Tony Sparano

Latest On Colts’ OL Situation

After years of dominant offensive line play, the last season of offensive line coach Chris Strausser‘s tenure saw an uncharacteristically down year for the team’s position group up front. With Strausser now coaching for rival Houston, the Colts are hoping that Tony Sparano can get the line back on track.

After the spring, it appears that the team has no plans to switch up the starting lineup with which they ended the 2022 season, according to Mike Chappell of FOX 59. Left tackle Bernhard Raimann, left guard Quenton Nelson, center Ryan Kelly, right guard Will Fries, and right tackle Braden Smith all return to start in 2023.

After starting his career in an elite manner, Nelson’s play has dropped slightly in the past two years. He’s still a Pro Bowl talent who is in no danger of losing his starting job, but after an extension that would make him the league’s highest paid guard at the time became inevitable, he’s gone from a top-three guard in the NFL to top-20, according to Pro Football Focus (subscription required). Fries, a seventh-round pick from 2021, was asked to step up as a starter for the second-half of last season. It took him a bit to find his footing, but he displayed a few strong performances to end the season, and he’ll start the year opposite Nelson.

At center, Kelly has shown flashes of talent that have made him a top-10 center in the past. He bounced back after a dismal 2021 season but still didn’t quite reach the top-form we saw from him just a few years ago. His job should continue to be safe as backups Wesley French and Dakoda Shepley have a combined zero starts.

On the outside ends of the line, the team will aim to get Raimann and Smith a full year together. Raimann stepped up a few games into the season last year and performed admirably as a rookie at what is widely considered the toughest job on the line. Now, with 11 starts under his belt, Raimann is ready to not only perform but excel on the blindside in Year 2. Smith continues to be a bright spot on the line, even in a down year for the group. The only challenge with Smith seems to be keeping him on the field. Smith has missed nine games since the start of the 2020 season, and keeping him healthy throughout the year could be big for the integrity of the line.

The roster consistency gave Indianapolis the luxury of not needing to do much to address the position group this offseason. No big men were added in free agency, but the team added two rookies in the draft in fourth-round pick Blake Freeland out of BYU and seventh-round pick Jake Witt out of Northern Michigan. While Witt has an NFL frame that could help him contribute as a rookie depth piece if needed, he’s likely a project that needs a bit of time to develop. Freeland, on the other hand, looks a bit more NFL-ready and is expected to stand in as the team’s swing tackle as a rookie. If Smith does end up missing any time or Raimann experiences a bit of a sophomore slump, Freeland should be the first name off the bench to fill in.

So, that’s the situation heading into 2023. There’s a little concern over the lack of personnel adjustments after a disappointing performance in 2022, but there’s hope that consistency and a new face in the coaching staff will help push this group to its usual dominance. They also inserted that fresh blood that has potential to energize the line, if necessary.

NFC Coaching Updates: Giants, Commanders, Eagles, Bucs, Seahawks

The Giants announced the finalization of their 2023 staff early last month, according to Giants staff writer Michael Eisen. We’ve covered a couple of minor changes in previous posts, but there are a number of new updates in this announcement that have yet to be covered.

With the departure of Tony Sparano Jr., who left to coach the Colts‘ offensive line, New York has hired Chris Smith to fill the role of assistant offensive line coach. Smith has just finished a six-year career at Holy Cross, serving as offensive coordinator last year and offensive line coach, run game coordinator, and recruiting coordinator in previous years. The team also promoted two assistants. An offensive assistant with New York last year, Christian Jones will serve in 2023 as assistant quarterbacks coach. Angela Baker, the inaugural recipient of the Rosie Brown Minority Coaching Fellowship, will move from offensive quality control coach to offensive assistant.

Two staffers received promotions on the defensive side of the ball, as well. Last year’s assistant defensive backs coach Michael Treier was promoted to safeties coach for this year. And, after spending time as a football data & innovation research analyst, Ben Burress will rejoin the coaching staff in 2023 as a defensive assistant.

The Giants made a special teams addition, as well, hiring former Lions defensive quality control coach Stephen Thomas to fill a role as the team’s second assistant special teams coach.

