Legends of The Fall: Dan Marino

When you ask someone what their definition of a great quarterback is, you invariably wind up with several answers. The one attribute in everyone’s criteria is that of a great passer. It can be argued that Dan Marino was the best pure passer in NFL history.  Everyone mentions his quick release but forgets how fiery his delivery of the football was.

Marino's legendary release.

Marino’s legendary release.

To define his quick release, for the football coaching impaired, is the time it took to complete his throwing motion. The easiest way to measure this back then were to slow film down to individual frames. The average QB release would take 15 frames where Marino was routinely between 8 & 9. So the ball was coming out half a second sooner.

The direct results were more passes getting downfield and less sacks. If we look at his peak years of 1984-1986, Marino was only sacked 48 times while attempting 1,754 passes. The Dolphins led the league in fewest sacks all 3 seasons. Yet through that explosive delivery was the zip and hutzpah he put on the football. For he had one of the strongest arms in league history.

Unlike Peyton Manning and Drew Brees, who had league rules altered year after year to make them record breakers, Marino came in and shattered records through sheer ability. People talk of the great class of 1983 and most want to talk about John Elway first. Oh yeah?? Take a look at something:

  • Marino ’84-’86 – 1076 of 1754 for 13,967 yards & 122 TDs
  • Elway ’84-’86 –  821 of 1489 for 9,974 yards & 59 TDs

* To match Marino’s 122 TD total you would have to have Elway’s total from 1984 to the 13th week of the 1990 season! Almost 4 more years!

During this time both Marino and Elway had taken their teams to Super Bowl XIX and XXI respectively. Of these vids, if you only watch one, watch the 1986 vignette. Yet I digress… take a look at Marino’s record breaking fast pitch 1984:

Then you have 1985 where he led the Dolphins back to the AFC Championship Game. Had they won, we would have had a rematch between Marino and Chicago’s 46 defense in Super Bowl XX. Considering Miami gave the 18-1 Bears their only defeat, its something to think about.

Then you have perhaps his greatest season in 1986:

What made his 1986 season special is he was truly all they had and teams still couldn’t stop him. In 1984 he still had many teammates who had made it to Super Bowl XVII the year before he was drafted. The Killer Bs defense was there but aging. By 1986 most of those teammates were gone as a rebuliding phase had started. Still he went 378 of 623 for 4,746 yards and 44 touchdowns. The 44 was 8 more than the previous record and he was within 56 yards of Fouts’ other mark of 4,802.

Dan Marino bust

Also because it was the second time scaling those heights. He had set the record of 5,084 yards and 48 touchdowns in his 1984 campaign. He shattered the old record of 36 touchdowns which had stood for 21 years. He did it in his first full season as a starter. Not his 7th or 8th when Manning and Brady finally topped his mark.

Ultimately it was the fact that the game had passed by Don Shula as to why Marino didn’t make it back to the Super Bowl. The rest of his career the Dolphins failed to get a prime time receiver or runner. In 1995 they were the poster child for why the quick fix free agent route wasn’t the best place to build a team.

Yet when you look back at the promise of a young Dan Marino, the sky was the limit. He was definitely a legend of the fall.

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Week 15: Will A Dominant Team Please Stand Up?!??

The late great NFL Commissioner Pete Rozelle used to speak all the time about parody in the National Football League. Yet what we have seen over the last four days may have been tantamount to what his wishes were but it leaves a lot to be desired.

127888192_crop_650x440First on Thursday night the 11-3 Denver Broncos, who had the inside pole position for home field advantage, lose to the 7-7 San Diego Chargers 27-20. All of a sudden the Patriots can have home field if they win out. Oops they slipped on a banana peel against the 8-6 Miami Dolphins 24-20 and dropped to 10-4. Sure the Patriots had won 5 of 6 before that but they needed last second wins in 3 of those. The Broncos had won 6 of 7, yet lost at Invesco Field. Not the message to send to the league when securing home field.

Greg Jennings and the Vikings stunned the Eagles.

Greg Jennings and the Vikings stunned the Eagles.

Then we move to the NFC East leading Philadelphia Eagles who were on a five game winning streak. All they had to do was keep their #2 ranked offense on track against a 31st ranked defense in Minnesota. Nevermind the Vikings were 3-7-1 in their last 11 games. They fell 48-30 and the chance for the Dallas Cowboys to tie them in the division.

The Cowboys knew that when they took the field agianst the Green Bay Packers led by back-up quarterback Matt Flynn. They stormed out to a 26-3 halftime lead, then did their best Run & Shoot impression and refused to run the football and use the clock. The Packers roared back and won 37-36 scoring on all five second half possessions and Tony Romo… sigh…pulled a Tony Romo. The 8-6 Eagles accidentally still lead the 7-7 Cowboys in the NFC East.

