Showing 11 - 19 of 19 posts found matching keyword: the greatest quarterback ever to play the game of football

I woke up on Friday to a voicemail message asking if I wanted to attend the Dolphins/Falcons preseason opener that night. I had turned down the opportunity when Mom asked months ago, but in the pressure of the moment, I gave in and accepted fate.

This was all I saw of Stephen Jackson

The tickets had come to friend Brian through connections at his job, and he says he had a hard time finding someone to accompany him at the last minute. ("I said to myself, 'I'll call Walter. He'd never pass up football tickets!'," Brian explained.) Judging by the thousands of empty seats at the Georgia Dome, most people passed on the opportunity to pay $59.00 to watch a glorified practice.

The last time I attended a preseason game, it was to see Dan Marino take about 5 snaps. Not quite a decade back, I tried to get Eagles/Falcons Monday Night tickets, and ended up buying four Ravens/Falcons preseason tickets. (I blame that snafu partly on TicketMaster and partly on sleep deprivation.) I couldn't give those tickets away! The way I see it, going to this game for free is cosmic compensation for that wasted $300 all those years ago.

Preseason games in Atlanta draw about as many fans as reals game in Miami

I got my money's worth as the first-team Dolphins and first-team Falcons looked great last night on their opening drives. That wasn't too surprising. Offsenses always perform better than defenses at the beginning of the year. I considered it a better sign that the Dolphins' rebuilt O-line was able to protect Tannehill for a few plays. (The Dolphins didn't start giving up sacks until late in the game.) Maybe we'll be able to score some points this year.

Others were even more optimistic. "I think we could win the AFC East this year," said the Dolphins' fan behind me. "It's either us or the Bills." Given that the Bills haven't made finished better than .500 since 2004, I'd say those are pretty good odds. I wonder what the Patriots — division winner for nine of the last ten seasons — will have to say about that?

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For reasons I can't explain, I wound up at a picnic for some of the greatest retired NFL quarterbacks. Dan Marino is there, naturally, but so is Elway, Cunningham, Moon, and more, all dressed like they had just stepped out of a Land's End catalog.

After a brief introduction, we walk to the stadium. We move in slow motion, as though underwater. Dodging their wrinkle-free khaki legs, I realize that these giants of football are literally giants as I gaze up at them from the viewpoint of a child. Occasionally golden rays of sunlight pierce the space between them, back-lighting their smiling faces and making them look like bronze statues of gods.

The weather changes abruptly, and the Minnesota Vikings fans wait beside stacked snowdrifts to enter their domed stadium. The fans are mostly dressed in puffy pink snowsuits, giving them the appearance of cotton-candy Michelen Men.

Inside, the stadium seems far too small to host a football game. I'm seated in the upper deck facing a solid white wall with a bank of glowing windows. The field far to our right isn't even visible from our seats. Some of the fans seated near me titter excitedly when our bank of seats begins to rotate towards the field. Gradually, the field comes into view, a flat, lifeless artificial turf. No one, neither coaches, players, or stadium personnel, is on the field.

Our seats continue rotating. Despite the hopeful noise around me, I know that we're just going to rotate 360° and face the window again. Of course I'm right, and I smile smugly to myself.

I get up from my seat and begin walking downstairs towards the lower level when I trip and stumble over the railing running vertically up the middle of the white concrete stairs. Desperate not to fall and make a fool of myself in front of a full house of fans, I lithely roll horizontally around the handrail like an Olympic gymnast and land on my feet. The nearby crowd thinks I've done this on purpose and cheers its appreciation.

Someone from the Vikings organization has seen my performance and rushes me down the stairs into a wood-paneled backroom where the team is waiting. The players are all wearing their pink Vikings uniforms, milling around nervously in the too-small space. Some are talking, some are tossing a football, some are playing cards or listening to music; they are behaving like extras in the background of a Hollywood locker-room scene. I'm at least a foot shorter and 100 pounds lighter than everyone else in the room.

