Originally Posted by Brian Costello, NY Post
Sparano: Jets won’t rely on ground
CORTLAND — Since the Jets hired Tony Sparano as their new offensive coordinator in January, the perception has been they basically were abandoning the forward pass.
Coach Rex Ryan repeatedly has said he wants the team to return to its “Ground and Pound” roots, which has been interpreted as the Jets turning the football clock back to three-yards-and-a-cloud-of-dust.
Sparano laughed at the notion when it was presented him last week at Jets training camp.
“I don’t think the Jets are going to be a wing-T team, OK?” Sparano said with a smile. “But we’re going to be able to run the football, and we’re going to throw the ball well with efficiency.”
The 50-year-old coach knows his reputation is to run, run, run, but can’t quite understand it. Sparano’s first offensive coordinator job came in 1990 at Boston University. The Terriers offense? A run-and-shoot. In Sparano’s four years there, they threw the ball more than they ran it every year.
“They set records all over the place,” Sparano said of the Boston University offense. “That’s what I grew up in. When I came into the National Football League, that’s where this whole run thing came from. At the time when I came into the National Football League, that statement was very true: You need to run the ball to win it. I still believe it, but I’m a realist. I realize that you have to throw the football. You have to advance and gain chunks.”
Sparano’s first chance to call plays in the NFL came under Bill Parcells with the Cowboys. Parcells did not believe in naming an offensive coordinator so in 2005 he made Sparano the running-game coordinator and Sean Payton the passing-game coordinator. The Cowboys threw the ball 51 percent of the time and finished eighth in the league in total offense.
Parcells taught Sparano what it takes to win in the NFL, but Payton, now the Saints head coach, taught Sparano how to call a game.
“Sean Payton, no question, is the best influence I’ve had,” Sparano said. “Sean is a different play-caller. He’s wide open at times. I like that philosophy. Yet, Sean is very much aware of what you have to do in this league. Everybody can look at New Orleans and look at their numbers and all that, but at the end of this whole thing they find a way to run the football. It doesn’t matter how it is, they find a way to run the football.”
When New Orleans hired Payton in 2006 he wanted to take Sparano with him to be his offensive coordinator, but Parcells blocked the move. He remained in Dallas where he became the primary play-caller. The Cowboys threw more than they ran again in 2006. The Dolphins had a higher pass percentage each full year he was the head coach from 2008-10, even when they were using the Wildcat heavily.
On NFL teams that Sparano has been the head coach or the play-caller, there has never been a season where he has run the ball more than he has passed it.
In Friday’s preseason-opening 17-6 loss to the Bengals, the Jets threw the ball 20 times and ran it 27. But if you look closer, there were more passes than runs called. There were five sacks and quarterbacks ran the ball five times, none by design. That means Sparano called 30 passes to 22 runs.
Sparano’s presence at Jets training camp has been huge. It is his voice, not Ryan’s, you most often hear on the practice field, yelling his trademark phrases “know, and know you know” and “run through the smoke.”
He has heard what people are saying. He knows people think Mark Sanchez’s arm is going to be covered in cobwebs.
“I think people look at me and think. ‘Well, he was a line coach so he’s going to run the football,’ ” Sparano said. “They can think anything they want to think.”