Miami Dolphins/NFL Professional

Former Dolphins Coach Tony Sparano Passes Away At 56

Former Miami Dolphins head coach and current Minnesota Vikings offensive line coach Tony Sparano passed away Sunday morning at the age of 56.

According to reports from ESPN’s Chris Mortensen, Sparano went to a Minnesota hospital Thursday after complaining about chest pains. He was released Friday and returned home.

ESPN sources said that Sparano’s wife, Jeanette, found him unconscious Sunday morning.

It was determined that the 19-year veteran NFL coach died at 8:54 a.m. in his home.

Hennepin County Medical Examiner tests Monday concluded that Sparano died of natural causes from arteriosclerotic heart disease.

Sparano is survived by his wife and adult children Anthony Sparano, Andrew Sparano and Ryan Leigh Sparano.

Sparano spent the past two seasons with the Vikings, but was best known for his time as the head coach of the Miami Dolphins.

He was coaching the Dallas Cowboys’ offensive line before being tabbed as the new Dolphins head coach before the start of the 2008 season.

Sparano’s first season (2008) leading Miami was undoubtedly his best.

The Dolphins went 1-15 the year before, but Sparano led a complete turnaround – in which Miami finished the year 11-5 and won the AFC East, a feat that still stands as the only time since 2003 that another besides the New England Patriots won the division.

The rest of Sparano’s tenure was never able to hit that high of a note.

Miami went 7-9 in 2009 and 2010 and the team ultimately parted ways with Sparano 13 games into the 2011 season after the team fell to 4-9. He finished with a 29-32 record as Miami’s head coach and lost his lone playoff game leading the team.

Still, Sparano’s time with the Fins wasn’t lost on the franchise or its owner Stephen Ross, who released a statement after the coach’s passing.

Once he left Miami, Sparano cycled through a handful of teams. He landed with the New York Jets in 2012; then spent a pair of seasons (2013-2014) with the Oakland Raiders – where he had a 13-game stint as interim head coach – he spent the 2015 season with the San Francisco 49ers; before joining the Vikings’ staff in 2016.

Overall, Sparano worked for nine NFL teams over 19 seasons.

“Our hearts go out to Jeanette and the entire Sparano family as we all mourn the loss of Tony,” Vikings owners Mark and Zygi Wilf said in a statement Sunday.

J.T. Wilcox
J.T. Wilcox is an award-winning sports journalist who has worked in South Florida for more than a decade. He authors "The Bald Predictions" blog and "The Baldcast" podcast.

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