Awful news out of Minnesota, where current Vikings offensive line coach and former Dolphins head coach Tony Sparano died unexpectedly this morning at age 56.
Media reports surfaced midday Sunday, and the Vikings confirmed them here:
Statement from Vikings Owners Mark and Zygi Wilf on the sudden passing of Tony Sparano. pic.twitter.com/uMgcw1m0en
— Minnesota Vikings (@Vikings) July 22, 2018
Sparano died just days before the Vikings are scheduled to begin training camp.
KTSP TV in Minneapolis reported first that Sparano, who’s been Minnesota’s offensive line coach since 2016, died at his home and was found by his wife Jeannette.
ESPN’s Chris Mortensen reported later Sunday afternoon that Sparano had gone to the hospital Thursday in Minnesota complaining of chest pains. He was however released on Friday. The network’s Adam Schefter also reported that the Sparano’s were preparing to got to Church Sunday morning, when his wife found him unresponsive in the kitchen. She attempted CPR, but he never regained consciousness.
Sparano was the Dolphins head coach from 2008-2011. In his first season, he led the Dolphins to an 11-5 regular season, the AFC East title and the Fins first playoff berth in seven seasons. Unfortunately, he never had another winning season going 7-9 the next two years.
Then, after new owner Stephen Ross had tried very famously, but failed, to lure Jim Harbaugh from Stanford in the 2011 off season, Sparano was fired with a 4-9 record and three games remaining in the year.
Sparano then joined the Oakland Raiders as an assistant head coach/offensive line in 2013. Then, when the Raiders fired coach Dennis Allen after an 0-4 start, Sparano took over (above), as the interim coach and the Raiders went 3-9.
He coached the 2015 season as a tight ends coach with the 49ers before going to Minnesota.
Former Dolphins WR Brian Hartline, who was part of 2008 playoff team, reacted on Twitter Sunday afternoon:
— Brian Hartline (@brianhartline) July 22, 2018
The Dolphins officially sent their condolences on social media a short time later on Sunday:
Stephen Ross on the passing of Tony Sparano. pic.twitter.com/0AypInN4Ne
— Miami Dolphins (@MiamiDolphins) July 22, 2018
Sparano is survived not only by has wife but his three grown children.
Dolphins DE Quinn was one of few bright spots Friday night
It was largely a lackluster and at times, poor performance in preseason game #2 for the Dolphins Friday night 27-20 loss in Charlotte.
However, one of the bright spots is a guy that they are counting on for veteran presence and quarterback pressure in Pro Bowl veteran DE Robert Quinn.
Quinn made a couple of impact plays right away and introduced himself to the Panthers Cam Newton here:
Robert Quinn takes down Cam. #MIAvsCAR
— Miami Dolphins (@MiamiDolphins) August 18, 2018
It’s no secret in Matt Burke’s defense that they need Quinn and fellow Pro Bowl vet Cam Wake to get pressure of the ends. And while it was only a preseason game, it still had to be good feeling for all involved to see it.
Quinn spoke to the media post game about his potential impact and Joe Schad of the Palm Beach Post was there:
“Just trying to do my job,” Quinn said. “That’s always been my motto. Just trying to do my job. Add my piece to the puzzle. Today was just a stepping stone. Trying to get back and make sure I can be a productive player to help this team win.”
Quinn said he feels a responsibility to stay healthy and perform at a high level for the Dolphins, particularly because they traded for him.
“I feel pretty good,” he said. “Getting older. But, I feel pretty good. Been working out. A little more stretching. Especially coming off the injury years. I’m not trying to set myself back. And also the commitment this team made to me I’m not trying to shoot them in the foot, also. Trying to do whatever I can to stay on the field.”
He had 8.5 sacks a year ago under new first defensive coordinator Wade Phillips, as the Rams won the NFC West in 2017. However, the Rams made a series of acquisitions trading for DBs Marcus Peters from the Chiefs for draft picks and the same with Aqib Talib from Denver. They also signed former Dolphin Ndamukong Suh to a large one year contract.
Yet, Quinn did not fit into their plans or under the L.A. salary cap.
He does in both cases for Miami and they hope they see a lot more of what they saw Friday night.
