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Opinions differ on Sparano’s NFL future

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Break up the 'Fins.

The suddenly 1-7 Miami Dolphins are everything you don't want a NFL team to be. Management marred by poor decisions and with little or no sense of a direction or purpose in terms of personnel decisions. A team with inadequate talent that has been battered, beaten and bruised during what has been a long, disappointing season. And a despondent and dejected fan base that has already begun to plan for next year.

In short, if you're marketing that Tim Tebow is coming to town to help sell tickets, you're in trouble.

But don't sleep on the Dolphins. This is a team with no quit in them and they won't go down without a fight.

Though he surely is in his final year in Miami, head coach Tony Sparano has somehow gotten through the egos and the losses to tell his team to keep plugging along. It hasn't been an easy season in south Florida, with the team struggling out the gate but the Dolphins have rounded about to some level of respectability the past month. Before Sunday's 31-3 win in Kansas City, three of their last four losses had been by eight points or less.

And that's a credit to Sparano and his tough, no-nonsense mentality.

"I would say one of the things that I've said in the last couple weeks is that I've felt like that our team was playing better and better and we were doing more things better and just hadn't found a way to win games," Sparano said to the media earlier this week.

But while Sparano's ship might be sailing into the south Florida sun at the end of this year with what will surely be another losing season with the Dolphins, his stock should be rising around the league. Even with being handed a poorly constructed team and having lost starting quarterback Chad Henne earlier in the year, Sparano's players are fighting and fighting hard.

The job he's done in Miami by keeping this team competitive has the look and feel of someone trying to position himself for another head coaching job somewhere in the NFL. Sparano's team hasn't quit on him yet and he's shown resilience in keeping them in games. But the strong words from his press conferences and his sense of purpose seem all the trappings of a head coach looking towards his next paycheck.

Reality may be different.

One league executive who had worked alongside Sparano at a previous spot in the league spoke to Yahoo! Sports and said he wasn't sure that the Dolphins head coach had what it takes to ever land another head coaching gig. The source spoke on the condition of anonymity due to the nature of his former relationship with Sparano.

"Tony is all about hard work," the source told Yahoo! Sports. "He made his name as an offensive line coach and is an excellent segment coach. He's a blue collar guy that is better suited as an assistant than the guy behind the big desk."

But the verdict on him within the league remains mixed. Another executive whose team is in the same division as Sparano saw things differently.

"He's got his team playing well and tough even if they aren't the most talented team," the second source said. "I think he has a point to prove, that it isn't him, it's the team. He's got them playing tough right now which isn't easy with the record they have, and it is a credit to him."

Kristian R. Dyer can be followed at twitter.com/KristianRDyer

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