Dolphins' Sparano receives contract extension

By Steven Wine

Associated Press

Published: Saturday, Jan. 8 2011 12:51 p.m. MST

Miami Dolphins head coach Tony Sparano, left, looks on as Dolphins owner Stephen Ross speaks during a news conference, Saturday, Jan. 8, 2011, at the Dolphins training facility in Davie, Fla. Sparano has accepted a two-year contract extension with the Miami Dolphins through 2013, ending a week of uncertainty about the team's coaching position.

Wilfredo Lee, Associated Press

DAVIE, Fla. — The Miami Dolphins did damage control Saturday, holding an extraordinary news conference to announce a two-year contract extension for Tony Sparano — and to confess to mistakes in dealing with the team's coaching situation.

"The lines of communication should be handled differently," general manager Jeff Ireland said.

"Now," owner Stephen Ross said, "I would go about it a different way."

Ross and Ireland flew cross-country for an interview Thursday with Stanford coach Jim Harbaugh, leaving Sparano in very public limbo. Negotiations broke off, Harbaugh took a job with San Francisco 49ers, and Ross decided to keep Sparano.

Ross said he had never interviewed a coach before and was naive to believe he could keep his meeting with Harbaugh secret.

"I never though it would be national news," Ross said. "I realized after having read the papers the anguish I had put Tony through."

Ross, Ireland and Sparano said any harm to their relationships has been repaired, but body language and demeanor suggested otherwise. Sitting at the end of a table before 40 media members, they did not look at each other. Ross did most of the talking and occasionally chuckled, while Sparano and Ireland sat rigid with the sort expressions common on losing sidelines.

However, everyone said all the right things, including Sparano regarding his week of uncertainty. He said it was difficult not only for him, but for his assistant coaches and players and their families.

"I had a lot of different emotions during the course of the week," Sparano said. "Frustrations bubble over a little bit sometimes when there's uncertainty. We're in a happy place right now, and we're going to do the best job we can to get things right."

With the extension, Sparano's under contract through 2013. He led the Dolphins to the AFC East title in his first season as an NFL coach, then went 7-9 each of the past two seasons, and the team was dreadful in the final few weeks of 2010.

That inspired the flirtation with Harbaugh.

"We did our due diligence in an effort improve this organization," said Ireland, reading a statement. "In the beginning and the end of all this, I believe Tony Sparano is the right coach for this team. I've always felt that. That has never changed."

Ireland and Sparano said they'll continue to have a good relationship. It dates back eight years, when both were with the Dallas Cowboys.

"Jeff and I have agreed not to agree a bunch of times," Sparano said. "Sometimes there's smoke coming from that office. If there's not, it's not healthy. It needs to happen.

"At the end of this whole thing, we'll keep communicating, and it's going to be fine. We're going to try to do the best thing for this franchise together. That's the way it has to be — together."

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