If the Raiders hope to fire up their running game in 2013, Tony Sparano may be just the guy to do it.
Sparano, the former head coach of the Dolphins, is by all accounts an old-fashioned football coach who often can be heard before he’s seen. He’s not shy with his opinions, his directions or his volume.
Sparano, who played the offensive line at New Haven, a small school in Connecticut, made his mark in the NFL as an offensive line coach with the Dallas Cowboys before moving on to become head coach of the Dolphins and then offensive coordinator of the Jets. After the Jets’ offense tanked in 2012, Sparano was fired.
Now, he’s back on head coach Dennis Allen’s staff in Oakland as assistant head coach/offensive line coach and will be tasked with getting the most out of an offensive line that struggled last season in a new zone-blocking scheme.
Figure that Sparano will be up to the task.
When Dolphins GM Jeff Ireland hired Sparano to be his head coach in 2008, Ireland cited Sparano’s success with the offensive line in Dallas and his coaching style. As a disciple of former NFL head coach Bill Parcells, Sparano is known as a coach who gets his point across by screaming. He’s not the Line Whisperer.
“He hasn’t changed a bit,” Ireland told the New York Times after he hired Sparano. “Always hard on his players, very demanding, a very clear, concise communicator.”
His former players told the Times that Sparano often is very hands-on in practice, demonstrating technique and pulling players aside for one-on-one tutorials and discussions.
“His confidence about how he does things and what he’s good at is what make Tony, Tony,” Ireland told the Times.
His tenure in Miami, however, didn’t go well. In almost four seasons as head coach, the Dolphins were 29-32. And with the Jets last season as offensive coordinator, the offense was ranked 30th in total offense and both the quarterback situation and running game regressed.
By hiring on with the Raiders and returning to his roots coaching the offensive line, however, Sparano may be a key to upgrading one of the team’s lowest-performing units in 2012.
Allen wasn’t happy with the team’s offense in 2012, particularly the running game, and has acted quickly to address it with the hiring of new offensive coordinator Greg Olson and Sparano.
In Sparano, the Raiders apparently will be getting a motivator and teacher, someone who isn’t afraid to speak up when he sees something that needs fixing. That could be a good thing.
“He has his own way of doing things,” Parcells told ESPN last year. “He’s not fearful. This guy is not looking for trouble. He goes by what he sees. He’s not overbearing. He picks his spots.”