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Conference calls: Miami Dolphins


Miami head coach Tony Sparano is 2-2 with the Dolphins so far this season.

Miami Dolphins head coach Tony Sparano and quarterback Chad Pennington spoke the Houston media about their upcoming game at Houston.

Miami head coach Tony Sparano

(on how he came up with the name wildcat) "We just picked it out of a hat to be honest with you. I used to kid (Arkansas offensive coordinator) David Lee a little bit. I wasn't quite sure they were calling this thing down in Arkansas, so I used to call it the wild hog. We just came up one day with the wildcat."

(on what the key to the wildcat offense working so well has been) "I think just the decision making by, first of all, the guy that handles the ball the most. Ronnie (Brown) is handling the ball the most, so I think he makes good decisions. Secondly, just the execution - from our end, we're well aware that we have to make adjustments and so will the defense have to make adjustments. I think we try to do that as much as we can on the sideline or at halftime."

(on Dolphins LT Jake Long's progress) "Sure. I think Jake Long has gotten better and better each game. One of the things I've been really pleased with is his use of his hands in protection. I think he's always been a pretty good run blocker, but he's started to play with his knees bent a little bit more, not making mental errors. He rarely makes a mental error that way but more importantly, the use of his hands in protection."

(on the key to being so good on defense especially against the Chargers) "I mean, the pieces didn't really come in and fit perfectly. We took a defensive end in Matt Roth and made him Sam linebacker. That's hard to do in this league. We had to move Joey Porter around and move him to the other side, a position that he hasn't played in a while. Also, we had a few young players step in, rookies, that are playing pretty good right. I mean, they make rookie mistakes from time to time, but certainly Phillip Merling, Kendall Langford - these guys have done a nice job in there.

(on what he has done better in the last two weeks compared to the first two weeks) "Well, I think one of the things that we've done a lot better is early on we were making several young-guy mistakes. I think we made some critical errors in coverage. We made some critical errors upfront on offense, had some guys unblocked, so just some young guy mistakes that I think hurt you. It wasn't effort. Certainly, we played with a lot of passion out there. It's just if you make those kinds of mistakes in our league and you won't be able to recover from it. We've been able to eliminate some of the big plays against us in the last couple of games and give ourselves a chance to win the game. I think when you give yourself a chance to win, that helps you."

(on comparing his young team to the veteran team he had in Dallas) "This kind of reminds me more of the first year or two that I was in Dallas with Bill (Parcells). At the time, we had gotten rid of several guys there, brought in some players, that type of thing. This kind of reminds me of that situation just a little bit. We really are fortunate that our young players that we've brought in here have been playing and been playing from day one, really. We put them out there in the preseason and I just thought the more reps we can get with these guys, the better off we'll be down the road. That's starting to help us, but they are still young guys and you get into some of these games and they make some of the same mistakes."

(on if there has been something he has learned from Bill Parcells that has helped him in being a head coach) "I think one of the things I really learned from him is turning over the bottom of the roster. I think as coaches, specifically position coaches, you get set and you have tunnel vision - you know, 'These are my guys and they have to be my guys for 16 weeks.' Well, one of the things that we always believed in Dallas is that you turn over the bottom of the roster as much as you can and you try to make your team better in Week 16 than it was in Week 1. In doing that, it's hard because you have to be careful falling in love too many times out there. I think that's helped us a little bit. We've been able to bring some pieces in. Our fullback Kasey Cramer is a guy that we were able to bring in and do some things like that. This has helped us, Brandon London, a receiver that helped us on special teams last week. It's helped us to get better and better each week."

{QUOTE}(on if there is something about being a head coach for the first time that is different than he expected) "Well, just the fact that, and I'm sure all the first-year head coaches are going through the same thing, but for so long, with me, it's just been about five guys. I've worried about five guys. I really wasn't worried about much other than that. Right now, I need to worry about the offense, the defense, the special teams - divide my time up that way. I just find myself spending more time with each side of the ball that way and by the time you really get to the football end of it, it's late in the night, but that's ok."

