Tony Sparano, Vikings offensive line coach and former Dolphins head coach, dies at 56
Sparano, who had been an NFL coach since 1999, died unexpectedly on Sunday
"Our hearts go out to Jeanette and the entire Sparano family as we all mourn the loss of Tony," Vikings Owners Mark and Zygi Wilf said in a statement. "Tony was a passionate and driven individual who cared deeply about his family, and especially enjoyed spending time with his grandchildren. Tony's presence within the Vikings organization will be deeply missed. We are only thinking of Tony's family during this incredibly difficult time. We ask that the entire NFL and Vikings family keep the Sparanos in their thoughts."
General manager Rick Spielman and head coach Mike Zimmer also issued statements.
"I am at a loss for words with Tony's sudden passing," Spielman said. "Tony loved the game of football and his players. More importantly, he was a strong man of faith who treasured his family. My heart is with the Sparanos today. As an organization we will support them in whatever ways we can."
Zimmer added: "I love Tony Sparano. He was a great teacher, a grinder of a worker and had a toughness and fighting spirit that showed in our linemen. He was a great husband, father and grandfather and a great friend to me. This is just sinking in for us but Tony will be sorely missed by all."
According to a report from ESPN, Sparano complained of chest pains Thursday and was hospitalized. He underwent tests and was discharged Friday.
Sparano joined the Vikings staff before the 2016 season and before that he had been in the NFL since 1999 when he joined the Browns as a quality control coach. In 2007, he was named assistant head coach and offensive line coach with the Cowboys, and from 2008-2011 he served as the Dolphins head coach.
Sparano went 11-5 during the '08 season, which coincided with the popularity of the wildcat offense. The Dolphins won the AFC East and qualified for the playoffs for the first time since 2001. They wouldn't appear in the postseason again until 2016. Sparano was 29-32 in Miami. His only other head-coaching stint came in 2014 when he served in an interim capacity for Dennis Allen, who was fired in Oakland after an 0-4 start. The Raiders finished with three wins and after the season Sparano joined the 49ers. A year later, he was hired by Vikings coach Mike Zimmer.
Sparano, who was 56, is survived by his wife, Jeanette, three children -- sons, Tony and Andrew, his daughter, Ryan Leigh -- and four grandchildren.
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