Originally posted on Fox Sports Florida  |  Last updated 12/12/11

MIAMI - 2009: Jeff Ireland of the Miami Dolphins poses for his 2009 NFL headshot at photo day in Miami, Florida. (Photo by NFL Photos)
DAVIE, FL Tony Sparano was fired Monday as headcoach of the Miami Dolphins. The only shock was that it took so long. Now, Dolphins fans anxiously wait to see if general manager Jeff Ireland loseshis job. Ireland should be the next to go so that the Dolphins' house-cleaning and roadto redemption will be made complete. But apparently that's not going to happen. "Jeff is the general manager," Dolphins owner Stephen Ross said."Jeff will remain the general manager and we will work together in findingthe head coach." Make no mistake, Sparano needed to go. In three-plus seasons he amassed a 29-32(.475) record with three consecutive losing seasons. At the time of thisseason's horrid 0-7 start Sparano had a 10-game losing streak. Plus, theDolphins had lost 11 of his last 12 home games. In each of the previous two seasons the Dolphins lost their final three games,finishing 7-9 both years. Turn those losses into wins and Sparano and hisDolphins finish 10-6 each year. Sparano, who carried a three-game losing streak into the season, should havebeen fired after his 0-4 start, at the bye week. But Ireland's head should beon the chopping block, too. It isn't. Instead, Sparano is the only sacrificial lamb, the only one blamed for thefranchise producing a total of six Pro Bowl players in the last three-plusseasons. One of those Pro Bowl players was a kicker (Dan Carpenter) and anotherwas the deep snapper (John Denney). That's not exactly the type of talent you need to compete with the likes of AFCrivals New England and the New York Jets. Sparano didn't supply the talent;that's Ireland's failure. But apparently, it'll be tough to convince Ross of that fact. "The record is not indicative of what I think the team is capableof," Ross said. "The foundation is there to build a winningteam." Ross and Ireland made a trip to California in January to talk to then-Stanfordcoach Jim Harbaugh about becoming the head coach. They did that behindSparano's back. At that time, you knew Sparano wasn't long for this job. Harbaugh eventually turned Miami down and took the San Francisco job. Ross,embarrassed that his inquiry became public, gave Sparano a two-year extensionand made him sit through an awkward news conference to announce the somewhatfraudulent deal. No one felt comfortable that day, not Ross, not Ireland, not Sparano. Overtime, Ross and Ireland came to feel comfortable. Sparano never did. "He's been under a tremendous amount of pressure," Ross said,"and you could probably see it on his face." Sadly, it took Sparano too long to realize the NFL has become a passing game,that it wasn't still the same beefy, ground-and-pound game of one of hismentors, Bill Parcells. The NFL is a sleek, modern, upwardly mobile game nowadays.Yet last season, when the rest of the NFL was flinging the ball downfield,Sparano was trying to win with an archaic offense led by running backs RonnieBrown and Ricky Williams. That's bad. But Sparano wasn't alone in taking this franchise to three consecutive losingseasons for the first time since its inception in 1966 when it had fourconsecutive losing seasons. Sparano did what he could with the talent he wasgiven. This mess wasn't totally his fault. That's where Ireland comes in. Parcells was his mentor, too. Parcells, Irelandand Sparano came as a package deal in 2008 from Dallas. Sparano went 11-5 in his first season, fueled by an incredible performance byquarterback Chad Pennington, a healthy club and a low number of turnovers. Itwas a miracle season, an unforeseen turnaround from the 1-15 atrocity that wasthe 2007 season under Cam Cameron. Then reality set in. Losing followed. The fan base, one of the more loyal in pro sports considering their team hasn'tbeen to a Super Bowl in nearly three decades, finally noticed. The Dolphins hadto buy tickets in five of this year's seven home games to avoid a localblackout. It's a shame a once-proud franchise has come to this. But this isreality. The Dolphins are a mediocre franchise, and have been for the pastdecade. The coaching search will start immediately. "We're looking for the best candidate out there, a guy that's been in thetrenches before," Ireland said. Ross ought to require the same in a general manager.
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