The Marino mythology

Cold, Hard Football Facts for Oct 08, 2004



The Miami Dolphins are in a terrible tailspin. The clueless coach is a dead man walking. The historically inept offense averages just 8 points per game. The starting quarterback was benched in the first half of the first game of the season.

The Dolphins are off to their worst start (0-4) since 1966 and one could argue that no impending lousy season in NFL history was telegraphed earlier and more often than this season in Miami. Their quarterback controversy began around the 4th of July. Their star running back split training camp to hang out in Asia and smoke weed – one of the great backstabbing douche moves in sports history. Meanwhile, the organization's most famous face, former quarterback Dan Marino, flirted with the front office last season. It took him all of two hours before disavowing himself of any association with this fiery Hindenburg of a franchise. Oh, the humanity!

Of course, bad news in Miami is glorious news in New England. After all, the Dolphins treated the Patriots like a two-dollar Tijuana whore for much of their history. From the 1960s to the 1980s, the Patriots lost 18 straight games in Miami. This streak included woodshed beatings of 41-3 and 52-0 in back-to-back seasons.

Fast forward to 2004. The Patriots are poised to set a record for the longest winning streak in NFL history; a record held in part by those Dolphins who administered that 52-0 beating back in 1972. New England's record-breaking effort comes against the Dolphins at a time when they are mired in the depths of despair.

For fans up in New England, only one thing could make this week better: kicking Miami's fans when they're down.

These DollFans are weak and disoriented. It's easy to beat them into a fetal ball. Tell them that Marino, the greatest player in Miami history, is an overrated fraud. With any luck, they'll have an instant apoplectic seizure. If not, they may fight back like a desperate rat trapped in a corner.

Here's how to administer the final beating, courtesy of that shod-foot thug, the Cold, Hard Football Facts. Marino is, of course, the greatest regular-season quarterback in NFL history. He holds records in every meaningful career and single-season statistical category. But he never got it done in crunch time, and his failure to win a Super Bowl is a black mark in Miami history. Marino is, quite simply, the greatest player in North American sports never to win a championship.

DollFans have created an entire Mythology of Marino to explain this failure. They say he had no defense, no running game, no supporting cast. It sounds good on paper, but it's just not true. Fortunately, the Cold, Hard Football Facts worship in a different temple, one where raw numbers and reality reign as Zeus and Apollo. They easily debunked the four biggest myths perpetuated by the cult of Dan Marino.

Myth: Dan Marino had no defense.

Cold, Hard Football Facts: Marino played 17 seasons in the NFL. Twice, he had the luxury of playing with the league's No. 1 scoring defense: his rookie year of 1983 (15.6 points per game), and again in 1998 (16.6 points per game). That's a pretty enviable ratio in a league that had 28 and then 30 teams in Marino's playing days.

Consider this: Terry Bradshaw played 14 seasons in Pittsburgh and won four Super Bowls. The famed Steel Curtain defense that he played with led the league in scoring just twice in those 14 years. Of Bradshaw's four title teams, only one boasted the league's best scoring defense.

In Marino's record-setting 1984 season, the Dolphins had the No. 1 scoring offense in football and the No. 6 scoring defense (18.6 points per game). The 1990 Dolphins, meanwhile, boasted the league's No. 4 scoring defense, surrendering just 15.1 points per game.

There's no doubt Marino played with some poor defenses in his day, but that's the price of playing in the league 17 years. But the Cold, Hard Football Facts show that he also played with several defenses more than strong enough to win Super Bowls.

Myth: Marino had no running game.

Cold, Hard Football Facts: Marino joined Miami at a time when it had a reputation of being the best ground team in football. In fact, the year before Marino was drafted, the Dolphins made it all the way to the Super Bowl on the strength of a great running game and great defense.

In Marino's rookie year, 1983, the Dolphins racked up 2,150 yards on the ground. In 1984, Marino set single-season records with 48 touchdowns and 5,084 yards passing. The Dolphins still managed 1,918 rushing yards and averaged 4.0 yards per carry.

It would be disingenuous to say that the Dolphins were a great running team later in Marino's career. Of course, much of that can be attributed to too few rushing attempts and a misguided faith placed in Marino's arm.

But consider this: The New England Patriots went 17-2 and won the Super Bowl last year while averaging a woeful 3.4 yards per rushing attempt. The Dolphins averaged more than 3.4 yards per rushing attempt 14 times in Marino's 17 seasons. In other words, Marino's Dolphins ran the ball more than well enough to win Super Bowls.

Myth: Marino had to carry the Dolphins himself.

Cold, Hard Football Facts: Few quarterbacks in NFL history have been surrounded by more talent than Marino.

In his 17-year career, Marino played with 55 players named to the Pro Bowl. Marino himself was named a Pro Bowler nine times. That's a remarkable 64 Pro Bowl players, or nearly four for every season Marino spent in the NFL. Four times in Marino's career, the Dolphins boasted five or more Pro Bowl players in a single season. Compare that with New England's two Super Bowl teams, which had a total of just five Pro Bowl players.

Marino also had the rare luxury of joining a team that had played in the Super Bowl the year before he arrived. He also played most of his career for the winningest coach in NFL history, Don Shula.

Shula has quite a resume. Working with quarterbacks Bob Griese, Earl Morrall and Johnny Unitas, he led the Colts and Dolphins to five Super Bowls in 15 years. Over the next 13 seasons, working with Marino, he appeared in just one more Super Bowl. He lost.

If any quarterback in NFL history walked into an ideal situation in which to win a Super Bowl, it was Dan Marino.

Myth: Marino was a big-game quarterback.

Cold, Hard Football Facts: Want to know the real reason why Marino never won a Super Bowl? Sadly, the answer sits with Dan Marino himself.

Simply put, Marino did not elevate his game in the playoffs. In fact, his played dropped off quite noticeably. Marino has a career regular season passer rating of 86.4. His postseason passer rating was just 77.1. He played in 18 playoff games, and won just eight of them.

In his one Super Bowl appearance (a 38-16 loss to the 49ers in Super Bowl XIX), Marino completed 29 of 50 passes for 318 yards, 1 TD and 2 INTs. It adds up to a weak 66.9 passer rating. One wonders what might have happened had his two Super Bowl drives that ended in interceptions ended in touchdowns instead.

Remember that 1998 Miami team that had the best defense in football? It made the playoffs, but Marino failed to hold up his end of the bargain. The season ended in the second round of the playoffs, with Marino coughing up two interceptions against Denver and posting a passer rating of just 65.5. Yet another opportunity for Marino to win a Super Bowl tossed into the hands of an opposing defender.

 
In fact, Marino threw at least one interception in 13 of his 18 career playoff games. He threw two or more interceptions 10 times. The Dolphins went just 1-9 in those 10 Marino multi-interception playoff games.
 
So, DollFans, if you're looking for a reason why Miami never won a Super Bowl in the 1980s or 90s, look no further than the faded Dan Marino poster still taped to the ceiling over your bed.

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