The king is dead; long live
the king! For fans of the Miami
Dolphins, thatís how it feels now that Dan Marino has announced his
retirement from an illustrious seventeen-year career in professional
football. Besides the many records he has surpassed, he provided a
lot of excitement with his passing expertise. His competitive spirit and
will to win helped make him into a legend and he will be missed. Itís
the end of an era.
I have been an avid fan of the Dolphins for thirty years and I have felt
this way twice before. The first time was in 1980 when Bob Griese
retired from his own illustrious career with the Dolphins. He was
a thinking manís quarterback in that he was like a chess master in the
way he played. The consummate team player, if a running play
would do itbetter than a pass, he would call the former and often
kept defenses off balance with his decision making. Yet in 1980, I
found myself wondering who would take up the mantle of excellence
when Griese laid it aside. That, too, was the end of an era.
My question was answered soon after Dan Marino was selected with
the 27th pick in the first round of the 1983 NFL College Draft. Little
did I know then that he would set a new standard for excellence
that may not be surpassed for a very long time.
The second time I felt this way was in 1996 when Don Shula retired
as head coach of the Dolphins. For 26 seasons, Don Shula was
synonymous with the Miami Dolphins. He won an average of
ten games a season in a tenure that only experienced two
losing seasons. With Shula as head coach, the Dolphins quickly
became winners and it became expected every season that the team
would do well and qualify for the playoffs. While fans of other teams
dreamed of their teams going to the Super Bowl, fans
of the Dolphins expected their team to go, because Don Shula
expected it. Another era came to an end.
In 1996 after Don Shula retired, Jimmy Johnson was hired as head coach
with hopes of working the same magic that took his Dallas Cowboy teams
to the Super Bowl in 1990 and 1991. Magic is a funny thing. If the
ingredients arenít just right, it can blow up in your face as easily as it
can succeed. Perhaps history will show coach Johnsonís tenure with the
Dolphins as being a transition period mirrored by the transition he
experienced personally in his own life. As coach Shula found out
before him, mediocrity is as bad as losing.
The king is dead; long live the king! Now they are gone, passed
into retirement, into our memories and into the replays of NFL Films.
I wonderÖwho will take up the mantle of excellence laid aside by
Bob Griese and Dan Marino? And who will be the head coach who
will match the deeds of Don Shula? Both questions will be answered in
the next few NFL seasons. The king is dead; long live the king!