Dan Marino Lights Up the NFL

Dan Marino Lights Up the NFL

March 08, 2022

How the greatest passer in league history changed the way pro football is played.

Dan Marino was not a man of mystery. When he stepped up behind center to take a snap, every defense knew exactly what he was going to do, they just couldn’t stop him. For 17 seasons with the Miami Dolphins, he ran a passing offense every Sunday. And even more so when he got the chance to play on Monday nights, where he still holds many NFL records. If Miami had ever supported his efforts with a top-flight running game at the same time, he surely would have retired with a hand’s worth of Super Bowl rings.

But what Dan Marino did do was change the way professional teams played football in the 80s and 90s. Up through the early 1980s, NFL football was a mostly unglamorous affair. The common knowledge was that the best way to win a football game was to grind out a few points off the ground, kick a field goal when you had the chance, and then play hard-nosed defense to keep your opponents from scoring. It was assumed that without a solid running game, your team didn’t really have a chance to win regularly. Relying on the pass was a desperation tactic that you went to when all else failed.

Then came Marino. When Marino arrived in the league, it was a time when receivers often avoided the middle of the field as much as possible, for fear of getting mugged by the opposing defense. With far fewer protections for receivers than in today’s game, receivers were more vulnerable, and the run was most teams’ first option. But even as a rookie, Marino started to change that aspect of the game, replacing Super Bowl quarterback David Woodley part way through the season and taking Miami on a 9–1 run to end the season. Marino never looked back, earning Rookie of the Year honors as he led the Dolphins to a 12–4 record and the playoffs. Over the next decade and a half, Marino continued to break 20-year-old passing records in an era where he wasn’t supposed to be able to throw the ball, due to the strong defenses and the lack of protection for receivers in the rule books. Yet Marino persisted. By the time he retired, he had amassed the NFL career records for passing yards (61,631), touchdown passes (420), completions: (4,967), and touchdown-interception differential (168), among others. He finished his career with more than 40 NFL records. Even though a number of them have since been broken in the evolving, more pass-friendly NFL he created, most took more than 20 years to fall.

“I just try to be myself, whatever that is. I don’t think about how I’ll be remembered. I just want to be consistent over a long period of time. That’s what the great players do.” — Dan Marino

Over the 17 years Marino played in the league he was a model of consistency. After winning his rookie accolades, he began a streak of five straight Pro Bowls, and went to nine in total. During his storied career he also won Most Valuable Player, Offensive Player of the Year, NFL Comeback Player of the Year, was an eight-time first or second team All-Pro, led the NFL in passing yards five times, threw the most touchdowns three times, and was named to the NFL 100th Anniversary All Time Team.

In 1984 he had the most statistically successful season by any quarterback, setting numbers that stood for decades, until the rules and game itself had changed. However, perhaps his most underrated accomplishment was the comprehensive defeat he administered to what is often considered to be the best NFL team of the modern era: the 1985 Chicago Bears. The Bears came into that game with a 12–0 record, and having outscored their last three opponents by a total of 104–3. The Bears seemed certain to record a perfect season, and become only the second team in NFL history ever to do so, after the Miami Dolphins’ own 1972 team. No team during the 1985 season had come close to the level that the Bears had achieved, and no one would again that year, as the Bears went on to win the Super Bowl handily. But on that one Monday night on December 2nd, there was more at stake. Some of the players from Miami’s perfect 1972 team were in the stands that night at Miami’s Orange Bowl. So there was the pressure of history on Marino to preserve the legacy of Miami’s 1972 championship squad. And preserve it he did. Riding Marino’s performance, the Dolphins scored on each of the first five times they had the ball, jumping out to a 31–10 halftime lead. Marino had scored more points in that half than the Bears’ six prior opponents had in all 24 quarters. Though Chicago did muster a couple more touchdowns, Marino passed for 270 yards and three touchdowns, and the Dolphins cruised to a 38–24 victory, making the league’s top defense look decidedly average. And that’s what Dan Marino did best: pass so well that even the best defenses were helpless to stop him.

Arguably the finest quarterback ever to take a snap under center, Marino’s mark on the record books and the game of football is truly unique. And game-worn gear from his illustrious career would have to be considered a centerpiece of any historical sports collection. We have managed to acquire a Dan Marino game-worn, signed Miami Dolphins helmet from 1991, during the heart of his storied tenure in the NFL. 1991 was one of Marino’s nine Pro Bowl Seasons, and one of only seven in which he also had a rushing touchdown. The Riddell brand outer shell features the Dolphins sunburst logo on each side, with Marino’s number “13” in proper size and font straddling center striping, and “Marino 13” in orange Dymo tape. The official NFL shield, customized mini warning sticker, and “Dolphins” script logo on the back bumper are all present and correct. The chinstrap is still intact and Marino’s trademark face mask is in place, with all four original clips from 1991 in place. The helmet still bears spectacular sweat stains on the forehead pad and shows significant signs of its in-game use. The helmet has been signed in black sharpie by Marino, and is a classic example from one of Marino’s nine Pro Bowl seasons. The helmet comes with a Letter of Authenticity from Heritage Auctions and an Auction LOA from James Spence Authentication of the autograph. It is also pre-certified by PSA/DNA.

One single “Ultra Rare” 1/1 NFT will be issued, based on a 12K capture, depicting every detail of this unique collectible in 3D. It will confer ownership of the one-of-a-kind signed Dan Marino Miami Dolphins helmet to its holder. In addition, commemorative “Limited Edition” NFTs of this rare collectible will be available honoring the man who changed the passing game in the NFL. This is a rare chance to own your own piece of football history, and the enduring legacy of Dan Marino’s Hall of fame career.

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