For a moment Sunday, Tony Sparano thought he would be fired.
Sparano, for the moment the Miami Dolphins head coach, called timeout after a Denver Broncos touchdown with fewer than three minutes to play. And then, a CBS camera caught him pleading with officials to review the touchdown.
I'm [sunk] and now I'm getting fired, OK? he told the referees while pointing at owner Stephen Ross' skybox, according to The Associated Press.
The refs did review the touchdown -- it was upheld. And you know what happened next -- the Dolphins blew a 15-0 lead to fall, 18-15, to the Broncos.
But for now, it appears that Sparano's job is safe. But how much longer will he last? He's a lame duck, a coach-in-waiting... to be fired. According to STATS LLC, the Dolphins' loss Sunday was the first since at least 1983 that a team had blown a lead of more than 14 points with three minutes left.
I talk to myself a lot, Sparano cracked to reporters in a Monday news conference, when asked how he stays upbeat. I spend a lot of time doing that. I figure if I talk to myself nobody usually answers back. That's a good thing. If they start answering back, that's a bad thing.
It seems as if Sparano is destined to be fired, but when? Here's a compelling case to keep him around until the end of the season (or maybe not that compelling, actually):
1. Keep whatever consistency you have. Right now, it's losing, but is anything going to be drastically different under defensive coordinator Mike Nolan (the presumed Sparano replacement)? Either way, Sparano's stench will linger around the organization until most of the people associated with his tenure as head coach are gone, too.
Keep Sparano and spare the rental interim coach trying to bring in a new culture and attitude. Especially considering the Dolphins'...
2. Chances of Luck. Let's be honest. The best outcome of the Dolphins' season right now is to secure the first pick in the 2012 NFL Draft and a franchise quarterback: Andrew Luck. With Sparano, the chances of losing each game probably increase. As the Dolphins went up 15-0 Sunday, fans headed for the exits -- because they were winning. It's clear which direction the fan base wants to go this season.
From this point, the Dolphins play all teams with winning records except the 2-4 Philadelphia Eagles, preseason contenders that might be on the cusp of turning around their season. A 0-16 season is there for the taking. With it, a new quarterback and...
3. A fresh start. Urban Meyer was at the Dolphins' game Sunday while his 2008 Florida Gators national championship team was honored. And he and Ross were spotted talking. Could they lure someone like Meyer to Miami? The new coach and new quarterback coming in together has worked well lately -- think Rex Ryan and Mark Sanchez of the Jets, John Harbaugh and Joe Flacco of the Ravens, and Mike Smith and Matt Ryan of the Falcons.