Here are a few other coaching updates from around the league:

  • A strong candidate early in their search, the Commanders announced the hiring of Bobby Engram as their new wide receivers coach. The former Seahawks wideout has coaching stints at the 49ers and Ravens but mostly recently served as offensive coordinator at Wisconsin. Washington also hired Shane Toub as the team’s offensive quality control coach. Toub was a defensive quality control coach at Kansas last year after serving in the same position for the Bears previously. The team also hired former NFL cornerback Reggie Howard as a defensive quality control coach. Howard started coaching in 2015, about nine years after his playing career ended. This will be his first NFL coaching opportunity. Lastly, as the Commanders continue to try and fill their vacant offensive line coaching role, Nicki Jhabvala of the Washington Post provided the update that head coach Ron Rivera has informed John Matsko that they will not be hiring him for the job.
  • New Eagles defensive coordinator Sean Desai filled two position coaching roles last month. The team tweeted out that they would be hiring D. J. Eliot as their new linebackers coach. Eliot has been coaching at the college level since 1999, serving as defensive coordinator for Colorado, Kansas, and Temple, most recently. Eliot will receive his first NFL opportunity under Desai. Philadelphia also brought in Ronell Williams to serve as nickels coach, according to Courtney Cronin of ESPN. Williams previously served as a defensive quality control coach for the Bears.
  • The Buccaneers have added a new role to their staff, according to Pete Thamel of ESPN, hiring Jordan Somerville as their new assistant quarterbacks coach. Somerville coached running backs at New Mexico before serving last year as an offensive analyst at Oregon. This will be Somerville’s first NFL role.
  • The Seahawks made an addition to their defensive staff, according to Aaron Wilson of KPRC 2, hiring Roy Anderson as secondary coach. Anderson comes over after three years as assistant defensive backs coach in Minnesota. With the addition of Anderson, Karl Scott, who served last year as defensive passing game coordinator/defensive backs coach, will now take the title of defensive passing game coordinator/senior assistant.

Position Coaching Notes: Giants, Broncos, Jaguars

As the days go by, more and more position coaches are finalizing jobs with new teams. One of the busiest clubs remains the Giants. According to ESPN’s Adam Schefter, the team is hiring former Vikings assistant head coach and co-defensive coordinator Andre Patterson as its defensive line coach (Twitter link). The 61-year-old has a wealth of coaching experience at the NCAA and NFL ranks. While he has a defensive background, Patterson also served as a head coach at two stops along the way to the pro level.

His first NFL coaching gig came in 1997 with the Patriots. After stints with the Vikings, Cowboys, Browns and Broncos, he returned to the college ranks. Following seven additional seasons, six of which were spread across three colleges, he came back to Minnesota in 2014. He remained there until now, serving as the team’s d-line coach, but also holding the co-DC title for the past two campaigns.

Here are some other updates to Brian Daboll‘s new staff, along with those of the Broncos and Jaguars:

  • According to Jonathan Alexander of The Observer, Tony Sparano Jr. is making a lateral move from the Panthers to the Giants as their new assistant offensive line coach (Twitter link). The 35-year old already has a decade of coaching experience in the NFL spent with five different teams.
  • One hire the Giants won’t be making is that of Adam Henry for the role of wide receivers coach. NFL Network’s Mike Garafolo tweets that the team will be heading “in another direction” after they interviewed Henry earlier. The 49-year old coached the position at LSU for three years, then at the NFL level with the 49ers, Giants, Browns and Cowboys. Many felt a reunion in East Rutherford was likely, but that won’t be the case.
  • As for the Broncos, they will be adding to their defensive staff from the college ranks. ESPN’s Pete Thamel tweets that Ola Adams is coming aboard as an assistant secondary coach. Adams spent spent seven seasons at Villanova, and his success there earned him a promotion to co-defensive coordinator at Temple recently. Now, he will be on the move again, but this time up to the NFL level.
  • Finally, the Jaguars are hiring Brentson Buckner as their d-line coach (Twitter link via Pro Football Network’s Aaron Wilson). It had been reported earlier this week that the 50-year-old was a candidate for the position, so the move is not a surprising one. Buckner has coached the position with three NFL teams previously, dating back to 2013.