Someone -- the coach? the general manager? -- grabs my arm and tells me that they saw my "moves" in the stadium and they need me to replace their quarterback who has just broken his leg. On cue the quarterback, fully dressed for the game in his bright pink uniform and shoulder pads, rolls his wheelchair in from another room, his outstretched left leg encased in a white plaster cast. For someone with a broken leg, he looks indecently happy.

I try to explain that what they saw was an accident, merely an attempt to keep from making an idiot of myself. The man talking to me doesn't believe me. Chomping on his cigar, he orders the lame quarterback to throw me a pass. The football comes at me like a bullet aimed just above my head. Without time to think, reflexes born of self-preservation motivate me into a leaping backflip. In the process, my flailing arms snatch the ball from the air lest it hit and harm me. When I land, the entire team applauds, and I know I've lost the argument.

Moments later I'm running onto the field in my new pink Vikings uniform. The crowd goes wild, but I know this can't end well.

And that is why I have to stop eating pepperoni pizza and watching NFL Live just before bed.

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While browsing the internet to find the etymology for the neologism "trickeration" -- currently my least favorite word in the English language -- I discovered that Jason Taylor has announced that he will retire after Sunday's game. So the horrible 2011 season will claim one last player before it's all over.

Taylor will retire with the second most starts ever as a Miami Dolphin. If Taylor hadn't spent one season each with the Redskins and Jets, he'd need only 1 more season to pass Dan Marino's 242 games as a Dolphins' starter. Seeing as this is the year that the most significant of Marino's remaining passing records falls, it seems a missed opportunity not to eliminate his other records from the books. At the rate that the Dolphins discard their players these days, perhaps that's the Marino record that is truly unbeatable.

This is the fifth time I've blogged about Jason Taylor. It will probably be the last, if Taylor is smart enough to stay away from an organization that rewarded him with a trade to the Redskins just 1 year after the NFL made Taylor into a 26-feet tall robot. It's a shame that Taylor can't ride off into the sunset with a championship ring, but that's what happens to modern Hall of Famers in Miami. It sucks, Jason, but you just sort of get used to it.

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Football season is almost here, and I'm struggling to decide whether I'll be able to cheer for the Miami Dolphins this year or not. I supported the team throughout last year's one-win debacle, but this weekend may have been the last straw: Bill Parcels signed Chad Pennington. That's right, THE Chad "I Can't Throw 20 Yards" Pennington who was CUT by the Dolphins' arch-rival New York Jets when they agreed to solve the Green Bay Packers' problem by taking Brett Favre off their hands.

It's not that I hate Pennington, I just don't see him as the answer to any of our many questions. He's old, his naturally weak arm is practically nonexistent after several operations, and he was unable to provide enough leadership in New York last year. The entire move smacks of cronyism. Who drafted Pennington for the Jets? That's right - Bill Parcels! (Again proving the old adage that it's not what you throw, but who you know!)

So now the Dolphins, who have started 12 different players at quarterback since Marino retired in 2000, will likely have a 13th. (Oh, Great Marino, why have you forsaken us?) And having a weak-armed, aging quarterback is unlikely to help the Dolphins' running game. When every player on defense knows that the ball can't go more than 20 yards downfield, they're unlikely to provide much room for the running-backs to maneuver.

With an unproven rookie, there was at least the illusion of hope. Pennington comes already loaded with the stench of loser. Phew!

