The Dolphins' coaching race is a one-man event.
Sure, the Dolphins granted interviews to ousted Ravens defensive coordinator Rex Ryan and Vikings defensive coordinator Leslie Frazier on Tuesday, but if the Giants upset the Cowboys on Sunday, by Monday, Dallas assistant head coach Tony Sparano probably will be giving a press conference at Dolphins headquarters.
Dolphins vice president of football operations Bill Parcells and his new general manager, Jeff Ireland, have said that the lack of familiarity with fired coach Cam Cameron was a prime reason for his dismissal, and that familiarity with the next head coach is a prerequisite to their hiring.
Sparano, who met with Ireland in Irving, Texas, last weekend, passes the test. Plus, he's a first-time head coach whom Parcells can mold in his own image. He's a tough, no-nonsense coach the players love to play for. He commands respect, something that appeared to have gotten away from Cameron and his veterans down the stretch of a 1-15 season.
Frazier's interview gets the Dolphins off the hook for the Rooney Rule, which mandates that they interview at least one minority candidate for the head coaching job. It's possible that Frazier and Ryan could be considered for the vacated defensive coordinator job, although Frazier would have to be given a showy title so it looks like a promotion and not a lateral move.
Parcells has no direct ties to Frazier or Ryan, other than being familiar with their Bears roots, where they learned how to play defense under legendary Chicago defensive coordinator Buddy Ryan. Sparano called the plays for Parcells in his last season as Cowboys coach in 2006, and he directed the league's fourth-ranked attack.
Another sign pointing to Sparano becoming the eighth Dolphins head coach in team history (counting interim coach Jim Bates), and the fifth coach since 2004, is that Miami pilfered former Arkansas offensive coordinator David Lee away from Ole Miss, where he was supposed to be Houston Nutt's coordinator this season. Lee, who will be the Dolphins' quarterbacks coach, succeeding the fired Terry Shea, worked for the Cowboys from 2003-06, where he helped turn undrafted quarterback Tony Romo into a Pro Bowl player.
It's rare for a team to start hiring assistants when the coach hasn't been hired yet, unless a handshake and a wink have already taken place with Sparano and Parcells.
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