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Jets Hire Ex-Miami Coach Sparano to Replace Schottenheimer

The New York Jets hired former Miami Dolphins coach Tony Sparano as their offensive coordinator to replace Brian Schottenheimer, who resigned after the team missed the playoffs with an 8-8 record.

Sparano, 50, was fired by the Dolphins on Dec. 12 after compiling a 29-33 record over three-plus seasons, including a 4-9 mark in 2011.

“When we sat down with Tony, I knew that he was the right person at the right time for our offense,” Jets coach Rex Ryan said in a statement. “I’ve admired his work as a competitor in the division for the past three seasons. His teams were always physical, tough and hard-nosed.”

Sparano led the Dolphins to an 11-5 record in his first season in 2008 and then had back-to-back 7-9 campaigns. The Dolphins started 0-7 in 2011 and then rebounded with four wins in five games before Sparano was fired following a Dec. 11 loss to the Philadelphia Eagles.

The Dolphins under Sparano incorporated the “Wildcat” offense, in which the quarterback is replaced in the backfield by a running back who takes a direct snap from center.

Sparano also had four starting quarterbacks during his tenure and wasn’t able to develop Chad Henne, who was the Dolphins’ second-round draft pick in 2008. Now he’ll work with 25-year-old Mark Sanchez, who’s completed 55 percent of his passes over three seasons with 55 touchdowns and 51 interceptions.

Welcomes Challenge

“I know this division very well and I’m looking forward to that challenge,” Sparano said in a statement. The Jets and Dolphins are members of the American Football Conference’s East division.

Schottenheimer said he wanted a fresh start in stepping down yesterday after six years running the Jets’ offense.

Schottenheimer was criticized this season for the struggles of the Jets’ offense, which ranked 25th of 32 National Football League teams. He also came under fire for the inconsistency of Sanchez, who had seven interceptions over the final three games this season.

Sanchez threw 26 touchdown passes in his third season, tying Al Dorrow and Joe Namath for the second-highest one-year total in franchise history. He also threw 18 interceptions, including three in a season-ending 19-17 loss against the Dolphins. Jets General Manager Mike Tannenbaum said after the season that Sanchez has to be more consistent.

The Jets reached the AFC championship game the previous two years with a rushing attack that led the NFL in 2009 and ranked fourth in 2010. Their running game ranked 22nd this past season.

Team Chemistry

The Jets ended the season with a three-game losing streak capped by Schottenheimer benching wide receiver Santonio Holmes for a verbal altercation with teammates in the huddle. Ryan said after the season that a lack of chemistry led to the team’s struggles and that he expected Schottenheimer to return unless he got a head coaching job elsewhere.

Before becoming coach of the Dolphins in 2008, Sparano was assistant head coach for the offense in Dallas and called offensive plays for the Cowboys in 2006. He’s a former offensive line coach who has focused on the running game and may help the Jets get back to a rushing-oriented attack.

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