Did we say something about accidentally leading their division?? Take the Cincinnati Bengals. They took the field after the Patriots lost and now can take the #2 seed if they won their game with the Pittsburgh Steelers and won their next two games. Then they hit their heads on the goalposts in Pittsburgh and was down 21-0 at the end of the first quarter en route to a 30-20 loss to their division rival. Viola!! Back to the #3 spot that would have them playing on wildcard weekend.

The Bengals gave up 21 points to the Steelers before they got out of the 1st quarter.

The Bengals gave up 21 points to the Steelers before they got out of the 1st quarter.

Even the Arizona Cardinals almost pulled a fast one on themsleves. In the hunt for the final NFC playoff spot with an 8-5 record, and winners of 6 out of 7 contests traveled to Tennessee. They were up 34-17 in the fourth over a Titan team that had lost their starting quarterback for the season and losers of 4 of their last 5 contests. Wouldn’t you know they played down to their competition and allowed Ryan Fitzpatrick to look like Joe Montana in roaring back to tie the game at 34. Just before the Cardinals could botch their season they squeezed out a 37-34 win.

Que the video short of Vince Lombardi screaming “What the hell is going on out here?!?”

Next to screw things up are the Baltimore Ravens. Thanks to the Bengals gaffe last night, they control their own destiny and can win the AFC North. No way can they in this weekend of parody not screw this up and lose to the Detroit Lions tonight. Stay tuned.

As for the teams that are making a case for being dominant, the Seattle Seahawks just finished their 2013 road stanza with a gaudy 6-2 record. Their next away game will be Super Bowl XLIII in the Meadowlands with just one more win. Considering they haven’t lost at home in nearly two years, this is a case for dominance. Counting their  6-0 home record, Seattle’s average margin of victory at home is by 3 touchdowns at 18.6.

Cold beer thrown on him from Oakland fans couldn't cool down Jamaal Charles near record day.

Cold beer thrown on him from Oakland fans couldn’t cool down Jamaal Charles near record day.

The Chiefs aren’t quite making a case for dominance but Jamaal Charles is. Andy Reid and the coaches should be ashamed they didn’t pay attention to the fact that Charles was 1 touchdown short of tying Gale Sayers, Dub Jones, and Ernie Nevers all time record of 6 touchdowns. With 5 minutes to go in the 3rd quarter you’d think someone would get that information to the sideline. Hell George Halas had pulled Gale Sayers with 5 touchdowns until the crowd called for Sayers to go for another.  Well he’ll have to settle for the Chiefs record book with his 215 yards from scrimmage 5 TDs including 4 receiving.

Lost in the shuffle is the fact that a defensive first team the first part of the season has transformed into an offensive team. Going into yesterday’s battle with Oakland, the Chiefs had averaged 37 points per game over the last four weeks. After yesterday’s 56-31 win, that averaged moved up to 41.75 over five games. Slightly better than AFC West rival Denver’s 32.5 points per game. Yet Denver swept the Chiefs and both have 11-3 records. The Chiefs are forced to see if the Broncos will blink in their final contests @ Houston then @ Oakland.  As you’ve just read with all these teams, stranger things just happened.

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Miami Dolphins Making Moves on Free Agency Day One

Danell Ellerbe has flown the Ravens coup.

Danell Ellerbe has flown the Ravens coup.

If  you thought it was going to be difficult for the Ravens to stay among the league’s elite, things just got worse. One day after trading away Anquan Boldin, they lose the free agent they most wanted to keep in linebacker Danell Ellerbe.  He just signed with the Miami Dolphins. Today he received a 5 year $35 million deal that takes him down to sunny Florida. They should have franchised him…now his 89 tackles and 4 1/2 sacks will be in the AFC East.

Wallace is on his way to South Beach.

Wallace is on his way to South Beach.

Now add to that the Dolphins also signed WR Mike Wallace to a 5 year $60 million deal to leave the Steelers. Right now his agent is with the Dolphins brass to solidify the deal. They gave Ryan Tannenhill a deep threat that should open a few things up for Davone Bess and other underneath receivers. However they signed him for a guaranteed $30 million. Will these moves pan out?? Will the Dolphins make a move in the AFC East?? Don’t forget they are probably going to lose Reggie Bush.

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Taylor Blitz Times new logo!!

Taylor Blitz Times new logo!!