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Yesterday, backup QB Sage Rosenfels replaced the starting quarterback for the Houston Texans followng an injury. Should Rosenfels start for the team next week, he will be the 6th ex-Dolphin quarterback to start for a team other than the Dolphins this season. (Daunte Culpepper for the Raiders; Gus Frerotte, Rams; Brian Griese, Bears; Joey Harrington, Falcons; Damon Huard, Chiefs; and Rosenfels.) Since Dan Marino retired following the 1999 season, the Dolphins have had 11 different starting quarterbacks in 8 seasons. Of those eleven, 2 remain on the Dolphins' roster (Trent Green on Injured Reserve and Cleo Lemon, our starter) and 2 have retired (Jay Fiedler and Ray Lucas). That leaves only 1 ex-starting Dolphin in a position to start for another team this season: A.J. Feeley, benchwarmer for Donovan McNabb of the Philadelphia Eagles. (Before Feeley was a starting quarterback for the Dolphins, he was the back-up to Donovan McNabb of the Philadelphia Eagles.) With Feeley riding pine behind an injury-prone McNabb, could I dare to dream that every active ex-starting Dolphin quarterback could start a game during the 2007 season?

The Miami Dolphins: spreading bad quarterbacking throughout the National Football League since 2000.

On a side note, Jason Garrett, one of the backup quarterbacks that appeared on a Dolphins roster in 2004 but who never took a snap for the team in a game, is now the Offensive Coordinator for the Dallas Cowboys, which has one of the best offenses in the League right now. So our starting quarterbacks weren't good enough to start for us, but they are good enough to start for everyone else, and our backup quarterbacks weren't good enough to take a snap for us but are good enough to engineer winning teams for other organizations. So the question becomes: why does everyone suck when they are a Dolphin? I'm not really sure I'm ready for the answer to that question.

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Yesterday, I watched TNT's pregame for the NBA Skills Challenge during the NBA All-Star weekend festivities. At one point, Charles Barkley jokingly called David Hasselhoff "Dan Marino." My first reaction was to blow it off as an offhand comment. But then I really thought about it....

And damn if Charles isn't right.

Marino, meet Hasselhoff

When you put the two side-by-side, they do look very similar. (Both are even the same height -- 6' 4" -- according to the internet. And the internet can't lie.) Of course, the first thing I thought was: are they the same person, or twins separated at birth? Have they ever met or played in a celebrity golf tournament together? Has one ever slept with the other's wife while pretending to actually be her husband?

Why hadn't I noticed this before? I'm a huge fan of Marino (I went to his Hall of Fame induction, for Pete's sake), and I've seen every episode of Knight Rider, Baywatch, the first season of Baywatch Nights, and Nick Fury: Agent of Shield (which is awesome in the same sort of way as The Anna Nicole Show and NASCAR crashes).

I wonder how well Hasselhoff throws a football? (I know how well Marino acts. He's every bit as good as Hasselhoff.)

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I had the good fortune to obtain Super Bowl tickets this year. This time yesterday, I was sitting in the rain and gusting wind of the coldest, wettest Super Bowl in history. I tell you, there wasn't a dry eye in the house when the contest was over, and it wasn't because the Bears were trampled by the Colts, giving Peyton Manning his first NFL Championship. No, it rained and rained and rained. And then it rained some more. Trey and I briefly lamented not wearing raincoats to the game, but then we realized that those people who were wearing raincoats were just as soaked-to-the-bone as we were. Yet I still saw dozens of people in the fourth quarter who were still wearing torn, useless plastic bags as though they were life preservers and holding seat cushions over their heads like umbrellas. Fortunately for us, there was a stadium employee kindly warning us of a large puddle on the way to our cars. Most of the crowd walked through it anyway, as our shoes and socks had been completely saturated hours earlier.

Thanks for the lift to the game, Trey!

Trey and I arrived early in anticipation of the day's events. While that meant that we were parked close to the stadium, it also meant that we would have to wait for nearly an hour to leave once the game was over. There is much truth in the cliche, "First In, Last Out." To my disappointment, the $20.00 I spent on a corndog, pretzel, bottle of water, and a Pepsi didn't go towards paying for a quality parking staff. At least they were a very large corndog and bottle of water. Though I hate Pepsi, as the "Official Soft Drink of the NFL," it was the only caffeine that I could get before the game. I'd forgotten how awful it tastes! Thankfully, the rain quenched my remaining, unsatisfied thirst.

Ahhh, Vice City!

