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News » Decision '08: Parcells pulling strings as VP?

Decision '08: Parcells pulling strings as VP?

Decision '08: Parcells pulling strings as VP?
Not all vice presidents are created equal.

There is the light-as-a-feather, don't-mind-me insignificance of Dan Quayle. And then there's the iron-fisted, policy-setting dark eminence of Dick Cheney.

Not all NFL executive vice presidents are created equal either. And what kind do you suppose Bill Parcells is going to be as he looms over first-year NFL head coach Tony Sparano?

Parcells made himself scarce (hiding in an undisclosed location?) when Sparano was named the Dolphins new coach in January, letting Miami general manager Jeff Ireland make the announcement and deal with the media. But there was no doubt whose call it was. Sparano was Parcells' guy, having risen from tight ends coach to play-caller during his four seasons under Parcells in Dallas.

When Cheney was put in charge of George W. Bush's vice-presidential search committee, he signaled the kind of VP he'd be by choosing himself. When Parcells was looking for a coach to replace the 1-15 Cam Cameron, he signaled the kind of independence he was looking for in a head coach by hiring a candidate who A) had been a head coach just once before, at the University of New Haven; B) had never officially been a coordinator in the NFL — despite calling the Cowboys' plays in 2006; and C) would owe all the highlights on his resume to the Tuna himself.

This doesn't necessarily mean that Parcells will be a puppeteer. But it does virtually guarantee that if Parcells decides to treat Sparano like a marionette, he won't get any push-back from his new coach.

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Parcells once famously complained, "If they want you to cook the dinner, at least they ought to let you shop for some of the groceries."


So naturally Parcells will just turn Sparano loose at the Farmer's Market and let him fill his basket with whatever the new chef fancies, right? Ha-ha.

No, for the time being, Sparano will toil happily in the massive shadow cast by his legendary boss and be content to let him buy the groceries.

The Dolphins made Jake Long the No. 1 overall pick in the 2008 draft. We don't know enough about Sparano to have a full idea of a "Tony Sparano" player, but we know that the Tuna loves tall, massive offensive tackles, having coached Jumbo Elliott and Flozell "The Hotel" Adams.

Perhaps Sparano agreed that Jake Long was the best player in the 2007 draft. You just get the feeling that his opinion didn't really matter.

Then came the acquisition of Chad Pennington. Parcells originally drafted Pennington with the 18th pick in the 2000 draft, during his one season serving as Jets GM after stepping down as coach.

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Parcells has always brought in former players, even ones he was openly critical of like Terry Glenn. But after an uninspired QB battle between Josh McCown, John Beck and Chad Henne, you can bet Sparano didn't resist the upgrade at QB.

While Sparano has never been the boss, he did have great success with someone else's groceries in 2006.

In his one season calling the plays, Dallas scored 425 points, good for fourth in the NFL. Sparano was a star on the rise.

But then Tony Romo fumbled the hold on a chip-shot field goal and the always-dyspeptic Parcells had had enough, quitting after failing to win a playoff game in four seasons in Big D.

With Parcell's departure, Sparano's bullet train to offensive coordinator and head coach was momentarily derailed. Jason Garrett was brought in to run the Cowboys' offense under Wade Phillips and Sparano accepted a demotion back to offensive line coach with no play-calling responsibilities.

Suddenly it was Garrett who was the golden boy, benefiting from the Cowboys' explosive attack and landing on everyone's short list as a head coach in waiting.

But Sparano still had a very powerful ally in Parcells.

When the Tuna met with Arthur Blank — ostensibly to consider coming on board to resurrect the moribund Falcons, though perhaps more likely to drive up his asking price in Miami — he dropped Sparano's name as someone any franchise would be lucky to have as head coach.

And just like that Sparano was in demand. The Falcons wanted him. The Ravens were interested. And of course the Dolphins — winners of the Parcells sweepstakes — were first in line.

Miami wasted no time tabbing Sparano after the Cowboys lost to the Giants in the playoffs.

So now you have a rookie head coach in Miami with a legendary coach running the team.

Sound familiar? It was just five years ago that a similar scenario played out with the Miami Heat.

Pat Riley turned the reins over to longtime assistant Stan Van Gundy but stayed on as team president, trading for Shaquille O'Neal.

Van Gundy led the Heat to the playoffs in his first season and the conference finals in his second. But he abruptly resigned early in this third season, paving the way for Riley to return to the bench and guide the Heat to the 2006 NBA title.

For now Parcells is content to let Sparano's coaching record take the hits as the team goes through its inevitable growing pains. But how long will the Tuna support Sparano? What if his hand-picked protege pulls a Rich Kotite and goes 4-28 in his first two seasons? Or what if Parcells sees his groceries turning the Dolphins into a contender?

Will he be able to resist the sideline? He already holds the record for leading four different teams to the playoffs. Why not make it five?

The challenge for Sparano is to have the team steadily improve without making the gig look overly attractive to his boss.

Because what the Tuna giveth, the Tuna can taketh away.

Author:Fox Sports
Author's Website:http://www.foxsports.com
Added: August 18, 2008

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