On This Date 1971: The Longest Game Ever Played – Kansas City Chiefs v Miami Dolphins

The Miami Dolphins outlasted the Kansas City Chiefs 27-24 in the longest game in NFL history. Christmas Day 1971 they played well into 6 quarters or more than 82 minutes of playing time.

Here at Taylor Blitz Times, we for one don’t like the fact the NFL buckled and gave in to juvenile thinking when it came to the NFL’s overtime rule. Everyone must touch the ball once?? What is this, second grade girl’s soccer??

don shulaOur CEO loved the thought of sudden death overtime. You had four full quarters to win a football game. The two point conversion was introduced in 1994 so that a team can win it in regulation yet NFL coaches are too soft and won’t roll the dice and win it in one play. If you don’t, you’re involved in a winner take all overtime where the game can be won on offense, defense, or special teams. Play was heightened with players realizing one mistake, a blown coverage, fumble, interception, or penalty could cost your team its season. It made for great theater.

One such game happened shortly after the AFL/NFL merger in 1970. The upstart Miami Dolphins were facing a perennial heavyweight in the Kansas City Chiefs in an AFC Divisional playoff.

Why do we mention the AFL??

For one, both teams were rooted in the rival league. Second, it was the Baltimore Colts with Head Coach Don Shula that lost Super Bowl III that legitimized the merger. In the aftermath of the Baltimore Colts’ embarrassment losing that game, Don Shula amid tense corporate pressure, decided to move on and take the head coaching job in Miami.  He quickly whipped the Dolphins into shape and they made the playoffs in each of his first two seasons there. In 1970 they were bested by a veteran Raider team in an AFC Divisional Playoff in Oakland and many felt the same way about them traveling to Kansas City for the ’71 playoff.

Another reason we mention the AFL was this was the last game ever to be played in Municipal Stadium. One of the AFL’s great stadiums through the 1960’s as the Kansas City Chiefs had been perennial winners there. It would be left behind as the Chiefs moved on to Arrowhead Stadium as the NFL moved on to future years of prosperity with new antiseptic ballparks.

The newer stadiums lacked individual culture as the 70’s dawned and it was as though teams were leaving a piece of their soul when they left old places behind. This was where Lamar Hunt had moved his team in 1963, to keep the fight along with league brothers against the NFL and won. Sure they were going to live on in the American Football Conference of the NFL, but it wasn’t going to be the same.

Ed Podolak's 350 all purpose yardage record in one NFL postseason game may never be broken.

Ed Podolak’s 350 all purpose yardage record in one NFL postseason game may never be broken.

The Kansas City Chiefs were an older team and 1972 would be their last hurrah. They had finished as the AFL’s winningest team going 87-48-3, appearing in the first Super Bowl, then winning the fourth edition over Minnesota down in New Orleans. The team had just parted ways with All-time All AFL DE Jerry Mays and team leader C/LB E.J. Holub to retirement  in 1970. Even RB Mike Garrett was gone to the San Diego Chargers by this time, replaced by Ed Podolak.

These men along with holdovers QB Len Dawson, WR Otis Taylor, LBs Bobby Bell, and Willie Lanier had led the Chiefs for much of the 1960s as they worked to get owner and AFL Founder Lamar Hunt that elusive Super Bowl trophy. They were an older team lead by Dawson 36 yrs of age, Taylor turning 30 within a year, Bobby Bell was 31 and FS Johnny Robinson was 33. Various retirements were coming but they had finished 1971 with a 10-3-1 record and if they could get through this postseason, win it all, then they could go their separate ways. All they had to do was get through Miami and…

After this game the Dolphins went on to defeat the Baltimore Colts 21-0 in the AFC Championship Game which put them in Super Bowl VI. It was further satisfying for Shula for he defeated Carroll Rosenbloom and the Colts for whom he once coached. In the same stadium as Super Bowl III no less. Within a year, Rosenbloom was so disenchanted with owning the Colts who would have to rebuild, he swapped franchises with Robert Irsay who owned the Los Angeles Rams. Within 6 years he would marry Georgia, drown and that is how Georgia Rosenbloom-Frontiere became owner of the Rams. All aftermath of Super Bowl III.

Don Shula’s Dolphins would lose Super Bowl VI but would return and win VII & VIII becoming one of the great teams in NFL history. He went on to coach Miami through the 1995 season where he went on to win more games than any other coach with 347 wins. This was his first postseason win with the Dolphins that launched them as an NFL elite member for many years to come.

The AFL Logo of the Kansas City Chiefs

The AFL Logo of the Kansas City Chiefs

As for the Chiefs, the mystique of who they were as an AFL power was gone as they would not return to the playoffs for 15 years. Len Dawson, Bobby Bell, and Head Coach Hank Stram went on to the Pro Football Hall of Fame. However Johnny Robinson and Jerry Mays have been glaring omissions.