(on if there is enough hours in the day for him) "I make hours. I don't need much sleep so I try to make as many hours as I can that way."

(on DE Mario Williams and WR Andre Johnson) "Yeah, well of course, I have some knowledge on both of these guys because of our history in Dallas and playing them all the time in the preseason and every once in a while in the regular season. But, Mario Williams is a guy to me, that has gotten so much better so fast to the point where, in my mind, you have to know exactly where this guy is all the time out there in a ballgame. It's very hard because he can just disrupt a game, I mean, he can just disrupt the entire game for you. I love the way the guy plays. He plays with a high motor. He's got a lot of passion and is a tremendous pass rusher that way too. So, I really respect the guy and like the way he's come around. And then, of course, Andre Johnson, watching him in the last ballgame there, the guy just did a tremendous job. But he always has made big plays. Certainly, against us in Dallas he made a bunch of big plays. So I think the guy is a big play receiver but he's a strong receiver. We've had some trouble with some strong receivers so that's a concern of ours."

(on if he had ever seen anything like the ending to the Texans game last week) "Well, I certainly had a lot of my own problems that way, but you just see how hard that team played. I mean, they've played hard in every one of these ballgames. So, they've done a tremendous job that way; it was a tremendous effort on their part. You know, I've seen it. It's unfortunate, but I know coach (head coach Gary Kubiak) down there has done a great job with those guys. They are playing hard and you can see that. They have a lot of passion in the way they play."

(on if he can empathize with head coach Gary Kubiak) "I was 0-2 two weeks ago and got my brains beat out down in Arizona, so I know exactly the feeling. The difference for me is that was a really lopsided score. So, these guys, they were in several of these games right up until the very end. They were in control of the ball game, so they are doing a nice job competing. That's what I like about my team; my team competes. (Head coach) Gary's (Kubiak) team competes. Hopefully, if they keep competing that way and they keep believing, good things happen."

(on if he is surprised the Texans are 0-4) "Yes. I really am with the way that they've played. I really believe that when I watch this team play, they are an outstanding football team in a lot phases. And that's a true statement. They run the ball very, very well, do a nice job that way. That defense is very active over there on the other side, and they have returners there - I mean, two returners there that can return the ball and hurt you. I thought Sage (Rosenfels) did a tremendous job last week when he went in there and played."

(on if RB Steve Slaton reminds him of anyone he's seen) "It's hard to put your finger on one of those type of backs, but he's so explosive when he gets his shoulders turned like that and he can make the first guy miss. I look at him and think maybe he's like a Barry Sanders-type of a guy with that type of explosive ability."

(on if he was looking at Arkansas offensive coordinator David Lee when he was envisioning utilizing the single-wing formation) "No, and again, this thing has gotten so much publicity right now one way or another, but it's hard in this league. Defenses are too good to be able to do these things week in and week out. How much you can do it, all those things, just depends on the opponent, to be honest with you. When I took a look at David (Lee), that was not on my radar screen at the time. I did know about - he and I would talk about it all the time, you know. When he was at Arkansas and I was in Dallas, I would actually kid him a little bit and say, 'You have both of those great backs down there, why don't you just turn him around and hand him the ball instead of worrying about snapping the ball and doing all these other things.' But it helped us at a time where we thought we needed some help and it worked out OK."

(on QB Chad Pennington and what he has done) "Yeah, what Chad (Pennington) has done, I think from day one he's been able to do this. He's brought some credibility and some stability to our offense. I mean, we're such a young football team, particularly on that side of the football. I think that everybody was kind of looking around looking for somebody to hang their hat on, and here comes Chad. We were able to get Chad in here. From the first day he walked in the door, all the players kind of followed him around, Like the Pied Piper almost. The guy stays out after practice; he's got 20 people staying out after practice. So, he's been able to bring some leadership and some credibility to the offense."

(on if he has more plays in his playbook) "Well, when we came in, obviously like everybody else, you start to look at this. This wasn't something we drew on a napkin one night or any of those types of things. We knew that it at some point, it might be part of our package and we might need to use it. So, we put it in notebook fashion and, I mean, we have several plays that come off of it. We don't really run the same plays all the time and we have several other options with it, yes. But, a lot of it is just predicated on feel and whether or not, through the course of the game, you see people making proper adjustments."

