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INDIANAPOLIS -- The NFL scouting combine provided the first chance for us to ask Miami Dolphins head coach Tony Sparano why he decided to fire offensive line coach Mike Maser last month.
Maser was the only assistant dismissed from the staff even though he was Sparano's first hire -- two days after the Dolphins named Sparano head coach. Maser was on the Jacksonville Jaguars' staff with Sparano in 2002.
Maser oversaw a line that suffered season-ending injuries at both guard positions and helped rookie Jake Long make the Pro Bowl.
The Dolphins ranked 12th in total offense, 11th in yards per run attempt and 10th in fewest sacks allowed.
The firing seemed odd. Sparano didn't give a specific reason for removing Maser and hiring New York Giants assistant offensive line coach Dave DeGuglielmo. But Sparano indicated communication was a significant problem and he didn't want to second-guess his gut.
"Well, to be honest with you, there's something that from my end -- and I don't want to get into it too much because I really think an awful lot of Mike and what Mike did for us -- but you have a feeling sometimes," Sparano said. "From my end, what I didn't want to do is if I have those kinds of feelings on where we need to be ... That group is a finicky group, that offensive line group.
"I think that to my end, communication-wise, I think it's important. Mike did a great job out there coaching them on the field. But I felt there needed to be a change. I moved in that direction.
"I didn't want to move in that direction a year from now and sitting here, saying 'Why didn't you do this a year ago?' I felt like this is the time to do it. We evaluate players. We evaluate coaches. My coaches know that."
Sparano's coaching career was established on the offensive line. He handled the position in his first job at New Haven, then with Boston University, the Cleveland Browns and Dallas Cowboys.
Maybe Sparano's line coaches are doomed never to live up to his standards.
"I don't know," Sparano responded with a laugh. "Bill [Parcells] always says to me, 'It's never going to look the way you want it to look or look like when you were coaching it because you were the offensive line coach.'
"That might be true, but I don't think so. I think I try to let those guys coach. I really don't get involved a whole lot that way. My job is to oversee and to be sure that I'm touching every unit on the field. Joey Porter needs attention. Yeremiah Bell needs attention. All these people need my attention as well.
"That was my job from Day 1, so the people that I hired I wanted to make sure they communicated with their positions without me interfering."
For the record, the Dolphins have had two coaching changes. Kickers coach Steve Hoffman accepted a promotion to run the Kansas City Chiefs' special teams.