After a bizarre coaching search that involved an $8 million pitch to Jim Harbaugh, the Dolphins have reportedly decided to retain head coach Tony Sparano.
Multiple media outlets reported late Thursday night that Miami had decided to stick with Sparano after spending the early part of the day making their pitch to Harbaugh in California. The Dolphins are expected to make it official on Friday. Fox Sports' Jay Glazer was the first to report the news.
A 7-9 season that included a 1-7 home record seemed to spell the end for Sparano. He met with owner Stephen Ross early in the week, and no decision had been made.
With Sparano still holding the title, Ross went out on a coaching search. Sources told PFW that he offered former Steelers coach and current CBS analyst Bill Cowher $7 million, but Ross wasn't willing to give Cowher complete control of the organization, as he planned to retain Jeff Ireland as general manager.
Ross was on the sideline at Monday's Orange Bowl before traveling to California late Wednesday with Ireland and former football executive Carl Peterson. PFW confirmed reports that they planned to offer Harbaugh a contract worth $8 million per season. Harbaugh led Stanford to a 12-1 record and has been the hot coaching candidate this offseason. The 49ers reportedly offered him a contract this week, and the Broncos plan to talk with him on Friday. He also could return to Stanford after QB Andrew Luck decided to stay for his senior season.
In his first year, Sparano took the club to the playoffs with an 11-5 record coming off a 1-15 season. The Dolphins have not made the playoffs since.
The way we see it
This would end quite the circus for Miami, but it's probably their best option. Giving Harbaugh $8 million per season would have been a huge gamble. Offensive coordinator Dan Henning is reportedly retiring, and Sparano can now look to hire a new offensive coordinator to rejuvenate one of the league's worst scoring teams.
But the biggest part of this story is the ensuing awkwardness it will cause between Sparano, Ross and Ireland. The owner actively looked for a replacement for Sparano, who is clearly their fallback option. Assuming they can get things resolved and move on to focus on fixing the offense to complement Mike Nolan's defense, the Dolphins could turn things around in 2011.