AFC West Notes: Raiders, Mack, Chiefs

Tony Sparano changed the Raiders‘ culture during his time in Oakland, Vic Tafur of The Athletic writes. Sparano, who died unexpectedly over the weekend, didn’t win when he was at the helm of the Raiders, but he earned the respect of his players through his hard work and love of the game.

He is up close and personal and blunt,” defensive end Justin Tuck once said. “He treats like you a man. I like his coaching style. … He is honest. There is no B.S. with Coach Sparano.”

Sparano worked for nine NFL teams in 19 seasons and he touched innumerable lives during his years on the sidelines. Success is largely measured by wins and losses in football, but Sparano achieved a great deal even when the record of his team did not show it.

Here’s more from the AFC West:

  • There’s reason to believe that Khalil Mack could take an aggressive approach towards his negotiations with the Raiders, Joel Corry of tweets. Corry notes that Mack is represented by Joel Segal, who represented running back Chris Johnson‘s during his holdout with the Titans in 2011. If Mack has the same resolve as Johnson, the Raiders may not see him until he gets a new deal. For reference, Johnson’s holdout in 2011 was not resolved until early September.
  • Good news for the Chiefs. Center Mitch Morse, linebacker Dee Ford, and running back Spencer Ware are expected to practice with the team and will not go on the PUP list to start camp (via the Associated Press). “All those guys, everybody else is good,” head coach Andy Reid said. “Again I just want to see on the field and we’ll kind of monitor as it goes but, yeah, they all should be ready to go.”
  • Broncos linebacker Shane Ray received some unexpected good news this week. He won’t have to undergo another wrist surgery and the team believes that he is not in danger of missing games.
  • Earl Thomas to the Chargers? Don’t bet on it.

Tony Sparano Passes Away

Vikings offensive line coach Tony Sparano, who previously served as the head coach of the Dolphins and the interim head coach of the Raiders, in addition to a number of other coaching positions in the NFL and collegiate ranks, has passed away, per (the Vikings have since confirmed the news). He was just 56.

Sparano complained of chest pains on Thursday and was admitted to a hospital, but was released on Friday following tests, according to Chris Mortensen of (Twitter links). Sparano’s wife then found him unconscious Sunday morning as his family was attempting to leave for church.

Sparano’s coaching career began as the offensive line coach at the University of New Haven in 1984, and after working on the offensive coaching staff at Boston University from 1988-93, he rejoined New Haven as head coach in 1994. He moved to the NFL as an offensive quality control coach for the expansion Browns in 1999, which marked the beginning of a 19-year career in the pros.

He is, of course, best known for his time as Miami’s head coach and his innovative Wildcat offense that became an NFL sensation in 2008, his first year at the helm for the Dolphins. Miami would go 11-5 that season en route to an AFC East title, the only time since 2003 that a team other than the Patriots has won that division (although Tom Brady was lost for the season during Week 1 of that campaign). The Dolphins, though, lost to the Ravens during the wildcard round of the 2008 playoffs, and they would not return to the postseason under Sparano’s watch.

Miami fired Sparano towards the end of the 2011 season, and he became the offensive coordinator of the division-rival Jets the following year. He moved on to the Raiders in 2013 and he took over as Oakland’s interim head coach upon Dennis Allen‘s dismissal following Week 4 of the 2014 campaign. The Raiders went just 3-9 under his command, however, and he would not get another shot as head coach, so he finished his NFL head coaching career with a 32-42 overall record.

Nonetheless, the 49ers hired him to be their tight ends coach in 2015, and he signed on with the Vikings in 2016. He may have moved around a lot, but he was clearly a respected coach with an offensive mind that NFL teams appreciated.

He leaves behind his wife, Jeannette, three children (one of whom, Tony Sparano Jr., is currently an assistant offensive line coach for the Jaguars), and four grandchildren.

Vikings owners Mark and Zygi Wilf issued the following statement:

“Our hearts go out to Jeanette and the entire Sparano family as we all mourn the loss of Tony. 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.”

We here at PFR offer our condolences and best wishes to Sparano’s family and friends.

