Tony Sparano, the former Miami Dolphins head coach who had been Minnesota’s offensive line coach since 2016, died Sunday morning at the age of 56, the Vikings said.

“Our hearts go out to Jeanette and the entire Sparano family as we all mourn the loss of Tony,” Vikings owners Mark and Zygi Wilf said in a statement. “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.”

ESPN’s Chris Mortensen reported that Sparano had recently complained of chest pains and went to the hospital on Thursday, before being released Friday after a round of tests. According to Mortensen, Sparano’s wife Jeanette found him unconscious in the couple’s kitchen when both were about to leave for church on Sunday morning.

The most memorable moment in Sparano’s 19-year NFL coaching career came in 2008, when he was a rookie head coach with Miami, inheriting a team that had gone 1-15 the previous season. In Week 3 he surprised Bill Belichick and the New England Patriots with a single wing-style formation that the Dolphins called the wildcat, and Miami won 38-13 at Foxborough.

The wildcat became a fad around the league, and the stunning upset propelled Sparano’s team to 11 wins and the AFC East title. It’s one of two playoff berths for the franchise since 2002.

That was Sparano’s lone winning season, and he was fired in 2011 after going 29-32 in Miami. He was popular with his players, but a dismal home record, declining attendance and a falling-out with General Manager Jeff Ireland accelerated his firing by owner Stephen Ross.

Sparano was the Raiders’ interim head coach in 2014 after the team fired Dennis Allen, and he went 3-9. He also worked as an assistant for the Browns, Redskins, Jaguars, Cowboys and 49ers.

GIANTS: Co-owner Steve Tisch told The Hollywood Reporter earlier this week that his players won’t be penalized if they kneel during the national anthem and he criticized President Donald Trump for his involvement in the controversy.

Tisch, speaking on Tuesday night at the premier of “The Equalizer 2,” said the team will “support our players.”

“They are not going to be punished,” Tisch, who is a producer for ‘The Equalizer 2,’ told The Hollywood Reporter. “There is not going to be any punitive action taking place against them.”

NFL owners voted 31-0 – with only the 49ers abstaining – during meetings in Atlanta in May to revise the national anthem policy, requiring players on the field to stand during the playing of the anthem.


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