Tony Sparano wasn’t born in Minnesota. He never played for a Minnesota team. And in 32 years of patrolling sidelines he’s never coached a Minnesota team. From a distance, though, Sparano has appreciated what he’s seen from the people of Minnesota and from the NFL team that plays its games there.
Now, Sparano will be right in the thick of it, and he’s excited to get to work.
“Watching the Vikings when I was younger, they played outside in Bloomington at Met Stadium,” Sparano recalled. “It was cold a lot. I just like that town and the mentality of the people there. I know we’ll be playing inside for our home games, but I just like that town and the toughness that is there.”
Sparano, a former NFL head coach who will enter his 18th season in the League and his 32nd in the coaching profession, was named the Vikings Offensive Line coach last week.
“I’m excited about the opportunity to join an outstanding organization in Minnesota,” Sparano said on Friday afternoon. “Growing up, the Vikings had a big spot in my heart. It’s a passionate fan base and a franchise with a storied history. I love the vision that ownership, Rick Spielman and Coach Zimmer have. It’s a clear vision, it’s a solid team, and I can’t wait to get to work.”
Getting to work is nothing new to Sparano. He spent 11 seasons coaching at New Haven and Boston University before getting a shot in the NFL. His first job in the NFL was as an offensive quality control coach for the Cleveland Browns in 1999. From there, Sparano has spent time with seven NFL organizations, including as Miami Dolphins Head Coach from 2008-11, where he took over a franchise that went 1-15 in 2007 and guided them to an 11-5 record and AFC East title in 2008, an effort that earned him NFL Coach of the Year honors and is tied for the largest single-season improvement in wins in League history.
A few years before Sparano’s stint as head coach of the Dolphins, he and Mike Zimmer coached together in Dallas from 2003-06 under Bill Parcells. The relationship they forged then will no doubt help Sparano’s assimilation with the Vikings.
“I like smart, tough, disciplined football players who play hard and play the game the right way,” Sparano said. “I remember sitting in personnel meetings with Coach Zimmer and I think he appreciates some of those same characteristics. I look forward to helping him achieve the goals he sets for us and for the team.”