AFC East: Hudson Houck

Unlike Cameron, Sparano won't beat around bush

October, 18, 2008
Posted by's Tim Graham

DAVIE, Fla. -- You're about to read Exhibit H why Miami Dolphins head coach Tony Sparano is a better communicator than his predecessor, Cam Cameron.

  Vladimir Cherry/US Presswire
 Dolphins head coach Tony Sparano doesn't fail to communicate.

Cameron was fired after a 1-15 season, his first year as an NFL head coach. Now the Baltimore Ravens' offensive coordinator, Cameron will make his first return to Dolphin Stadium on Sunday.

On Friday, I was able to ask Sparano how he and his staff call their plays during a game. The questions came toward the end of his daily news conference, just something to discuss in an attempt to learn how he, offensive coordinator Dan Henning and quarterbacks coach David Lee interact.

I asked Sparano two questions, and he gave two insightful answers. They were two of the longer responses I've heard from him on any subject. I got the impression he would have chatted longer if he had the time.

Partway through Sparano's second response, I had a flashback.

One of the storylines during Cameron's tenure developed in early December. Cameron also handled offensive coordinator's role, but I found out he'd handed over the play-calling duties to tight ends coach Mike Mularkey.

Quarterback Cleo Lemon confirmed the tip to my Palm Beach Post colleague, Edgar Thompson, and revealed the process. Mularkey usually called the play from the press box. Cameron had veto power. The call was radioed to injured quarterback Trent Green on the sideline. Green sent the call into the huddle to rookie John Beck.

Cameron was asked about it. And asked about it. And asked about it.

Here is how Miami Herald reporter Jeff Darlington described the news conference:

[Cameron's] explanations during a 13-minute news conference about the process -- including how plays are called and who calls them -- were often vague and generalized as he answered 17 questions about a procedure that typically requires little justification or clarification.

"It's a collective effort," Cameron said when initially asked about Mularkey's new responsibilities. "I can't, at any time in my coaching career, remember where I called every play."

But three minutes later, during another response on the topic, Cameron said, "There is not a magic play-caller here other than me. I'm the guy that calls the plays and is accountable to the plays that are called."

I keep all of the team's transcripts on file. So I pulled this Cameron quote from the same news conference. He was asked how a play call originates:

"It varies. It's not done the same way every time. Like I said, it could come from [offensive line coach] Hudson Houck. It could come from [running backs coach] Bobby Jackson. It could come from a variety of people."

Cameron was maddening to deal with on several subjects. For instance, tired of hearing him avoid questions about Bill Parcells being hired late last season as executive vice president of football operations, refusing to even utter Parcells' name, I couldn't help but ask Cameron if he was in denial about what was coming.

With that in mind, here are two questions and two educational answers from the straight-talking Sparano:

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