After the Jets parted ways with former Offensive Coordinator Brian Schottenheimer early this off-season, the consensus belief was that the Jets were looking to replace him with a big name offensive coordinator in order to make a “big splash” so to speak. I’m certain the Jets initial thinking was to get someone whose offensive philosophy vastly differed from Schottenheimer’s, so imagine Jetnation’s shock and surprise when it was announced the Jets were looking at former Miami Dolphins Head Coach Tony Sparano to replace Schottenheimer.
Why the surprise? Well considering the knock on the Jets offense was the lack of an adequate passing game under Schottenheimer, it was a foregone conclusion that the Jets would likely bring in someone whose resume included a much extensive passing background like former Green bay’s QBs coach Tom Clements who ultimately was promoted to the Offensive Coordinator position with Green bay. Now it’s very unlikely that Clements would’ve left a familiar environment with Green bay to accept the same position with the Jets but point being was the belief was that the Jets would target someone like Clements to get as far away from the Brian Schottenheimer philosophy, help a stagnant passing attack and to mentor and develop QB Mark Sanchez adequately but that wasn’t the case and the Jets ultimately ended up going in a TOTALLY “different” direction to say the least. On January 11 2012, the Jets named Tony Sparano the new offensive coordinator and they named “skepticism” his offensive assistant. It’s not hard to understand why some are skeptical of Sparano’s chances of succeeding as the Jets offensive coordinator. His offensive background is primarily cemented on the offensive line and the one time he served as offensive coordinator he did so for one season in Dallas (2006) and although the Cowboys offense wasn’t their issue that season, it wasn’t exactly the strongest part of the team either. Not to mention his last 3 seasons in Miami, their offense hasn’t exactly ran anyone out of the stadium except their fans.
Sparano was essentially hired to be more than the “Anti-Schottenheimer”. He was hired to rejuvenate a complacent offense that had serious problems between the 20s, a running game that underachieved and that took NO pressure off Mark Sanchez, a WR core that had issues getting open at CRUCIAL times in CRUCIAL games and an overall offense that was severely inconsistent from week to week. Sparano noted his offensive philosophy after being hired and addressed the notion that he’s strictly a “run first” kind of coach;
“I want to be physical and I want to be consistent and ultimately explosive. If you can have those qualities you can have a good offense. You have to be able to run the football so we’re going to be able to run to be able to create big plays. What most people forget is that in my college days as HC of New Haven I was a Run and Shoot guy and we use to throw it all over the place but as a HC I’ve been in situations in which not gaining chunks or concentrating solely on the run can hold you back as an offense. Simply put, we’re going to be physical and consistent and I want my players to know that.
Sparano may be saying what Jets fans want to hear and he may be sincere, there’s simply no way to know what kind of philosophy he utilizes until its “GO” time but regardless of whether you want to read into his philosophy or not, recent history says Tony Sparano has a SOLID chance at becoming a very good offensive coordinator for the Jets. Over the past decade or so here’s the list of notable coordinators (offensive and defensive) that didn’t exactly have stellar head coaching stints but that have gone on to become “successful” coordinators;
Josh Mcdaniels, Cam Cameron, Brad Childress, Todd Haley, Marty Mornhinweg, Scott Linehan, Dick Jauron, Dick LeBeau, Wade Phillips, Perry Fewell, Jim Haslett, Dom Capers, Steve Spagnuolo and Gunther Cunningham are just a few notable former head coaches that didn’t fare so well with their head coaching stints but that rejuvenated or saved their careers by becoming good/great offensive and defensive coordinators. Now of course, this isn’t the norm and yes you have cases in which former HCs don’t make for effective coordinators but lately more former head coaches are making for very effective coordinators for whatever reasons. There are essentially 2 MAIN reasons I believe former head coaches CAN make very effective coordinators; shedding A LOT of responsibilities and tapping into their PRIDE and focusing on redemption.
-Shedding the Head Coach title sheds A LOT of responsibilities.
It goes without saying that when transitioning from a Head Coach of a football team to a Coordinator of a football team the overall responsibilities are lessen and your essential duties are primarily cut in half at the LEAST. Most former head coaches settle into coordinator positions easily are able to make the transition smoothly primarily because the position demands less stress, requires less work and it’s easy to concentrate and focus on one side of the ball or one aspect of the team than it is to concentrate or manage an entire team. Again, some Head coaches are good at this but some become overwhelmed after a while and just simply burn out. These coaches are most likely better suited to utilize their expertise on one side of the ball where they can focus all their energy and creativity on solidifying either the offense or defense.
-Focused on redeeming their careers.
Let’s call it what it is; when a HC is fired and is hired to a coordinator position, he’s FAILED as a head coach…..PERIOD. The only way to redeem themselves or save face is for them to swallow pride and go ALL in at their new positions because failing at a coordinator position as well can ultimately land them OUT of the league and coaching Arena Football. This is enough motivation to FUEL a former HC to excel at their coordinator position because their ultimate goal is to one day be considered for another Head Coaching opportunity. Let’s not kid ourselves into thinking pride isn’t a driving force in motivating these former head coaches into becoming effective coordinators, at times its probably the ONLY driving force.
Now it’s easy to insinuate that Sparano will do an adequate job and will have his name added to the list of former HCs that have gone to have solid coordinating careers but that’s NOT what I’m doing or even suggesting. I’m simply implying that NO ONE should be SHOCKED in the LEAST bit to see him excel as the Jets offensive coordinator. But let’s be honest here, Sparano won’t have to do much to be better than Brian Schottenheimer and that’s putting it MILDLY. Schottenheimer did a lot of good things during his time here with the Jets but it almost seemed at times he was over-matched and had problems adjusting against opposing defensive coordinators. He seemed unimaginative and uncreative and IMMENSELY predictable and THAT was when the team WON games. The word on Sparano has been all positive thus far and according to players, Sparano is “night and day” different from Brian Schottenheimer. TE Dustin Keller alluded to such when describing Sparano’s style;
“He definitely runs a tighter ship than I’ve seen from anyone before, and he’s not going to let anyone slip up,” Keller told the Star-Ledger. “I think that’s when problems do arise. It’s going to continue. You can tell it’s not just a one day or an OTA thing, this thing is going to keep on going and going, and I think we need it”
Again, talk is cheap but this is the type of talk Jets fans haven’t heard before and Sparano already has a respected reputation as a no non-sense kind of guy and considering the Jets had a few issues last season re players stepping out of POCKET, I’d say a “no-nonsense” coach may be just what they need. Jets offense has its work cut out for them as they are once again full of potential and promise but one thing is for certain, their offensive scheme and display WILL be different this season and will be structured around the philosophy of a former head coach that was recently fired a former head coach that undoubtedly has something to prove.