Of four candidates, Cowboys' Sparano out front for Dolphins job

MIAMI -- At least one Dallas Cowboys player referred to
assistant head coach Tony Sparano in the past tense Monday, because
he may soon change teams.

The front-runner for the Miami Dolphins' head coaching job,
Sparano became available for hire when the Cowboys lost their
playoff game Sunday to the New York Giants.

"Tony was an unbelievable coach," Cowboys tight end
Jason Witten said. "He'll be a great head coach, and this team will
definitely miss him if he gets that opportunity."

On Monday, Tennessee Titans defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz
became the fourth candidate to interview with the Dolphins. He may
be the last candidate considered.

Sparano, who worked with new Dolphins boss Bill Parcells and new
general manager Jeff Ireland when they were in Dallas, interviewed
Jan. 5 with Miami. The Dolphins also interviewed Minnesota Vikings
defensive coordinator Leslie Frazier and former Baltimore Ravens
defensive coordinator Rex Ryan.

Ireland has said it's important that he and Parcells be familiar
with the new coach. They have no direct ties to Schwartz, Frazier
or Ryan, although Schwartz's first NFL job was under Parcells
protege Bill Belichick, then with the Cleveland Browns.

Schwartz's Titans finished fifth in the league this season in
yards allowed.

The Dolphins may need to outbid Baltimore or Atlanta for
Sparano, who also interviewed for head coaching jobs with those

"The one thing that separates Tony from a lot of guys is he's
going to figure it out," Witten said. "He's going to do whatever
it takes to put you in a situation to be successful. There are no
excuses, and there's no second-guessing. As a player, knowing that
your coach is doing everything possible to give you a chance to
succeed, that's the biggest compliment you can ever give them."

Miami fired Cam Cameron after he went 1-15 in his first year as
an NFL head coach.