Of four candidates, Cowboys' Sparano out front for Dolphins job

Updated: January 14, 2008, 6:50 PM ET
Associated Press

MIAMI -- At least one Dallas Cowboys player referred to assistant head coach Tony Sparano in the past tense Monday, because he may soon change teams.

The front-runner for the Miami Dolphins' head coaching job, Sparano became available for hire when the Cowboys lost their playoff game Sunday to the New York Giants.

"Tony was an unbelievable coach," Cowboys tight end Jason Witten said. "He'll be a great head coach, and this team will definitely miss him if he gets that opportunity."

On Monday, Tennessee Titans defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz became the fourth candidate to interview with the Dolphins. He may be the last candidate considered.

Sparano, who worked with new Dolphins boss Bill Parcells and new general manager Jeff Ireland when they were in Dallas, interviewed Jan. 5 with Miami. The Dolphins also interviewed Minnesota Vikings defensive coordinator Leslie Frazier and former Baltimore Ravens defensive coordinator Rex Ryan.

Ireland has said it's important that he and Parcells be familiar with the new coach. They have no direct ties to Schwartz, Frazier or Ryan, although Schwartz's first NFL job was under Parcells protege Bill Belichick, then with the Cleveland Browns.

Schwartz's Titans finished fifth in the league this season in yards allowed.

The Dolphins may need to outbid Baltimore or Atlanta for Sparano, who also interviewed for head coaching jobs with those teams.

"The one thing that separates Tony from a lot of guys is he's going to figure it out," Witten said. "He's going to do whatever it takes to put you in a situation to be successful. There are no excuses, and there's no second-guessing. As a player, knowing that your coach is doing everything possible to give you a chance to succeed, that's the biggest compliment you can ever give them."

Miami fired Cam Cameron after he went 1-15 in his first year as an NFL head coach.


Copyright 2008 by The Associated Press

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