AFC East Update: Hot Seat For Sparano?

Are the Dolphins on the verge of collapse or can coach Tony Sparano get the ship righted in Miami?

   Amid his team's 0-3 start, Dolphins coach Tony Sparano is already facing questions about his job security. Sparano's stability already seemed shaky following consecutive 7-9 seasons, but Dolphins owner Steve Ross - who after the 2010 season ended infamously pursued former Stanford coach and current 49ers coach Jim Harbaugh - pledged support for Sparano.

   It's unclear whether Ross' support has waned. But the public's support of Sparano clearly has faded. The Dolphins played their most recent home game in front of about 20,000 empty seats. And Sparano's future has been a popular topic on South Florida talk radio and on Internet forums where Dolphins fans gather.

   A day after his team's disappointing 17-16 defeat against the Cleveland Browns, Sparano was asked whether he was concerned about keeping his job.

   "I don't know anything about that," he said. "I'm getting ready for the San Diego Chargers. You guys can figure that out. Go ask the sources, they'll tell you better than me."

   The Dolphins travel this weekend to San Diego, where a defeat against the Chargers would give the Dolphins an 0-4 record entering their off week. Following the bye, the Dolphins remain on the road for a Monday night game at the New York Jets.

   The defeats are adding up quickly for the Dolphins and each one, it seems, has increased the pressure on Sparano, who is in his fourth season. Sparano led the Dolphins to an 11-5 finish in his first season, back in 2008, but since then there has been more bad than good.

   Asked how he can hold the team together given the turmoil surrounding it, Sparano admitted that doing so "is a big part of the challenge."

   "I'm fortunate that I got a good group of people in the locker room, good group of coaches upstairs," Sparano said. "Those guys stay the course pretty good. Good talk after the game yesterday, we'll put this game away today, we'll get on to San Diego."


Penalties affect Dolphins' play

   --Thanks to a pair of Browns' 15-yard penalties, the Dolphins began their final drive on Sunday on the Cleveland 47-yard line. The Dolphins needed just 20 yards - even less, really - for PK Dan Carpenter to have a realistic chance at a field-goal attempt. But QB Chad Henne threw four incomplete passes - the last one an interception - and the Dolphins failed to gain a single yard. Sparano acknowledged that it was likely the "worst series" of the game for the Dolphins. He said the Dolphins in practice have executed similar drives repeatedly with success. "It was like we've been there, did this, and we just didn't do it," Sparano said.

   --What upset Sparano the most about the Dolphins' performance against the Browns was his team's 10 penalties for 93 yards. Three times the Dolphins had the Browns stopped on third down, only to give them new life by committing a penalty. Sparano said, "We made dumb penalties ...  We did things uncharacteristically, not smart at times." An offside penalty on LB Jason Taylor gave the Browns a third-and-5 instead of a 3rd-and-10 during their decisive game-winning touchdown drive. Taylor said later he'd played a poor game.

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