Dolphins recommit to Tony Sparano after brief flirtation with Jim Harbaugh


Tony Sparano stared into space stone-faced, tapping his foot and chomping on gum.

Miami Dolphins General Manager Jeff Ireland also wore a somber expression, his cheeks turning red as awkward details were discussed.

Team owner Stephen Ross sat between them, sweat glistening above his upper lip while he tried to put lipstick on a pig of a week for the Dolphins.

They did damage control Saturday, holding an extraordinary news conference to announce a two-year contract extension for Sparano — and to acknowledge mistakes in dealing with the team’s coaching situation.

“The lines of communication should be handled differently,” Ireland said.

“Now,” Ross said, “I would go about it a different way.”

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


Ross, who took over the Dolphins two years ago, said he had never interviewed a coach before and was naive to think he could keep his meeting with Harbaugh secret.

“I should have probably let Tony know,” Ross said. “I never thought it would be national news. I realized after having read the papers the anguish I had put Tony through. It’s probably a mistake on my part not thinking that when you do something like this, it’s public.”

Ross, Ireland and Sparano said any harm to their relationships had been repaired, but their body language and demeanor suggested otherwise.

Sitting at the end of a long 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 of expressions common on the Dolphins’ sideline during their late-season meltdown.

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

With the extension, Sparano’s under contract through 2013, and changes this offseason will be limited to his roster and staff. Offensive coordinator Dan Henning, for one, is leaving.

Sparano was a winner at first, leading the Dolphins to the 2008 AFC East title in his first season as an NFL coach. But he went 7-9 each of the past two seasons, and the team was dreadful in the final few weeks of 2010.


Mularkey interviews for Browns coaching job

Mike Mularkey, offensive coordinator for the Atlanta Falcons and former head coach of Buffalo, interviewed with the Cleveland Browns for their head coach opening on Saturday, breaking away from the Falcons’ playoff preparations to visit with Browns President Mike Holmgren and General Manager Tom Heckert.

The Browns’ top executives went to Atlanta for the interview, the second conducted by the Browns in their search to replace Eric Mangini.

The Browns interviewed Pat Shurmur on Friday, and they intend to interview New York Giants defensive coordinator Perry Fewell and perhaps Philadelphia offensive coordinator Marty Mornhinweg this week.

It’s also possible the Browns will talk to Jon Gruden and John Fox — if they haven’t done so already. The team is keeping the search for Cleveland’s fifth coach since 1999 extremely low-key, choosing only to confirm interviews after they’ve taken place.

Ed Reed’s brother feared dead

Baltimore Ravens safety Ed Reed traveled with the team to Kansas City Saturday, a day after a younger brother was believed to have jumped into the Mississippi River in St. Rose, La., while fleeing police. The man who jumped did not resurface.

Police had not identified the man who jumped, but family members said they believe Brian Reed, 29, was the man who went into the river while being pursued by police. According to the Baltimore Sun, Karen Reed, mother of Ed and Brian Reed, said Brian Reed has struggled with alcohol and drug abuse.

She said that investigators found Brian Reed’s shoes and jacket at the scene and that the car he fled from belonged to another of her sons.

Sgt. Dwayne LaGrange of the St. Charles Parish Sheriff’s Office said a deputy had spotted the man who jumped with a parked car that matched the description of a stolen vehicle.


Ed Reed made no public comments on the situation.