Each of which played most of their careers over in the “other league” and have been treated like such by the writers who make up the voting panel for the Hall of Fame. The late Jerry Mays should have had that honor bestowed upon him before his death in 1994. Although he didn’t play in this game, the legacy /era of the old AFL Kansas City Chiefs closed Christmas of 1971.

The Miami Dolphins outlasted the Kansas City Chiefs 27-24 in the longest game in NFL history. Christmas Day 1971 they played well into 6 quarters or more than 82 minutes of playing time.

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NFL Week 3: The AFC East – Bizarro World

Reggie Bush breaks out for a 65 yard touchdown against Oakland.

If you are a fan of any of the AFC East teams last week, you undoubtedly were scratching your head on Sunday night. First you had the New York Jets, without a touchdown in week 1 while obliterating the Buffalo Bills 48-28, get throttled by the Steelers 27-10. The Jets scored a touchdown on their opening drive and never saw the endzone again. If you close your eyes and listen you can hear the faint chants of “Tebow” starting up.

After one of the most drab editions ever of “Hard Knocks”, it looked like the Dolphins were in for it with rookie QB Ryan Tannenhill taking his lumps, especially after an 0-1 start. Enter Reggie Bush. Not only did Bush dazzle with a 26 car. 172 yard afternoon. He caught 3 passes for 25 yards and energized Dolphin fans on both of his touchdown runs while being named AFC Offensive Player of the Week. With a 35-13 win the Dolphins are feeling confident when they face the Jets this week.

Speaking of AFC Player of the Week candidates: What about CJ Spiller in Buffalo?? Not only does he lead the NFL in rushing after two weeks (292 yads), his play seems to have brought life to a Bills offense beating the Chiefs 35-17. Going back to week 1, Buffalo looked dazed and confused while sleepwalking against the Jets. However once Fred Jackson was injured, Spiller came in and broke a long touchdown run to give the Bills some hope. He carried it into this last game scoring on the first two drives and the team never looked back.

Which brings us to the New England Patriots and the…serious… get up off the floor. Alright we’ll get back to that in a minute. Lets take a look at the AFC East standings…

East Division

W

L

T

PCT

PF

PA

HOME

ROAD

DIV

CONF

STRK

LAST5

New York Jets Jets 1 1 0 .500 58 55 1-0 0-1 1-0 1-1 L1 1-1
New England Patriots Patriots 1 1 0 .500 52 33 0-1 1-0 0-0 1-0 L1 1-1
Miami Dolphins Dolphins 1 1 0 .500 45 43 1-0 0-1 0-0 1-1 W1 1-1
Buffalo Bills Bills 1 1 0 .500 63 65 1-0 0-1 0-1 1-1 W1 1-1

Yes, the New England Patriots fell to the undefeated Arizona Cardinals 20-18 when Gostkowski missed a last second field goal. Are you serious?? Even in their 2008 Super Bowl run, Arizona lost 47-7 in Foxboro. The Cardinals were let off the hook after Ryan Williams fumbled the football with 2:00 left in the game. However there was a huge hold by TE Rob Gronkowski when Danny Woodhead broke what appeared to be the game winner. Very uncharacteristic of a Bill Belichick team. The game itself was a defensive struggle and the one thing New England could take away from this loss was the solid play of their young defense. After 2 weeks they are ranked 2nd in the NFL.

One thing that needs to take place is Wes Welker has to be a larger part of the offense. The Patriots offense really bogged down once they lost TE Aaron Hernandez. However the Patriots were beaten on the line of scrimmage and Tom Brady saw pressure most of the game. The riff between Welker and the front office has to stop and they need to go to him 12-15 times in this Sunday nighter against Baltimore. The short pass is what Brady needs to keep from getting hit and he’s been sacked 3 times each game. This is the wrong stat when facing the Ravens defense which promises to bring pressure. Here is where Welker needs to be prolific although Kellen Winslow has been signed to replace Hernandez. However losing their  first home opener since 2002 did raise some eyebrows. Surely the meetings and practices will be ratcheted up because a second straight home loss could send off alarm bells.

CJ Spiller leads the league in rushing after 2 weeks.

How did Buffalo look so anemic in week 1 yet show so much explosiveness against the Jets?? No question CJ Spiller is drinking some different gatorade in his third year. It could be the reincarnation of OJ Simpson where he played for a few years without distinction and BOOM the light goes on. There has been no player more explosive in these first two weeks in the NFL. He’s on pace to gain over 2,200 yards and right now Bills fans are thinking “Fred Jackson, take your time in coming back.” Jackson was the starter at the beginning of the season and just signed a big contract extension but would you bench him for Jackson right now??

