Sparano given two-year extension, more power by Dolphins

After failing in their pursuit of Jim Harbaugh, the Miami Dolphins tried to make peace with Tony Sparano, extending their coach's contract through 2013 and giving him more say in player personnel decisions. The team announced the extension Saturday.

Dolphins general manager Jeff Ireland will maintain final say in player personnel, the *South Florida Sun Sentinel* reported, citing sources.

Furthermore, the Sun Sentinel source said "there's no problem" between Sparano and Ireland, despite the fact the GM accompanied Dolphins owner Stephen Ross on the Harbaugh interview Thursday. Sparano's relationship with Ireland dates back eight years, when both were with the Dallas Cowboys.

The Dolphins scheduled a Friday afternoon news conference, most likely to announce that Sparano was staying, but abruptly cancelled it. No reason was given, but the Miami Heraldreported that the talks between the team and the coach hit a significant snag, with Sparano or his representative telling the Dolphins that he wasn't comfortable returning to the team.

The news conference eventually was rescheduled for Saturday.

"I told Tony on the phone from the plane (coming back from California) that he was my man," Ross said. "I realized after reading everything the anguish I put Tony through. This was my first interview and I didn't realize this would be national news. I should have let know Tony know and not thinking this would be so public.

"Jeff said, 'You've got the best guy.'

The problems we have are all fixable. You've got a coach whose players love him and love to play for him. Other coaches have longevity with their teams and that's what I want with the Miami Dolphins."

While in limbo this week, Sparano reported to work daily, even as Ross and Ireland flew to California to be spurned by Harbaugh, whom the San Francisco 49ershired as their new coach Friday.

Conducting a search when the Dolphins still had a coach threatened to undermine Sparano, whose status already was shaky because of his team's late-season meltdown. Sparano had been signed through 2011.

The Dolphins found themselves explaining away another awkward situation when the *Herald* reported that Ross had a Friday meeting scheduled with former Cleveland Browns and New York Jets coach Eric Mangini, according to sources independent of the team.

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As Ross left California on Thursday night, the meeting with Mangini hadn't been canceled. It was called off Friday, and team sources insist there was no intention to hire Mangini, but only to pick his brain as a "consultant" with knowledge of the AFC East, which the Dolphins share with the Jets and Patriots, whom Mangini was an assistant for before the Jets hired him.

The Browns fired Mangini -- who went 10-22 with the Browns and 23-25 with the Jets -- on Monday.

The offseason has gone much like the latter part of the season for the Dolphins, who lost their final three games, including a 38-7 drubbing at New England in their finale last Sunday. Ross said before the season that he expected the team to reach the Super Bowl, but instead it finished 7-9 and failed for the eighth time in nine years to reach the playoffs.

Sparano led Miami to that lone postseason berth in 2008, his first year as an NFL coach. He has a three-year record of 25-23.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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