard rushing barrier in 2006 with 1,084 yards, while Marion Barber, who fell just 25 yards shy of the 1,000-yard rushing mark in 2007 but averaged 4.8 yards per attempt (204-975), compiled 24 rushing touchdowns over that two year period (2006-07), the second-highest total in the NFL over that stretch.

Sparano got his start in the NFL as offensive quality control coach with the Cleveland Browns in 1999 – the first year that the team resumed play following a three-year absence. The next year, he was promoted to offensive line coach, where he oversaw a unit that allowed 40 sacks, 20 fewer than they did the year before. He moved on to the Washington Redskins in 2001, where he served as that team’s tight ends coach. He assumed the same role with the Jacksonville Jaguars in 2002, and that year the team’s tight ends totaled 69 receptions for 712 yards and six TDs, including 43 catches for 461 yards and four scores by Kyle Brady.

Immediately preceding his NFL tenure, Sparano was the head coach at the University of New Haven from 1994-98, where his teams made a pair of trips to the Division II playoffs during that time, including a runner-up finish in 1997. He was named the New York Metropolitan Football Writers Division II Coach of the Year that season and was the New England Football Writers Division II/III Coach of the Year in both 1995 and 1997.

Sparano began his coaching career at New Haven in 1984, where he spent four seasons tutoring the offensive line and serving as recruiting coordinator at the school. He moved on to Boston University in 1988 and served the next six years at the school. His first two years were spent as the Terriers’ offensive line coach, recruiting coordinator and academic liaison before being promoted to offensive coordinator in 1990, spending his final four years there in that post, including the 1993 season when the team put together an 11-0 mark.

Sparano was a four-year letterman at New Haven, where he started at center and went on to earn his degree in criminal law. He is a native of West Haven, Conn., where he attended Richard C. Lee High School. Sparano and his wife, Jeanette, have two sons, Tony, a defensive line assistant coach for the Hartford Colonials of the UFL, and Andrew, a member of the University at Albany (N.Y.) football team, and a daughter, Ryan Leigh.

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