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Tuesday October 4th, 2011

Tony Sparano is 14-22 since leading the Dolphins to a division title in 2008. (AP)

Bill Parcells is one of the smartest football minds to ever grace the NFL, so when he started to cut bait on the Dolphins midway through the 2010 season, it probably should have stood as foreshadowing that 2011 would be rough. With Miami out to an 0-4 start and everyone from GM Jeff Ireland to head coach Tony Sparano to just about the whole roster under fire, the wheels appear to be completely off.

Sparano's days, one way or another, are numbered, barring a miracle run to the playoffs. Since leading Miami to a surprising division title in his first season, 2008, Sparano is just 14-22.

And Ireland, hired by Parcells to help revamp the Dolphins' roster, really shouldn't be any safer.

Ireland joined Dolphins owner Stephen Ross this offseason in openly pursuing Jim Harbaugh, despite the presence of Sparano as the team's head coach. He followed up that very public debacle by reportedly chasing a trade for Denver QB Kyle Orton, even as Chad Henne prepared for the season.

That potential deal fell through, leaving Henne as the team's de facto quarterback and Sparano as the lame-duck coach.

At some point, probably soon, Ross has no choice but to close the book on the Parcells era and try to move forward. Right now, nothing is working for the Dolphins.

Miami has the seventh-worst scoring offense and the seventh-worst defense in the league. Worse yet, all four of the Dolphins' losses have come within the conference, including two at home. They still have to play the Jets and Buffalo twice each, New England once, the entire NFC East and Oakland, among others.

Sparano has about as much chance of being hired as an Abercrombie model as he does scoring a playoff bid.

So why are the Dolphins dragging this out further? In-season firings rarely work out all that well, but Miami has a bye coming up -- which makes this the perfect time to pull the trigger, if any moves are to be made before next offseason.

Waiting only delays the inevitable. Miami still needs a quarterback it trusts, as well as a No. 1 running back -- Ireland's signing of Reggie Bush to fill that role has, to no one's surprise, not panned out. Both lines need upgrades, the secondary could use some fresh faces ... the list goes on and on.

All those gaps bring us back to Ireland, too. Parcells' inability to completely turn around Miami's fortunes had to be a major surprise and letdown for everyone in that organization. But Ireland has shown no ability to upgrade the team's talent on his own, which is a major reason behind the 0-4 start.

If Ross plans to change things up, whether it's now or in four weeks or in February, Ireland figures to be in as much hot water as Sparano. It's becoming painfully obvious that Miami's 2008 division title, its lone playoff appearance since 2001, was a smoke-and-mirrors job. There are very few remnants of a competitive team left, and Ross' eventual house cleaning should start at the top and be as wide-ranging as possible.

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