|New York Jets offensive coordinator Tony Sparano during the third quarter against the Philadelphia Eagles. Sparano said he had no hard feelings against the Dolphins. (US Presswire)|
Division rivalry games always have a little more energy to them, but in the case of this week's Jets vs. Dolphins game, there's an added element: OC Tony Sparano is going back to face the team where he served as head coach from 2008-2011.
Although Sparano is now in New York, many of the players and some of the coaches he worked with remain with the Dolphins, which will add a bit of an edge.
"There are a few coaches there that coached with Tony and that's a big thing," coach Rex Ryan said. "[Plus], he takes a great deal of pride in those guys that play over there."
Sparano downplayed looking at this game any differently, despite his history there and the fact that the Dolphins fired him.
"It's a business trip. We've got a game to play."
As for any lingering bitterness? "I don't have any hard feelings," he said. "It's part of how the league works."
Internally, Sparano also hasn't put any extra pressure on his players for this week's game. "We want to do right by him," WR Jeremy Kerley said. "But he hasn't made an issue of it."
Sparano acknowledged that walking into Sun Life Stadium as a member of the visiting team will be a little different. "I couldn't tell you where the visitors locker room is there," he said with a smile.
One of the reasons Sparano may not be putting too much time into thinking about his homecoming is that he has a game to plan, and with all eyes on the Jets offense and everybody waiting to see if and when the much-discussed wildcat will be showcased, he doesn't have too much time to think about the secondary plot lines.
Regarding how having QB Tim Tebow and the wildcat option impacts his game-planning, Sparano gave a wry smile. "I put more hours in," he said. "There's a game plan that goes in and there's another game plan that goes on and that's a fact."
Sparano talked about how, in many respects, he's game-planning in the dark when it comes to the wildcat because of the uniqueness of the play. "I don't have any evidence," he said. "There's not people that do what we do. I try to dig and dig and dig and that can be four or five more hours worth [of planning]."
As for whether his familiarity with the Dolphins will help as he game-plans this week, Sparano shrugged. "I don't think it hurts, I don't think it helps. Sometimes that stuff can be overrated."