As my first visit to Dolphin Stadium (formerly Dolphins Stadium, formerly Pro Player Stadium, formerly Pro Player Park, formerly Joe Robbie Stadium), home of the Miami Dolphins, it was practically a trip to Mecca. We spotted fans wearing gear from 26 of the 32 NFL teams (Bills, Jaguars, Lions, Panthers, Texans, and my hometown Falcons were not seen), but after the Bears and Colts, the team far-and-away best represented was the Dolphins themselves. I even had the opportunity to watch Dan Marino, whom the locals all apparently simply call "Danny," working on the CBS pre-game show with James Brown and Shannon Sharpe. (It was kind of comforting to see how the town still fully embraces him: the stadium is on Dan Marino Boulevard, and the city is peppered with billboards on which he pitches everything from weight-loss systems to used cars.)

Over here, Danny!

I cheered for the Bears, and Trey rooted for the Colts. I'm not much of a Colts fan for the very sound reasons that they have long been over-hyped, they used to be in the AFC East with the Dolphins, and they are quarterbacked by an ex-Tennessee Volunteer. (Sure, Grossman is an ex-Florida Gator, but at least he's incompetent.) By the second quarter, it became apparent that the Bears were horribly outclassed (as expected) and wouldn't be much of a challenge for the Colts. Trey and I had predicted at the start of the playoffs that any AFC team could take any NFC team in the playoffs this year, and after seeing the Bears' miserable performance in the Super Bowl, I still think that's true.

We came. We saw. We got very, very wet.

Watching the game with Trey proved insightful, if irritating. He made several excellent points about both teams' strategies and execution. After Devon Hester returned the opening kickoff for a Bears' touchdown, Trey pointed out that an opening return always boded bad things for the scoring team. He reminded me that the same thing happened in last month's NCAA BCS Championship game for Ohio State, who, like the Bears, tanked the rest of the game. Most amusingly, early in the 4th quarter, after Grossman completed 2 passes and was moving the Bears down field, Trey proclaimed, "if [the Bears' coaches] call another pass play here, they are complete idiots." When on the next play, Colt's cornerback Kevin Hayden returned a Grossman interception for a touchdown, icing the game, Trey got the meanest looks from some nearby soggy Bears fans, as though Trey himself had stuck the dagger in the Bears' heart. I laughed and laughed.

Final Score: Colts 29, Bears 17

I'm resentful of the fact that Peyton Manning secured his Championship ring (and cemented his legacy as one of the best quarterbacks in NFL history) in Marino's hometown, but at least it rained on that punk's parade. Now I'm home, and I'm almost dry. It's certainly something that I'll have to do again. Next time, I'll be prepared: I'll take a snorkel.

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You know that I'm a fan of the Miami Dolphins. I have been since I first took an interest in the game of football back in the late 1980s. My favorite wide receiver of all time is a relative unknown named Orande Gadsden who played only 4 years exclusively for the Dolphins (and who, by the way, was the last man to catch a pass in the NFL by Dan Marino). I can tell you every quarterback who has started for the team since Marino retired. (Hmm, let's see; there's Huard, Fiedler, Griese, Lucas, Rosenfels, Feeley, Frerotte, Culpepper, Harrington, and now Lemon. Get ready, Packers fans, it will be worse than you think, trust me.) And we've been slightly above mediocre for most of that time. Hell, we've only had 4 losing seasons since joining the NFL! But if there's one aspect of the game that we've totally failed to grasp in the past two decades, it's coaching.

When current owner Wayne Huizenga bought the team in the early 90s, Don Shula was our coach. Shula was, in all regards, a great coach, one of the best in history. However, when Shula decided to retire 10 years ago, Huizenga chose to go with a proven wash-out at couch, replaced Shula with Jimmy Johnson, a Floridian who had great success with the Dallas Cowboys. Expectations were high. I thought we'd be great again, perhaps even Super Bowl bound. But the team went nowhere. This was likely because of a conflict between Marino, our aging superstar who naturally preferred the passing game, and Johnson, who would have preferred to restart the team from scratch with a focus on the run. In any event, after 3 years of exhausting turmoil, both Johnson and Marino were out.

