Tony Sparano

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Tony Sparano
refer to caption
Sparano as head coach of the Miami Dolphins in 2011.
Minnesota Vikings
Position: Offensive line coach
Personal information
Born: (1961-10-07) October 7, 1961 (age 56)
West Haven, Connecticut
Career information
High school: New Haven (CT) Lee
College: New Haven
Career history
As coach:
Head coaching record
Regular season: 32–41 (.438)
Postseason: 0–1 (.000)
Career: 32–42 (.432)
Coaching stats at PFR

Anthony Joseph Sparano III[1] (born October 7, 1961) is an American football coach who is currently the offensive line coach for the Minnesota Vikings. He previously served as the head coach of the Miami Dolphins and Oakland Raiders. Sparano is the only NFL head coach to lead a team to the playoffs the year following a one-win season, and only the second to conduct a ten-game turnaround, both of which he accomplished in his first season with the Dolphins.[2] However, Sparano was fired by the Dolphins on December 12, 2011, after a disappointing season.[3]

Playing career[edit]

Sparano was a four-year letterman for Division II University of New Haven, starting at center for the New Haven Chargers and graduating in 1982.[4] He earned a B.S. in criminal justice from New Haven in 1984.[5]

Coaching career[edit]


Sparano began his coaching career at his alma mater, serving as New Haven's offensive line coach for four seasons before joining the staff at Division I-AA Boston University. After one year as the team's offensive line coach, Sparano served five seasons as the Terriers' offensive coordinator.

Sparano was named New Haven's head coach in 1994, and led the Chargers to two playoff appearances in five seasons. In 1997, New Haven led Division II in offense (42.8 points per game) and finished second in defense (11.6 points allowed per game) en route to a 12–2 record, losing to Northern Colorado in the championship game.[6]

National Football League[edit]

Assistant coach[edit]

Beginning his NFL career in 1999, Sparano was fired in three staffing purges after brief stints with the Cleveland Browns, Washington Redskins and Jacksonville Jaguars.[7] While with the Redskins, Sparano was partly responsible for launching the career of Ross Tucker. Sparano was hired by new Dallas Cowboys coach Bill Parcells in 2003,[8] rising from tight ends coach to assistant head coach in his five seasons in Dallas. Sparano was the offensive play-caller for Dallas in 2006, but ceded the responsibilities to new offensive coordinator Jason Garrett the following season.[9]

Head coach[edit]

After firing Cam Cameron following a franchise-worst 1–15 season, the Miami Dolphins and new executive vice president of football operations, Bill Parcells hired Sparano to a four-year contract worth $2,500,000 per year on January 16, 2008.[10]

In his first season, Sparano led the Dolphins to an 11–5 record and the AFC East division title, securing the franchise's first playoff berth in seven seasons before losing to the Baltimore Ravens in a wild-card game. The 10-win turnaround tied an NFL record[11] and Sparano finished one vote behind Atlanta Falcons first-year head coach Mike Smith in balloting for the AP Coach of the Year award.[12]

In the 2009 and 2010 seasons, Sparano led the Dolphins to a 7-9 record and third place in the AFC East. Sparano's Dolphins went 1-7 at home in 2010. The Dolphins were the subject of much gossip at the end of the 2010 season when team owner Stephen Ross flew across the country with General Manager Jeff Ireland to interview then Stanford University coach Jim Harbaugh. At the time of the interview with Harbaugh, Sparano was still the team's head coach. It was also reported by numerous media sources that Ross also spoke with former NFL coaches Jon Gruden and Bill Cowher about the not yet open position. According to reports Bill Cowher told Ross he would not talk to him while he had a head coach in place.

On January 8, 2011, the Dolphins gave Sparano a two-year extension worth $4,500,000 dollars, with Ross saying he was the perfect man for the job. However, on December 12, 2011, hours after a week 14 loss to the Philadelphia Eagles, Sparano was fired; secondary coach Todd Bowles finished out the season. The Dolphins bought out his contract for $9 million.

Return to assistant coaching[edit]

On January 11, 2012, Sparano was hired as the new offensive coordinator for the New York Jets, signing a three-year deal.[13] Sparano was fired on January 7, 2013 after the Jets' offense performed extremely poorly, with an offense ranked 30th out of the 32 teams in the NFL.[14]

On January 23, 2013, Sparano was hired to the dual roles of assistant head coach and offensive line coach by the Oakland Raiders.[15] He was expected to work closely with new offensive coordinator Greg Olson and head coach Dennis Allen to restore the angle-blocking scheme favored by star running back Darren McFadden, following the Raiders' disappointing 2012 offensive showing. After an 0-4 start to the 2014 season, the Raiders promoted Sparano to interim head coach on September 30, 2014 after firing head coach Dennis Allen. Sparano was not retained as head coach following the 2014 season.