(on if he is looking at possibly being able to win the division sitting at 2-2) "No, I'm just worried about playing the Houston Texans right now and trying to keep my team as focused as I can on this team that we are playing this week. As I've said before, this team we're playing this week is a very good football team. They are a well-coached football team. They are an outstanding team. Tthey play with a lot of energy and a lot of passion, and we are going out there on the road. That's my only concern right now."

(on after opening with two losses, was it important to have some success so the team would buy in to what he was trying to do) "Absolutely. I think from our end as coaches, we came in here and made such a drastic change and trying to change they culture that was here - that I think that you need to have some success so that there was some credibility to what you were saying. It couldn't have come at a better time and when it came it validated a lot of the things we were talking about."

Miami QB Chad Pennington
(on how it feels to play flanker) "(laughs) I'm working on my stance a little bit and my get off; a little bit slow coming off the ball. Other than that, it feels good."

(on if he had ever played receiver, even when he was a kid) "I played a little wing back from fifth grade to seventh grade because the coach's son was the quarterback and I couldn't play quarterback."

(on if it is fun to play in the wildcat formation) "Well, it's always fun when you win and when you experience success, regardless of what you're doing offensively. I think the biggest reason for it is because my teammates have done a great job of execution. Anytime you have an awkward offensive set, you can get numerous looks and to be able to adjust to those looks and still make it work. I think that says a lot about our guys upfront being able to communicate and make it work."

(on the progress of Dolphins LT Jake Long) "He's doing a good job. He came in, from the first day I saw him midway through training camp, I felt like this guy is a special player. Anytime you can have a special player on your backside at left tackle, it makes a quarterback feel really good. He's very intense. He works really hard and he's got a good base for fundamentals. He understands the fundamentals of the position and how to play that position, so I expect him to just keep getting better and better."

(on the differences between playing for the Dolphins and Jets) "Well, I'm still adjusting to my surroundings. I got thrown into the mix and never have had a chance to reflect upon what has happened and is happening. I'm just trying to learn as much as I can everyday and continue to get better within the system. I've enjoyed the change. I had eight great years in New York and its just part of the business. Sometimes it's out of your control of what happens sometimes within this business. So, I've enjoyed the change and welcomed the challenge of getting to know my teammates and take on my new role here in Miami. But when it comes down to it on Sunday, football is football. The fundamentals and the core values that you use to be successful, that doesn't change no matter where you are."

(on what the key to making the wildcat formation successful) "True execution. The recognition of different fronts that you'll get. The recognition of normal positions on defense being in different areas and different spots because it is an awkward formation. So, the communication of the defensive differences and then the execution of that, that's the key. That's they key to any offensive football, especially with an awkward set like this. A lot of the time when you use an awkward sets and things like that, sometimes it blows up in your face because you're not used to seeing those different things. But our guys have done a good job of working their way through it."

(on what he thinks about the Texans defense) "Well, I don't think they are a 0-4 team. I really don't. You watch the film and it just doesn't show that. I think they've been snake bitten a couple of times and they could easily, very easily be 2-2 right now. I think they understand that and I know we understand that as well. When you look at their defense, they've got playmakers on that side of the ball that can change the game at any moment. Anytime you play a defense like that, you have to be aware of where Mario Williams is. You have to understand how good of a football player DeMeco Ryans is and to make sure that those guys, they're going to make their plays. But you don't want them to change the game and create momentum for their team. They've done a really good job of that and they are playing well."

(on if he could empathize with QB Sage Rosenfels last week) "Sure. As a quarterback, there's always a fine line of when to go for it and when not too. Sometimes the best intentions backfire on you. And as quarterbacks, we all experience that at sometime in our career. I think he's handled the situation well. He's been accountable and stood up like a quarterback should. You have to tip your hat off to that because that could easily be a situation where you make an excuse or you run from it and he certainly has not done that and I think he's to be commended for that."

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