When Tony Sparano was asked recently about his future as head coach of the Raiders, he said: “It’s a question for somebody else. It’s not a question for me.”
Almost certainly, Sparano will be gone after this season.
Raiders owner Mark Davis has indicated that big changes are in store for the franchise after this season, and those changes will include a new head coach – probably one with a big name and a pedigree – and a new general manager.
Davis has been more patient than his father ever was, but he has his limits. And a third straight year in the NFL cellar is his limit.
After the Raiders fired head coach Dennis Allen early this season, Sparano was handed the job on an interim basis. At the time, it probably didn’t matter whether he won the remaining 12 games or lost them all. “Interim” was the key word in his title.
Yet the Raiders – usually outmanned in every game – have played hard for Sparano and the players have said they like playing for the longtime NFL assistant and head coach. The Raiders may be 2-8 under his leadership and headed for perhaps a 2-14 season, but young and old players alike this season have praised Sparano for coming into a tough situation, keeping things positive, holding players accountable and being a total professional.
Some, in fact, say they would love to continue to play for Sparano.
“Tony’s done a great job and everybody in the locker room loves his approach,” second-year running back Latavius Murray told reporters this week. “I feel he’s definitely a players’ coach and we all love playing for him. We’ve been coming up short on some games, but that definitely doesn’t change the mentality we have each week going forward.”
Rookie linebacker Khalil Mack said recently that, under Sparano, the Raiders have maintained a positive attitude. Even though their season is lost, the Raiders have pulled off upsets over the Chiefs and 49ers in recent weeks.
“This team, it has a solid foundation,” Mack said. “We have some great leaders and we’re going to keep putting the pedal to the metal and come in every week and give it our all. That doesn’t stop.”
Sparano, meanwhile, knows this job isn’t his to keep, and he continues to be a pro, giving all of his attention to the work each week.
This week, it’s getting ready for the Buffalo Bills. Next week it will be the Denver Broncos.
“Listen, I am 100 percent a glass half-full guy,” Sparano said Monday. “I’m only worried about, honestly, the Buffalo Bills right now. … I can only control the things I can control.”