Three things to watch as Dolphins battle Panthers Friday night
The Dolphins have traveled north to Charlotte to take on the Panthers in their second preseason game of 2018.
Here are three things we will be watching on Friday night:
Progress of Ryan Tannehill/the offense with him
We only saw a small dose of Tannehill (one possession) last week and there were some positives in his first game action in 18 months. Tannehill ran the Fins no huddle early completing 4-6 passes for 32 yards. He mixed some throws to Kenny Stills and Danny Amendola and Miami moved into field goal range before rookie Jason Sanders misfired from 53 yards out.
Now, it’s expected that Tannehill will play at least the whole first quarter, as he works his way back from his ACL surgery.
Kenyan Drake got the start in the backfield last week, and veteran Frank Gore was inactive for the game. The 35 year old Gore is expected to see his first action against what is a stout Carolina front seven on defense. The Dolphins attempting to establish some kind of ground attack will be key not just Friday night, but moving forward.
It’s a good test of the progress that Tanehill, the offense as a whole and new coordinator Dowell Loggains have made.
Handling Christian McCaffery
The Panthers have made no secret that they want to get second year RB and former first round pick, Christian McCaffery, many more touches this season. And McCaffery may be a better receiver out of the backfield than runner, especially between the tackles. McCaffery debuted (above) with four carries for 11 yards and two catches for 29 yards in Buffalo last week.
We suspect that he will play much, if not all of, the first half against the likes Cam Wake, Kiko Alonso, Davon Godchaux and Raewkon McMillian.
It will be a great test for Miami, which had trouble stopping the Bucs’ Peyton Barber in the first half last week, to try to handle the small but explosive McCaffery.
Dolphins focus and attention to detail
Dating back to their “dress rehearsal” practice at Hard Rock Stadium before preseason game one, the Fins had trouble keeping their poise, not committing silly unforced penalties.
How sharp will they look tonight? Are there false starts? Will there be dropped balls, missed assignments, blown coverages, etc.?
It is, after all the second preseason game and there should be some improvement in these areas.
You need to have some levity to get through rigors of training camp, and Tuesday coach Adam Gase provided some in the form of 1980’s “B Comedies” and his team’s no-huddle offense.
The Dolphins showed part of that up tempo offense on the first series of their preseason opening game with the Bucs last Thursday night. And, QB Ryan Tannehill was effective running it on that opening drive.
However, we haven’t seen the fastest version of the Fins hurry up….it’s known in their lingo as “Ludicrous Speed.”
Now, unless you are a huge fan of the Sci-fi “spoof” movie from 1987, “Spaceballs,” that reference is likely lost on you. The movie stars Mel Brooks, Rick Moranis, John Candy, Bill Pullman and Daphne Zuniga, and is primarily mocking the the ultra popular “Star Wars” series of the late 70’s and early 80’s.
The reference to “Ludicrous Speed” comes from this scene, where Moranis, as the faux Darth Vader, is ordering his ship to chase after the “good guys.” Whether you’ve seen it or haven’t here goes:
It’s one of several memorable silly slapstick humorous scenes in the flick.
And that brings us to more humor with head coach Adam Gase being asked about “Ludicrous Speed” at his Tuesday post practice press conference.
Dolphins Live: Coach Gase meets with the media. https://t.co/nYDl8GiKvJ
— Miami Dolphins (@MiamiDolphins) August 14, 2018
Gase, laughed and knew that QB Ryan Tannehill had described that version to the media of the no huddle, where the team races to the line to run the same play, and try to catch the defense off guard or substituting, etc.
He was then, asked if it actually came from the movie?
“You know it? (Gase to a reporter)…. Yeah. There’s a lot of 80’s terms. You gotta remember, when we started this thing, who the quarterback was. The only problem was no one else knew what we were talking about. So it was good between me and him, but nobody else.”
The “who the quarterback was” is reference to soon to be Hall of Famer Peyton Manning, and the terms from when they were together in Denver a few years ago.
Manning, a child of the mid-late 80’s, obviously would use some of these terms or references as code words in the terminology for teams.
We say, Bravo to that.
And, Bravo to keeping guys and gals like Moranis, Pullman, Zuniga, and of course the late John Candy relevant a little longer.
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