Tony Sparano

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.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

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.

Coach Notes: Quinn, Bears, Cowboys, Bills

Teams considering waiting for Seahawks defensive coordinator Dan Quinn to become available are wary about the possibility that, despite what they’re saying, the Dolphins could hire Quinn to replace Joe Philbin, given the presence of Mike Tannenbaum, says Jason La Canfora of (Twitter links). Prior to joining the Dolphins’ front office in an official capacity, Tannenbaum was Quinn’s agent, and according to La Canfora, that connection concerned the Jets to some degree.

However, a source tells La Canfora that there’s no chance Miami will hire Quinn if he’s available next month — if another team wants to wait on him, that club should have a shot at him (Twitter link). That team isn’t likely to be the 49ers though, according to Jason Cole of Bleacher Report, who tweets that San Francisco hasn’t talked about Quinn in several days. All signs are pointing to Adam Gase for the 49ers, per Cole.

Let’s check in on a few more coaching-related items….

  • John Fox‘s interview with the Bears is happening today, tweets Adam Jahns of the Chicago Sun-Times. Meanwhile, a source tells Dan Wiederer of the Chicago Tribune that Kyle Shanahan will be one of Fox’s top offensive coordinator choices if he lands the Bears’ job.
  • According to La Canfora (Twitter link), the Falcons “love” Josh McDaniels, but the Patriots offensive coordinator still seems unlikely to leave New England.
  • Scott Linehan‘s deal with the Cowboys hasn’t been completed yet, a league source tells Adam Caplan of (Twitter link). He’s waiting for his deal to get done before considering taking interviews and the sense is that it will be finalized soon (link). Linehan currently serves as Dallas’ passing game coordinator.
  • It’s not clear yet if Cowboys offensive coordinator Bill Callahan will return to the Cowboys, writes Brandon George of the Dallas Morning News, who says that eight teams have expressed interest in Callahan. With Linehan now handling the offensive playcalls in Dallas, it’s unlikely that Callahan will be back, in George’s view.
  • Tony Sparano won’t be staying with the Raiders now that he didn’t get the team’s head coaching job, tweets Vic Tafur of the San Francisco Chronicle. Mike Garafolo of Fox Sports (Twitter link) hears from sources that Jack Del Rio, who is expected to become Oakland’s coach, has been recruiting Marc Trestman for his offensive staff.
  • Jay Glazer of FOX Sports joined Mike Florio of Pro Football Talk on PFT Live to discuss the events that led to the divorce of John Fox and the Broncos. Glazer explains that the breakup, while shocking on the outside, has actually been a long time coming. Glazer sensed back at last year’s Senior Bowl that it would be a “one and done” for Fox, unless he could win a Super Bowl this season.
  • Former Jets defensive line coach Karl Dunbar is joining Rex Ryan on the Bills‘ staff, per Mike Rodak of (Twitter link). Jordan Raanan of adds (via Twitter) that Pepper Johnson has been told there’s a spot for him on Ryan’s coaching staff if the Giants‘ defensive coordinator position doesn’t pan out for him. Speaking of Ryan, he said today at his introductory press conference that it’s not true that he preferred the Falcons and 49ers jobs to the Bills position, tweets Rich Cimini of

Zach Links contributed to this post.

Coach Rumors: Bears, Jets, Falcons, 49ers

Two days after after coaching his final game for the Broncos, and one day after formally parting ways with the team, John Fox has an interview lined up with another club, according to Chris Mortensen of, who reports that the veteran coach will meet with the Bears. While Mortensen cautions that Fox isn’t a lock for the Chicago opening, he appears to be a strong candidate, and Ian Rapoport of tweets that it’s the job Fox wants.

Per Mortensen, the Bears have been impressed with candidates Todd Bowles, Dan Quinn, Adam Gase, and Teryl Austin, but Bowles is considered a favorite for the Falcons, while the 49ers are reportedly making a push for Gase, and Quinn has a handful of suitors.