On January 22, 2015, the San Francisco 49ers announced Sparano would be their new tight ends coach under new head coach Jim Tomsula.[16]

On January 13, 2016, the Minnesota Vikings announced Sparano would be their new offensive line coach.[17]

Head coaching record[edit]


Year Team Overall Conference Standing Bowl/playoffs AFCA#
New Haven Chargers (NCAA Division II Independent) (1994–1998)
1994 New Haven 7–3
1995 New Haven 10–1–1 NCAA Division II Quarterfinals
1996 New Haven 7–3
1997 New Haven 12–2 L NCAA Division II Championship
1998 New Haven 5–5
New Haven: 41–14–1
Total: 41–14–1
  • #Rankings from final AFCA Poll.


Team Year Regular season Postseason
Won Lost Ties Win % Finish Won Lost Win % Result
MIA 2008 11 5 0 .688 1st in AFC East 0 1 .000 Lost to Baltimore Ravens in AFC Wild-Card Game
MIA 2009 7 9 0 .438 3rd in AFC East - - - -
MIA 2010 7 9 0 .438 3rd in AFC East - - - -
MIA 2011 4 9 0 .308 (Fired) - - -
MIA total 29 32 0 .475 0 1 .000
OAK* 2014 3 9 0 .250 4th in AFC West - - -
Total[18] 32 41 0 .438 0 1 .000

* – Interim head coach

Coaching tree[edit]

NFL head coaches under whom Tony Sparano has served:

Assistants under Sparano who have become NCAA or NFL head coaches:

Personal life[edit]

Sparano was born in West Haven, Connecticut. He has become known for wearing sunglasses, even during instances of relatively low lighting, due to an accident he suffered while working in a fast food restaurant at age 17 which damaged his eyesight and made sunglasses medically necessary.

Sparano and his wife, Jeanette, have three children: sons Anthony Michael (currently an assistant offensive line coach with the Jacksonville Jaguars) and Andrew (an offensive line coach at Chabot College) both played college football at Albany,[19] while daughter Ryan Leigh is a classically trained French pastry chef.[20]


  1. ^ Kelly, Omar (August 28, 2008). "Handpicked to right ship". South Florida Sun-Sentinel. Retrieved January 20, 2015. 
  2. ^ "Dolphins still have room to improve after remarkable turnaround". Retrieved 2009-02-16. 
  3. ^ "Dolphins fire coach Tony Sparano". Retrieved 2012-01-11. 
  4. ^ "Sparano Enters: The Dolphins on Track?". 2008-01-20. Retrieved 2012-01-11. 
  5. ^ "Distinguished Alumni: Anthony J. Sparano III". University of New Haven. Retrieved January 20, 2015. 
  6. ^ Cavanaugh, Jack (1997-12-13). "New Haven Just a Step from Division II Peak". New York Times. Retrieved 2009-02-16. 
  7. ^ Bishop, Greg (2008-09-05). "Tony Sparano Follows Unconventional Path to Become Dolphins' Coach". New York Times. Retrieved 2009-02-16. 
  8. ^ "Parcells hires three more coaches". New York Times. 2003-01-16. Retrieved 2009-02-16. 
  9. ^ Watkins, Calvin (2007-06-09). "Garrett will call Cowboys' plays". Dallas Morning News. Retrieved 2009-02-16. 
  10. ^ "Dolphins hire Sparano as head coach, replacing Cameron". 2008-01-16. Retrieved 2009-02-16. 
  11. ^ "Miami on pace to tie best turnaround in NFL history". Retrieved 2009-02-16. 
  12. ^ "Smith edges Sparano for AP Coach of Year". 2009-01-07. Retrieved 2011-01-11. 
  13. ^ Cimini, Rich (11 January 2012). "Jets hire Tony Sparano to staff". ESPN. Archived from the original on 11 January 2012. Retrieved 11 January 2012. 
  14. ^ Orr, Conor (8 January 2013). "Tony Sparano fired as Jets offensive coordinator, report says". The Star-Ledger. Archived from the original on 8 January 2013. Retrieved 8 January 2013. 
  15. ^ Florio, Mike (23 January 2013). "Tony Sparano lands in Oakland". 
  16. ^ "Tony Sparano new 49ers TE coach". ESPN. 22 January 2015. 
  17. ^ Hartman, Sid (January 13, 2016). "Ex Dolphins Boss Tony Sparano To Coach Vikings Offensive Line". Minneapolis Star Tribune. Retrieved January 13, 2016. 
  18. ^ Tony Sparano Record, Statistics, and Category Ranks -
  19. ^ University at Albany football roster
  20. ^ Tony Sparano Bio
Sporting positions
Preceded by
Brian Schottenheimer
New York Jets Offensive Coordinator
Succeeded by
Marty Mornhinweg