Vikings To Hire Tony Sparano As OL Coach

The Vikings are set to hire former Dolphins head coach Tony Sparano as their offensive line coach, as Sid Hartman of the Star Tribune writes. Sparano spent last season on the 49ers’ staff.Tony Sparano (vertical)

Sparano broke in to the NFL as a quality control coach with the Browns in 1999. He most notable time came as head coach of the Dolphins from 2008-11, when he posted a record of 29-32, but only made the playoffs once (during his first season). Sparano spent the ’12 season as the Jets’ offensive coordinator before taking over as assistant head coach/OL of the Raiders in ’13. Following Dennis Allen’s firing in September of 2014, Sparano was promoted to interim head coach, and guided Oakland to a 3-9 finish. Around this time a year ago, Sparano signed on with the 49ers to serve as an assistant.

Earlier this week, Vikings head coach Mike Zimmer announced that he did not renew Jeff Davidson‘s contract, creating an opening at offensive line coach in Minnesota.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.


Coach Rumors: Bengals, Titans, Philbin, Colts

The Browns struck a deal today to bring Hue Jackson aboard as their new coach, leaving five teams with active head coaching searches. Additionally, plenty more clubs are looking to hire assistants to fill out their staffs, so we’ve got plenty of coaching-related notes and rumors to round up this afternoon. Let’s dive in….

  • According to Michael Silver of NFL Media (via Twitter), before Jackson agreed to join the Browns, Bengals head coach Marvin Lewis approached his offensive coordinator with a last-ditch attempt to keep Jackson in Cincinnati. Silver notes that the proposal included a succession plan, which would mean Jackson eventually replacing Lewis as the Bengals’ coach, but it wasn’t enough to keep him from moving on.
  • The Titans‘ interview with Lions defensive coordinator Teryl Austin will take place on Friday, according to Dave Birkett of the Detroit Free Press. Per Adam Caplan of (Twitter link), the club will interview Doug Marrone one day earlier, on Thursday.
  • The Colts have reached out to former Dolphins head coach Joe Philbin to see if he’s interested in the team’s offensive line coach job, a source tells Andrew Abramson of the Palm Beach Post.
  • Falcons secondary coach Marquand Manuel had a good meeting with Gus Bradley regarding the Jaguars‘ defensive coordinator opening, but Jacksonville has yet to make a decision on the position, tweets Vaughn McClure of
  • Alex Marvez of FOX Sports has several updates on assistant jobs around the NFL. Here’s the breakdown:
    • The Colts have agreed to a deal with former Giants linebackers coach Jim Herrmann for the same position in Indianapolis (Twitter link).
    • Former Dolphins head coach and current 49ers assistant Tony Sparano is interviewing today for the Vikings‘ offensive line coach opening and is a strong candidate to get the job (Twitter links).
    • Former Vikings offensive line coach Jeff Davidson is interviewing for the same role with the Chargers (Twitter link).
    • Former Dolphins defensive coordinator Kevin Coyle is expected to replace Vance Joseph as the Bengals‘ defensive backs coach (Twitter link).

49ers To Hire Mangini, Sparano

5:04pm: Mangini’s deal will be for three years, tweets Schefter.

4:22pm: New 49ers head coach Jim Tomsula has begun to fill out his staff, as he’s added both a defensive coordinator and a tight ends coach today. Eric Mangini, who acted as San Francisco’s tight ends coach in 2014, will take over DC duties, while Tony Sparano, who served as the Raiders’ interim head coach for the latter portion of last season, will replace Mangini as TE coach (Twitter links via Adam Schefter of ESPN).

Both of the 49ers’ hires have previous head coaching experience, which will no doubt be valuable to Tomsula as he embarks upon his first HC opportunity. Despite the fact that he’s been an NFL coach since 1996, Mangini is still just 44 years old. After rising through the defensive ranks in New England, Mangini was hired as the Jets head coach in 2006, and accrued a 23-25 in three seasons at the helm. He moved on to Cleveland, where his run was less successful, as he finished with a 10-22 mark before being fired after the 2010 season. Mangini, who’s been with the Niners since 2013, also was considered for the vacant defensive coordinator positions in Oakland and Washington.

