View the original article on Last Word On Pro Football: Minnesota Vikings Offensive Line Coach Tony Sparano Dies at 56

Tragedy struck the NFL family on July 22, 2018. According to the Minnesota Vikings official Twitter page, Sparano passed away unexpectedly early in the morning. The cause of death has not yet been released.

Sparano initially joined the Vikings coaching staff prior to the 2016 season. He was the offensive line coach in both of his years with the Vikings franchise. Sparano first entered the NFL in the 1999 season as an assistant with the Cleveland Browns.

After bouncing around the league for a few years, Sparano found his first NFL home in 2003 with Bill Parcels and the Dallas Cowboys. Initially hired as the tight ends coach, Sparano steadily climbed up the coaching ladder while in Dallas. Sparano was assistant head coach when he departed Dallas in 2008.

Sparano received his first head coaching opportunity with the Miami Dolphins in 2008. Inheriting a 1-15 team, Sparano brought the 2008 Dolphins to an 11-5 record and a playoff appearance on the back of the Wildcat offense. To this date, Sparano is the only coach who ever brought a team to the playoffs after a one-win season.

While Sparano’s Dolphins never again reached the playoffs, the ten-game improvement tied a league record. Sparano spent four seasons with the Dolphins, compiling a 29-32 record before getting fired towards the end of the 2011 season.

Returning to the world of assistant coaching, Sparano joined the New York Jets to serve as the teams offensive coordinator. Unfortunately, this wasn’t a good fit, as the Tim Tebow – Mark Sanchez offense finished 30th in the league. Sparano was let go after one season with the squad.

Sparano landed on his feet, arriving in Oakland as the teams assistant head coach/offensive line coach. Following the firing of then-head coach Dennis Allen, Sparano spent the majority of the 2014 season as the Raiders head coach. Oakland went 3-9 under Sparano, and the franchise did not retain his services as head coach.

Sparano spent one season with the San Francisco 49ers as the tight ends coach before arriving in Minnesota.

Sparano is survived by his wife, Jeanette, three children; sons, Tony and Andrew, his daughter, Ryan Leigh, and four grandchildren. Everyone here at Last Word on Pro Football sends their thoughts and prayers to the Sparano family.

Main photo courtesy of the Minnesota Vikings official Twitter page.