Tony Sparano left his press conference Tuesday shaking his head and muttering under his breath in disbelief.
I've never seen that kind of reaction from Sparano because he handles the media about as well as I've seen any coach do that in my time covering the Dolphins -- and that is a looong time, and that includes Don Shula.
But I guess Sparano was never asked a question before like he was asked Tuesday. He's never before been at the stage where anyone is openly asking him (even in a round-about manner) if he's worried about his job.
We reached the starting line of that point Tuesday.
Sparano was asked Tuesday if he is coaching "urgent."
Now, I don't know what coaching urgent means exactly. There are two ways to go here:
A coach can have an urgent approach, as in we have to get something done immediately because time is running out in the game so let's speed things up or get a little more aggressive with our play calls on offense and take more chances on defense. There is that.
But there is also urgent as in desperate, as in concerned, as in trying to prove something to someone. There is urgent as in trying to guard or save one's job.
I'm not certain which one of these two the question was meant to explore. I get the feeling Sparano felt it was a little of both because the context was him making a QB change from a long-range prospect (Chad Henne) to a short-term option (Chad Pennington), among other things.
“I wouldn’t say I’m coaching urgent," Sparano said. "I would say that my job is to evaluate as many ways as possible for us to be able to win football games and I don’t think you can ignore signs.
"I think you got to be smart to the signs. Now if that’s urgent then that’s your phrase. To me if you continue to ignore signs and turn your face to them, you’re going to have a problem somewhere down the way, the road. It’s going to catch up with you and in my mind I think we didn’t sign up here to come in eighth place, ninth place, twelfth place; we signed up to try to be the best.
"So it’s my job to try to push as many of the buttons as I possibly can to do that.”
It is interesting to me that some media and fans have seen Sparano makes changes in the lineup, get more aggressive with flea-flickers or other trick plays, move on from waste-of-time or stopgap players such as Jason Allen, and decide it's a sign of desperation.
The blogs (other inferior ones, not this one), and local radio shows (other less knowlegable ones, not mine) are filled with conspiracy theories about Sparano being worried about his job and departing from the early-season course because he's under pressure to save his job.
Let me offer another idea:
Sparano is making changes, exploring options because the Dolphins are a freakin' fracking mediocre team and the coach is supposed to try to milk some excellence out of mediocre. And if he continues doing what he did previously all he will get is mediocre. And if he doesn't do something different, all that makes him is mediocre.
And nobody wants mediocre!
Would anyone rather Sparano sit on his hands and do nothing? Would anyone want him to do the same that he's been doing as the team got to 4-4? Is that what anyone would define is good coaching or the proper approach?
I want the coach to feel like there's no better time to win than now. I want the coach to pull strings, change lineups, jack up assistants, shake everyone up, in search of something better than 4-4 or mediocre.
If a coach doesn't do that he's worse than a bad coach. He's a spectator.
How can anyone see it any other way?