Miami coach Tony Sparano appears prepared for the worst after another tough defeat.
The fourth-year coach, who is under pressure because of a 28-31 record, acknowledged that he might not be a part of the Dolphins' future during comments he made defending Pro Bowl left tackle Jake Long after Miami's 20-19 loss to Dallas on Thanksgiving.
''I'll say this about Jake Long,'' Sparano said Friday. ''We're all going to be really happy down the road here, or you're all going to be really happy down the road here, that Jake Long is here and he's a Miami Dolphin.''
It was the ''or'' phrase that raised eyebrows, Sparano seemingly conceding that he is unlikely to be around for the long haul after the Cowboys dropped the Dolphins to 3-8 on the season and snapped a three-game winning streak that had raised hopes in Miami.
Considering that Dolphins owner Steve Ross flew to California during the offseason to speak to Jim Harbaugh, the former Stanford coach now coaching the San Francisco 49ers, about coaching the Dolphins, it's not hard to envision Sparano's job being in jeopardy.
Before Miami won at Kansas City on Nov. 6, the Dolphins had a 10-game losing streak dating to last season. Before Miami defeated Washington at Sun Life Stadium on Nov. 13, the Dolphins had lost 12 of their previous 13 home games.
Despite that, it was only a few days ago that optimism peaked in South Florida. Miami entered the Dallas contest on a three-game win streak and players were quietly talking about ''making a run,'' a veiled reference to their long shot playoff hopes.
With Thursday's loss, the reality of another disappointing season returned to the Dolphins' practice facility.
And the frustration surfaced Friday when Sparano became irritated after being asked whether in light of yet another loss it would be difficult to fire up his team for next week's game against Oakland.
''You guys ask me that question after every single game,'' he said in an irritated tone. ''I mean you ask me the same question. And then you eventually end up answering it yourselves. It's not going to be difficult.''
If the Dolphins want to help Sparano keep his job, they'll have to perform better.
Miami scored no touchdowns in four trips to the red zone against Dallas, newly signed kicker Shayne Graham missed a 47-yard field goal, and quarterback Matt Moore fumbled a snap right before halftime, Dallas recovered, scored a touchdown, and took a pivotal 10-3 lead into the locker room. The Cowboys won the game when kicker Dan Bailey hit a 28-yard field goal as time expired.
Such painful losses have become familiar under Sparano, who seems headed toward a third consecutive losing season.
''At the end of it we still had a chance to win the football game,'' he said. ''And at the end we weren't able to do it. We didn't make enough plays.''