The New York Jets head down to the sunshine state this week to face the Miami Dolphins in what is the first game back in Miami for Jets offensive coordinator Tony Sparano, who coached them the previous four seasons.
Sparano’s tenure in Miami was tumultuous, beginning with an amazing 10-win turnaround as a rookie head coach in 2008, followed by some so-so play and some utterly bad play that ended with his dismissal in 2011.
The Jets are looking to avenge Sparano this week, but the 50-year-old has spent the week downplaying his return to South Beach, while notably refusing to say the name of his former team.
”It’s a business trip, obviously,” Sparano said. “We’ve got a game to play. If I wanted to go to vacation in Miami, I can go to vacation in Miami. That’s not what we’re going there for. We’re going there to play a game.”
Indeed they are.
The Jets and Dolphins have identical 1-1 records, and the Jets are seeking their second division win of the year, which would put them in a good position as the first month of the NFL season winds down.
After Week 3, the Jets have an absolute gauntlet of an upcoming schedule, which means if this game isn’t a “must-win” game, it’s certainly one that the Jets can ill afford to lose.
In the Rex Ryan era, the Dolphins are 4-2 against the Jets, despite the Jets finishing ahead of the Dolphins each year of Ryan’s tenure.
One of the biggest reasons for that, however, is Sparano, who is now on the same sideline as Ryan and will be coaching on Sunday like any other week.
“I couldn’t tell you where the visitor’s locker room is there,” Sparano said. “It will be a little bit funny that way I’m sure. Once the ball drops, like I said, we’re there to do a job and that’s the most important thing right now.”
Sparano may be able to give the Jets some intel and scouting reports on his former team, but at the end of the day, the game will come down to game-planning and execution.
Stopping Reggie Bush is paramount. Winning the time of possession battle and protecting the football will be key. This is a game the Jets have to have, and that goes far beyond retribution for Tony Sparano. But he’ll take it.