UNITED STATES—Tony Sparano, the Vikings Offensive Line Coach, was found dead by his wife on Sunday, July 22. Sparano, 56, formerly coached the Oakland Raiders (2008-2011) and Miami Dolphins (2014).
ESPN reported that Sparano encountered chest pains that caused him to go the hospital on Thursday. He was later released on Friday.
“Our hearts go out to Jeanette and the entire Sparano family as we all mourn the loss of Tony. Tony was a passionate and driven individual who cared deeply about his family, and especially enjoyed spending time with his grandchildren. Tony’s presence within the Vikings organization will be deeply missed. We are only thinking of Tony’s family during this incredibly difficult time. We ask that the entire NFL and Vikings family keep the Sparanos in their thoughts,” said Vikings Owners Mark and Zygi Wilf in a statement.
While coaching the Raiders, Sparano’s team had a record of 29-32. While coaching the Dolphins, his team had a record of 3-9. In his current position with the Minnesota Vikings, he took the organization to the NFC championship last year without their starting quarterback Teddy Bridgewater and starting running back Dalvin Cook.
During this year’s free agency, the Vikings signed free agent quarterback Kirk Cousins, who previously played with the Washington Redskins. With the return of explosive running back Dalvin Cook, and a good offensive line, the Vikings offense was ripe with potential.
Former Vikings and current Jets Quarterback Teddy Bridgewater tweeted, “You will truly be missed by your loved ones, the guys you coached and the ones you’ve impacted over the years coach Sparano. Calm, cool and always wearing your shades no matter how dark the room was. Thank you for caring about the us as individuals and not just athletes.”
Sparano was born in West Haven, Connecticut in 1961. He held coaching jobs with New Haven (1994-1998), the Miami Dolphins, and Oakland Raiders. His best head coaching season was when he led the Miami Dolphins to a record of 11-5 in 2008. This was the same year he implemented the wildcat formation, meaning the running back lines up behind center instead of the quarterback. Sparano later joined the Vikings in 2016 as their offensive line coach.
Sparano leaves behind two sons Tony and Andrew, one daughter, Ryan Leigh and his wife Jeanette.