The Oakland Raiders hired Tony Sparano as the team's new assistant head coach and offensive line coach January 23. Raiders.com had a chance to speak with the long-time NFL veteran coach.
Raiders.com: What did you know about the history of the Raiders and how much of that was a factor in you coming here to coach with the Oakland Raiders?
Coach Sparano: It really was a big factor honestly. I'm one of these guys, I've done enough things in this profession, been a head coach, been a coordinator, coached lines, I've done some of these things before, I've been in enough programs that I wanted to make sure the place I went to was a place that I felt great about and that had a lot of history. I had an opportunity to meet Al Davis at some owners meetings several times and he was a good friend of Bill Parcells as well. I got a chance to visit with him, at the same time I remember watching some of the ball games on TV and you'd see the Raiders out here and watching some of those players – [Daryl] Lamonica and [Kenny] Stabler and [Dave] Casper, so on and so forth. I love the history of the game. It's something that's in me. That's why coaching for the Miami Dolphins was outstanding and getting to know Don Shula and some of these people, this is another opportunity to do that.
I've worked with some great head coaches and at the same time to be involved in those types of organizations, the Dallas Cowboys and all that they've had from a history standpoint, and to be with the Jets here recently and now to be here. I'm excited about it, I really am.
Raiders.com: What's Tony Sparano's philosophy on coaching?
Coach Sparano: My philosophy on coaching is that you teach first. I think that's important. There's a difference between teaching and telling. Some people tell and I like to teach. I think that there's a lot of ways to teach, every kid learns differently. I learned that from being a head coach, when you're in charge of sometimes 90 players, 80 players, when you start training camp, and 20 coaches and a support staff, people hear things differently, people learn differently. Teach it first, make sure you're not stuck on one teaching pattern, I think that's important. At the same time, don't be afraid to show passion. I think that passion in our game is something that is a necessity. I don't think you can play the game without passion and I don't think you should coach the game without passion. If not, find something else to do. I love this game and I am going to coach it with passion and hopefully it becomes contagious.
Raiders.com: What's the most important thing for you to accomplish in the off-season?
Coach Sparano: I think the most important thing to accomplish in the off-season right now, the off-season has many different phases to it, and I think you can look at it as a big mountain to climb sometimes, I think the most important thing is to break it down into the phases. Then you get into periods later on when the off-season program begins and you get into different phases of what you can and cannot do. If there is one thing you want to come away with here, I can only speak offensively with what we're doing, you need to come away with an identity in the off-season of who you want to be in the season. If you are asking those questions when you get to the season it's too late. You have to have that identity in the off-season and start to form that identity right now without any hesitation. You get into the middle of the season and you start asking yourself 'what are we good at it?' that's too late at that point.
What kind of team are we going to be? What are we going to be able to hang our hat on? What is our core going to be? What do our players do well? I think that's critical to the success of any team. Greg Olson has a philosophy and I am excited to be a part of that philosophy with Greg. Coach Allen has a philosophy and I am excited to be a part of that. Reggie has a vision and I am excited to be a part of that. At the end of the whole thing, all those things have to mesh together. Sometimes you have to make the system fit the player. You can't always make the player fit the system. The way our league is and the way there's turnover in players and coaches and everything sometimes that becomes a little bit hard. We have to take a look at what our players have done well. I think what gets lost in translation sometimes is that…let's look at their record from where they were a year ago. I'm not into looking back too much but sometimes you have to do it to go forward. In my case being new here I had to do that. Doing that and looking back and being able to go forward, there were a lot of good things done as well. You want to identify what the good things were, when you go forward those can be pieces that'll help you.
Raiders.com: What are you most excited about for the coming season?
Coach Sparano: Honestly one of the things I am most excited about, and I haven't had this in a long time, is just getting in a room with eight or nine guys and be able to coach eight or nine guys and make a difference with those eight or nine people. Over the last five years I have been a head coach where you're dealing with both sides of the football, and you're dealing with 53 or 80 guys – coordinator where you're dealing with 40 guys sometimes and that type of deal. I really like shutting the door and getting to the Xs and Os part of things and getting to the one-on-one's and building a trust that way. I'm excited about getting back to that and get some of that done. It's a great feeling when you know you can run the football and run it well and there isn't much they can do on the other side. It takes a lot of work to get to that point and it takes a huge commitment to get to that point. We're going to chip away at this thing until we can get to that point and make sure that group becomes what we want it to become.
Raiders.com: What does the Raider Nation need to know about Tony Sparano?
Coach Sparano: I do know about the fans…I do know the history, they have tremendous passion here for this football team, I have been in this stadium and I've seen it first-hand several occasions. What they need to know about me is that I'm going to match that passion; I'm going to have that kind of enthusiasm and passion. Hopefully it'll be contagious amongst our players. It isn't something fake; it's the way I'm built. I love this game and I have fun doing it. If you have fun doing something, just like they have fun coming to Raiders games, it brings out the passion in you.