It’s impossible to know if Tony Sparano will be a miracle worker.
Certainly, the odds seem stacked against the Raiders new interim head coach. He’s inherited a team on a 10-game losing streak that’s already buried in the AFC West basement with an 0-4 start.
And now the Raiders go up against the 4-1 Chargers Sunday at O.co Coliseum.
But if we don’t yet know how this story is going to turn out for Sparano, we at least know one thing: Dennis Allen’s successor seems to be saying and doing all the right things.
* Sparano has changed the team’s practices, making them more lively and faster-paced and with additional time devoted to fundamentals.
* He’s changed the locker room seating arrangements, moving some players out of position groups and next to teammates from other positions to promote a better team chemistry.
* He’s met with longtime mentor and former successful NFL head coach Bill Parcells to get ideas about what to focus on.
* In his first meeting with the team after taking over for Allen, Sparano turned to defensive end LaMarr Woodley as an example of what a team that begins 0-4 can do. Last season Woodley's Steelers started 0-4 but then went 8-4 over their final 12 games.
“Woodley’s experience in that situation in Pittsburgh is important,” Sparano said, according to Bill Williamson of ESPN.com. “He’s been through it, he’s lived it. … That’s why you bring those players into your team, is to share this with some of the younger guys at times.”
* Sparano also employed some symbolism, gathering the team on a corner of the practice field to bury a football that represents the team’s 0-4 start and recent, horrid past.
By burying the past, he’s hoping to wipe the slate clean and get his players playing hard and smart.
“Once we’re done with this self-analysis here, we are looking ahead at 12 football games,” he said. “We are not looking behind.”
Of course, uptempo practices, burying the past and all the other things Sparano has done don’t guarantee anything. If this Raiders team doesn’t start blocking and tackling better, it’s going to lose.
But as defensive end Justin Tuck told Vic Tafur of the San Francisco Chronicle, it’s worth a try.
“The biggest thing you have to have right now is an open mind,” he said. “We’re 0-4. We have to do something different.”
Said Sparano: “The fire has been lit. You can see change. … There are a lot of prideful people in that locker room.”