Jets look to return to roots with addition of Sparano

Posted Jan. 13, 2012 @ 3:16 p.m.
Posted By Kevin Fishbain

The Jets began their upheaval of the offensive staff when coordinator Brian Schottenheimer decided not to return in 2012, and former Dolphins head coach Tony Sparano replaced him the next day.

Schottenheimer's exit came on the heels of a vote of confidence from Rex Ryan and Mike Tannenbaum, who said Schottenheimer would be with the Jets in 2012 unless he got a head-coaching job. The way we hear it, the Jets were likely never planning on bringing him back, they just needed time to find a cheaper exit strategy — Schottenheimer was owed $3.2 million over the next two years. On a conference call with reporters Friday, Ryan said the departure was a "mutual decision," which likely means some kind of settlement was reached, though details were unknown as of this writing.

The addition of Sparano signals a concerted effort to return to Ryan's "ground-and-pound" style of football that the team went away from at times under Schottenheimer. "I was like 'Wow!' I was blown away," Ryan said about his meeting with Sparano, whose straight-shooting style would help bring accountability to an offensive locker room that needs it after the drama with Santonio Holmes and a recent report in the New York Daily News of players complaining about QB Mark Sanchez.

That might be part of Sparano's first task — helping the organization get back to a close-knit locker room, especially on offense. Sparano was extremely well liked by his players in Miami, and he has experience with a receiver who can be a distraction after working with Brandon Marshall.

Sparano's fate in New York, like it was in Miami, might be tied to Sanchez, and it will be important for him to get the Jets running the ball well to take more pressure off the signalcaller who is under more fire now than he ever has been in his young career. Sparano will be using his expertise on the offensive line and in the running game to help a Jets offense that went from fourth in the league in rushing in 2010 to 22nd this past season.

"When you look at offense, you have to make sure your system fits the players you have," Sparano said on the conference call. "This is a physical football team."

The Jets' offensive staff also lost O-line coach Bill Callahan and wide receivers coach Henry Ellard. Callahan, whose contract was up, joined the Cowboys as their offensive coordinator/O-line coach. Tannenbaum said Callahan was interviewed for the coordinator position. Former Chiefs head coach Todd Haley, who interviewed with the Jets on Thursday, reportedly could become the team's passing-game coordinator. Haley and Sparano were together on the Cowboys' staff from 2004-06.

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