Its been his play that allowed QB Ryan Fitzpatrick to get comfortable last week after a horrible outing against the Jets. The jury is still out on his play for 2012. This week he gets a tune up against the Browns defense that is missing CB Joe Haden to a suspension. He has to get going to complement Spiller and open it up with Stevie Johnson for in two weeks they host the Patriots. By then Belichick figures to return the AFC East to some normalcy. Buffalo’s new playmaker may have something to say about that though.

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The Peyton Manning Sweepstakes

Peyton Manning wearing his Super Bowl XLI championship ring.

The NFL’s free agent period is about to begin in a few hours as teams try to improve their chances of making it to Super Bowl XLVII. The largest prize to be landed this offseason by far is Peyton Manning. As he goes so does the rest of free agency. His signing will influence a series of events from free agents to a team, free agents within the division, and will alter draft strategies. You don’t think the destinations of WRs Reggie Wayne, Mike Wallace, Mario Manningham, or even a Randy Moss wouldn’t be altered with a Manning signing??  In fact with Drew Brees being franchised, the Saints could possibly lose WRs Marques Colston and Robert Meacham.

As we speak, Manning is less than a week away from making a decision by his own admission.  Although he had lengthy visits with the Arizona Cardinals and Denver Broncos, we believe his odyssey will end with a signing in Miami with the Dolphins. He already has a house there and it was the first place he went after his press conference announcing his release. He’s been throwing and working out with his former Colt teammate Reggie Wayne there. Why do we believe he will wind up a Miami Dolphin?? Several reasons

  • He already has a home there and with no state income tax teams would have to offer more to match an offer from Miami.
  • The Dolphins have an up and coming defense led by Cameron Wake and have WR Brandon Marshall (2011 Pro Bowl MVP) to team up with possibly Reggie Wayne. Wayne also went to school in Miami and being a confidant of Peyton’s it seems a logical fit.
  • He enjoys his position as one of the faces of the game. The rivalry between he and Tom Brady would be elevated to new heights with them in the same division. The competitor in him will pull him in this direction.
  • The Dolphins, of all teams that missed the 2011 playoffs, are only a stable quarterback and one more high quality skill position player away from making a playoff run.

One glaring issue that lingers is the fact that the Cardinals and Dolphins ranked 30th, and 31st in sacks allowed with 52 and 54 sacks respectively. It’s up to each team to show a diligence in signing top shelf WRs to minimize how many hits he’ll have to take. He’ll need weapons and his ability to read defenses and audible to safe plays, he will be able to hold off defenses trying to blitz him. http://www.nfl.com/stats/categorystats?seasonType=REG&offensiveStatisticCategory=OFFENSIVE_LINE&d-447263-n=1&d-447263-o=2&d-447263-p=1&d-447263-s=PASSING_SACKS_ALLOWED&tabSeq=2&season=2011&role=TM&Submit=Go&archive=false&conference=null&defensiveStatisticCategory=null&qualified=true

The same claim could be made for the Cardinals with Manning and Wayne teaming up with Larry Fitzgerald. This is the team with the legitimate threat to knock off the Dolphins and sign him. Each team plays in a warm clime, and the dome out in Arizona, as he had in Indy, could be appealing to him. Make no mistake about it, Wayne will have some sway in this.

For Manning’s entire career, he was able to play for the same organization with the same coaching staff with players suited to his abilities. Going to a new environment in 14 years will be an easier transition with a confidante making it with him.As we go to press with this, it’s reported that Peyton will visit the Tennessee Titans. Yet when you think about it: This wasn’t the messy divorce like Brett Favre leaving Green Bay. We don’t think after that respectful departure he would come back and sign with a division rival. Not when he has all these choices. Manning always takes the high road. The only upside to signing with the Titans would be the chance to get back at the Colts two times a season. After watching Favre’s legacy tarnished to a degree, we figure he’ll pass on that in the end. Especially with a team in offensive disarray. Titans?? Not a fit.

So tonight it begins. Midnight calls and conference calls with players crossing the United States to sell their football wares. Yet if you’re a Miami Dolphin fan, remember Manning said “no thank you” to the train wreck that is the New York Jets, so no love lost there. Imagine the Patriots coming to Miami for an important divisional game and the Dolphins have Manning, Brandon Marshall, Reggie Wayne, Dallas Clark, Davone Bess in the slot, and Reggie Bush to throw to. So it’s 3rd and 6 at an important juncture of the game: Who do you key on or double??

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