MIAMI -- During the Dallas Cowboys' final practice this
week, assistant head coach Tony Sparano chatted for several minutes
with owner Jerry Jones. The likely topic: the courtship of Sparano
by teams in need of a head coach, including the Miami Dolphins.
Players noticed the conversation and peppered Sparano with
good-natured shouts of "Hell no, Tony," not wanting to lose a
coach who has played a significant role in their 13-3 season.
Sparano is the early front-runner for the Dolphins job that
became vacant Thursday when Cam Cameron was fired after only one
season. New Miami boss Bill Parcells and new general manager Jeff
Ireland worked with Sparano in Dallas, and they've stressed the
desire to hire someone they know who shares their philosophy.
Sparano was to interview Friday for Atlanta's head coach, and
there was no indication an interview with Miami had been scheduled.
But Ireland returned to Dallas and is expected to meet with Sparano on Saturday, The Miami Herald reported.
The Dolphins are hoping to claim their place among those teams vying for Sparano's services before Sunday's deadline to interview assistants from teams with playoff byes, the paper reported.
The Dolphins are also expected to interview Minnesota defensive
coordinator Leslie Frazier. Other possible candidates include
Baltimore defensive coordinator Rex Ryan, Jacksonville assistant
head coach Mike Tice and Arizona offensive coordinator Todd Haley.
Sparano, 46, was hired by Parcells in Dallas in 2003 as tight
ends coach. He became offensive line coach in 2005, and in 2006 he
called the Cowboys' plays. He was promoted to assistant head coach
Sparano's only head coaching experience was at his alma mater,
New Haven, in 1994-98.
"He communicates tremendously well with players, and gets them
to know exactly what he wants and what needs to be done," Dallas
head coach Wade Phillips said.
"He's a football man. I like guys that are really good football
coaches to get head coaching jobs, rather than some guy that is
kind of the front man."
Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.