With six head coaching positions still available around the NFL, we could see plenty of movement this week, with multiple teams making hires. Here are the latest updates on those vacancies:

  • The Jets and Falcons appear to be emerging as the finalists for Bowles, the Cardinals’ defensive coordinator, writes Mike Florio of Pro Football Talk. One source tells Florio that Bowles is “very likely” to land in New York, while another source believes he prefers Atlanta. Rapoport reports (via Twitter) that Bowles, who has second interviews scheduled with both clubs, will now meet with the Jets first, rather than the Falcons, which could be a sign that New York is the current frontrunner to hire him. Rich Cimini of tweets that Bowles will meet with Mike Maccagnan, who has yet to be officially announced as the Jets’ new general manager.
  • As Seth Walder of the New York Daily News details, Seahawks defensive coordinator Quinn has long been viewed as the Jets‘ top choice, but the team is exploring other options, with Quinn potentially tied up for the next several weeks. In Florio’s previously-linked piece, the PFT scribe notes that Quinn’s interest in the Jets may not be as strong as previously believed.
  • Peter King of The agrees that the Jets‘ focus appears to be shifting from Quinn to Bowles, and speculates that the Seahawks DC has another position lined up — perhaps with the Falcons, who seem to be targeting Quinn and Bowles. Weighing in on the other open positions, King says he continues to hear Jack Del Rio over Tony Sparano as the top candidate for the Raiders, and that the 49ers‘ choice may come down to Gase, Vic Fangio, or Jim Tomsula.
  • Despite the fact that Ravens offensive coordinator Gary Kubiak has said he intends to stay in Baltimore, the Broncos will seek permission to interview him for their head coaching opening, tweets Adam Schefter of
  • Washington would like to wrap up its defensive coordinator interviews within the next couple days and make a hire by week’s end, tweets Tarik El-Bashir of The club is speaking to Raheem Morris about the position today.
  • New Bills coach Rex Ryan will retain special teams coordinator Danny Crossman, according to Tim Graham of the Buffalo News (Twitter link).

Coach/GM Notes: Falcons, Bears, Jets, Eagles

According to our head coaching search tracker, there are eight candidates involved in the Falcons‘ hunt for Mike Smith‘s replacement, and if no new names are added to that list, the team’s first round of interviews should conclude tomorrow after a meeting with Todd Bowles. So it makes sense that Ian Rapoport of suggests today (via Twitter) that Atlanta intends to bring in its finalists for a second round of interviews. According to Rapoport, Rex Ryan will be among those finalists, though it’s not clear yet who will join him.

Here are a few more items from around the league related to coaches and front offices:


  • Todd Bowles and Frank Reich completed their interviews with the Jets today, according to Rich Cimini of (on Twitter). Bowles’ next visit will be with the Bears.
  • A Tuesday report indicated that the Bears would likely meet with Mike Shanahan about their head coaching position after hiring a new general manager, but despite Shanahan’s past success with Jay Cutler (and Brandon Marshall), he’s not currently on Chicago’s list of candidates, says Ed Werder of (via Twitter). We’ll have to see if anything changes on that front after the team makes its GM hire.
  • After sitting in on the Raiders‘ interview with Shanahan, John Madden is expected to be in attendance for Tony Sparano‘s meeting with the club as well, tweets Fallon Smith of
  • In the wake of Perry Fewell‘s dismissal, Dan Graziano of offers a few suggestions for the Giants to consider for their defensive coordinator job, including Bills defensive line coach Pepper Johnson, who Graziano thinks could be among New York’s top candidates.

Front office:

  • The Bears confirmed that they interviewed Chris Ballard and Ryan Pace for their GM vacancy, Rich Campbell of the Chicago Tribune tweets.
  • Jon Robinson‘s interview with the Jets will take place tomorrow, according to Rich Cimini of (on Twitter).
  • The Jets announced today (via Twitter) that they’ve lined up an interview with Buccaneers personnel executive Jon Robinson for their general manager position. The club also confirmed the candidates they’ve spoken to so far: Chris Grier (Dolphins), Trent Kirchner (Seahawks), Bill Kuharich (Browns), Mike Maccagnan (Texans), Rick Mueller (Eagles), and their own Rod Graves.
  • The Jaguars have granted pro director Chris Polian permission to interview with the Eagles for their GM job, according to Albert Breer of NFL Network (via Twitter).
  • The Fritz Pollard Alliance, which works with the NFL on minority hiring issues, has filed a complaint with the league over Washington‘s general manager search, writes Mark Maske of the Washington Post. Washington spoke to Jets executive Rod Graves about the GM job, but didn’t run the request for permission by the league, and seemed to do it only as a formality while working out an agreement with Scot McCloughan, so as to abide by the Rooney Rule.
  • Meanwhile, the Dolphins appear to have evaded a Rooney Rule violation by changing the role of recently-hired Mike Tannenbaum, as Mike Florio of Pro Football Talk explains. The club has altered Tannenbaum’s and Dennis Hickey‘s duties since first announcing the hiring, so that Tannenbaum doesn’t qualify as a GM-type hire, meaning the club wouldn’t have needed to meet the Rooney Rule.