In comes Dave Wannstedt, Johnson's protege who is fresh off several mediocre seasons with the Bears. Again I had high hopes. Wannstedt looked pretty good at times with the Bears, getting by with a team with less-than-stellar talent. Turns out that the talent problems were probably Wannstedt's fault. In Miami, he always looked lost, like a babysitter who doesn't know what to do when the tweens he's supervising get into the coffee ice cream and start bouncing off the walls. Wannstedt championed an ivy league quarterback with extremely limited passing skills, and he brought in Ricky Williams, who was the player voted "Most Likely To Destroy His Own Team" before the rise of Terrell Owens. We tanked. Wannstedt was fired in the middle of his fourth season, less than a year after receiving a contract extension from Huizenga as a reward for consistent under-performance.

Shut up, Dan.

Though I pulled for Wannstedt's temporary replacement, Jim Bates, to be the new coach, no one listened to me. Wannstedt's players had come together for Jim Bates, winning out at the end of the season. Instead of rewarding Bates, Huizenga traded competency for a "name" coach, LSU's head coach Nick Saban. Like a fool, I jumped on the bandwagon and agreed that he'd take us to the heights of the NFL again. But like Wannstedt, Saban soon proved that he couldn't control professional athletes or evaluate talent. Sure, he ditched Fiedler, but he replaced him with Culpepper. (True story: at Dan Marino's Hall of Fame induction ceremony, my brother and I noticed that Culpepper's numbers were comparable to some of the all-time greats. I remember my brother commenting that someone was going to look at those numbers and mistakenly think that he was actually good. Apparently, that someone was Nick Saban.) At least Saban fooled more than just me. He tricked professional sportswriters into thinking we'd reach the Super Bowl in 2007. Instead we had a 6-10 record, the third worst in the AFC. And then, like a kick in the crotch after a punch in the gut, Saban jumped ship earlier this week to head back to the relative safety (and economic goldmine) of college coaching.

Now it's back to the drawing board to select a new coach. I've lost my faith. I'd hope that Huizenga could find someone qualified, but I know now that he's just going to grab a big name. In fact, I heard today that he's already planning to interview other washed-out ex-NFL coaches, including Dom Capers (a confused mess who couldn't manage a winning season in 5 years with the Houston Texans), Mike Mularkey (purportedly an "offensive genius," though he couldn't settle a quarterback controversy between the clueless J.P. Losman and mediocre Kelly Holcolmb for two years with the Buffalo Bills), Chan Gailey (an Dallas Cowboys head coach who fled criticism to Georgia Tech, where he can't get his students to play a complete 4 quarters or manage a game clock), and Jim Mora, Jr. (known to Atlanta Falcons' fans as "the man who ruined Michael Vick," he's every bit as bad as his father but without the entertaining press conferences).

So now the Dolphins have 2 or 3 more rebuilding years ahead, where the sputtering offense will have an ineffective overhaul as the aging defense falls apart under it's own weight. I'm starting to understand how Raiders fans feel.

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I just returned home from my trip to Canton, Ohio, where Dan "The Greatest Quarterback of All Time" Marino was inducted into the NFL Hall of Fame. We were surrounded by thousands of Dolphins fans wearing Marino jerseys. The level of fanaticism was almost creepy.

Marino HOF

We drove through Amish country to get there. I was really quite surprised to see that there is still such a high demand for carriage & buggy shops. When you think about it, they are already compliant with President Bush's new energy plan, so maybe they are ahead of the game, not a more than a century behind it. (Vote Amish in 2008! They are no strangers to federal government; look at C. Everrett Koop.)

In fact, the Amish may be one of the last reamining groups that someone can carelessly insult on the internet. They certainly aren't going to find out what you flamed them about.

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To be continued...

 

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