Despite being nearly ten years older than Mangini, Sparano has actually spent less time coaching in the NFL, as he broke in as a quality control coach with the Browns in 1999. He most notable time came as head coach of the Dolphins from 2008-11, when he posted a record of 29-32, but only made the playoffs once (during his first season). Sparano spent the ’12 season as the Jets’ offensive coordinator before taking over as assistant head coach/OL of the Raiders in ’13. Following Dennis Allen’s firing in September of last year, Sparano was promoted to interim head coach, and guided Oakland to a 3-9 finish.

Mangini will replace Vic Fangio, who left to take the Bears’ DC job. Mangini always employed a 3-4 front during his tenure as a head coach, so the club shouldn’t be looking at any dramatic changes in terms of scheme. Meanwhile, San Francisco is still in need of an offensive coordinator, and Alabama play-caller Lane Kiffin is considered the favorite for the job. A Kiffin hire, of course, would have Tomsula employing three former NFL head coaches on his staff.

Extra Points: 49ers, Gase, Phillips

The 49ers continued to pursue Adam Gase as offensive coordinator after bypassing him for their head coaching position, a source told Matt Maiocco of They were not successful, however, as Gase landed with the Bears earlier tonight. More from around the NFL..

  • Former Cowboys head coach Wade Phillips could draw interest from the Broncos and Raiders as a defensive coordinator candidate, according to Bill Williamson of (on Twitter).
  • The Raiders are hiring Marcus Robertson as their new defensive backs coach, a source told Ian Rapoport of (on Twitter). The team is still on the hunt for its next defensive coordinator, however. Veteran Charles Woodson pushed for the hire, according to Scott Bair of (on Twitter).
  • Former Raiders interim head coach Tony Sparano interviewed with the 49ers for their tight ends coach position, a league source told Adam Caplan of (on Twitter).
  • The Bears met with a pair of Chicago natives at the Senior Bowl, according to Adam Jahns of the Sun-Times (on Twitter). Defensive tackle Louis Trinca-Pasat (Iowa) and guard Laken Tomlinson (Duke) met with reps from the team.
  • Long rumored to be headed across the Bay, former Raiders defensive coordinator Jason Tarver is joining the 49ers as the team’s linebackers coach and senior defensive assistant, reports Jim Trotter of ESPN (via Twitter). While Tarver may have some input on the play-calling, the Niners are still on the lookout for a defensive coordinator.

Coach Updates: Chudzinski, Ravens, Raiders

We rounded up one set of coaching updates and rumors this morning, but several more have trickled in since then, so we’re due for another recap. Here’s the latest:

  • The Colts are blocking offensive assistant Rob Chudzinski from interviewing for any teams’ offensive coordinator jobs, reports Ian Rapoport of (via Twitter). The Bears, 49ers, and Rams are among the teams that have been linked to Chudzinski and will have to look elsewhere.
  • A day after being officially replaced as the Jets’ offensive coordinator, Marty Mornhinweg has found a new job, according to Ravens head coach John Harbaugh, who announced today that Mornhinweg had joined his staff in Baltimore as the team’s quarterbacks coach (Twitter link). Mornhinweg replaces Rick Dennison, who left the Ravens to become Denver’s offensive coordinator.
  • During Harbaugh’s conversation with reporters, the Ravens head coach added that he was very impressed with Adam Gase‘s interview for the club’s offensive coordinator job, but that he viewed Marc Trestman as a better fit (Twitter link via Clifton Brown of
  • Vic Tafur of the San Francisco Chronicle (Twitter link) provides an update on the Raiders‘ defensive coordinator hunt, writing that Jack Del Rio has been talking to Mike Smith about the position for about a week, Eric Mangini is interviewing today, and Mel Tucker is also on the team’s radar.
  • The 49ers are interested in former Raiders interim head coach Tony Sparano, according to Matt Barrows of the Sacramento Bee, who says San Francisco would likely want Sparano as a tight ends coach.
  • Rumors about Dick LeBeau closing in on a deal to become the Cardinals‘ linebackers coach are a surprise to Gerry Dulac of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, who tweets that as of a couple days ago, LeBeau was only interested in becoming a defensive coordinator, not a position coach.