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Jets Q&A: Tony Sparano

Jets offensive coordinator Tony Sparano coaches during the

Jets offensive coordinator Tony Sparano coaches during the Jets' rookie minicamp. (May 4, 2012) Credit: Getty Images

As an offensive coordinator, is there any added motivation when facing a legendary defensive mind like Steelers defensive coordinator Dick LeBeau? “I have great respect or coach LeBeau. He’s been at it for a long time and he’s got some outstanding, outstanding defenses. He’s one of those guys that’s a pain in the neck to prepare for. They do what they do and that’s a credit to them, to be able to do it as well and for as long.”

How players deal with the revenge factor for the loss to the Steelers in the 2010-11 AFC title game: “You lean on your veteran players that have been there. It obviously didn’t go well the last time they were [in Pittsburgh], but it did go well the time before that. There’s some guys in the room that have won there and there’s guys who’ve recently lost a big game. But that’s all in the past and every year is a new year. The thing that’s been impressive is our veteran players and what they’ve done with the young players. Having the experience of a [Nick] Mangold or Brick (D’Brickashaw Ferguson), and [Santonio] Holmes has played there. From a coaching standpoint, all of us have been there and been in that environments before; we’ve been in big environments. We know it’s going to be a physical game and we’re prepared for a physical football game.”

What could the offense improve on from last Sunday’s 48-28 win over Buffalo? “There were a lot of things for us not to be positive about. In pre-season, the glass was half-empty, I guess. At that point, you’re watching film and seeing positive things. When I watch the film, I watch differently than probably when anybody else watches the game. When I watched film this week, obviously there were good things done in the game, but there were some things needed to get better at and I pointed that to the players. I mean, the ball was out three times and turned once. If one or two of those go the other way, it might be a different game. It’s our job to take care of the football, first and foremost. There’s things in the run game we felt we could do a little better. We’re not by any stretch of the imagination feeling like with the success, that everything is OK.”

Stephen Hill’s progress and the mindset going into the Steelers game: “It’s a new challenge. Every week in this league it’s a new challenge. For a young player like Stephen, he doesn’t know any of these players. Where as a guy like Santonio has played against some of these guys before, Stephen doesn’t know any of them. He has to rely on some of the veteran players in the room and he has to approach every game as another challenge. He’s now put something out there on tape. I tell these guys, ‘You’ve gotta co-sign your work.’ You put it out there on film for everyone to see, that becomes a study.”

Mark Sanchez’s performance against the Bills: “The way he approached it, his poise as we got closer to the game, his confidence during the course of the game. His communication on the sideline was outstanding. I thought his command of the huddle and the pace of things, he managed really well. Never mind how he threw it, how he did. Probably one of the things I felt best about coming out of the game was, we make the turnover on the first drive and we had five or six good plays up until that point. We get to the sideline and talked about that decision, there was no need for it. I was most pleased with the fact that he was able to take that, put it in his side, and put two scoring drives together after turnovers. Our defense got us the ball and he answered.”

How much of the Wildcat was held back against the Bills? “We really didn’t have to do as much… There were some other things we were able to get done. I felt like there was a point in the game when the halfback needed to be carrying the ball and we needed to do those things.”

Will there be an increase in the use of the Wildcat on Sunday, given Tim Tebow’s success against the Steelers in the playoffs last season? “I’m sure Pittsburgh has taken a peak at that. But from my end, it’s very little. We’re not doing similar things.”

Assessing right tackle Austin Howard’s performance in Week 1: “I thought there were some things he did well, but this week’s a new challenge; a very different challenge… it’s a different structured defense. But I’ve said all along that the kid has done a good job of competing. Any time you put him in games, he’s competed really hard, and we expect him to do the same things this week. There’s plenty on film for Austin to get better at, and he would be the first one to tell you that. But we’re happy with the way he competed, no doubt about that.” 

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