Another opportunity passes Marino by

January 18, 1993|By Knight-Ridder News Service

MIAMI -- Dan Marino, stripped to a T-shirt and shorts, sat alone in front of his locker after the 29-10 loss to the Buffalo Bills that kept him out of the Super Bowl. He was staring at nothing.

One of his bosses, Dolphins part-owner Wayne Huizenga, walked up, offering a handshake and a few words.

"You're the best," Huizenga said, pumping Marino's hand. "You're the best there ever was. You have to keep your head up."

Marino wasn't consoled. After all, how can you be the best ever when you don't own a Super Bowl ring?

"This is tough," Marino said to Huizenga.

"I'm not so much mad as, well, you get here and you have to take the next step. It hurts. Sure, it hurts. It's frustrating as hell."

Thirty-five seconds were left in the Dolphins season when Marino came to the sideline for the last time. He had just thrown incomplete on fourth-and-13.

He walked directly to the Gatorade table, picked up a cup and took one sip before spiking it into the ground.

Later, when the horde of reporters and cameras had made their way to his locker, Marino stood, hands behind his back, answering questions patiently and without emotion. He was asked, again and again, how bad it felt to watch what might have been his last chance for a Super Bowl disappear.

The repetition of the question by each new wave of reporters provoked some annoyance.

"I've answered that seven or eight times already," Marino said finally. "You just keep asking it differently. It's disappointing. It's pretty obvious that it's disappointing."

With 2:06 left in the game, Marino was sacked, for the fourth and last time, by Jeff Wright and Phil Hansen.

Sitting on the ground, with both hands on the football, he pounded it into the turf. Somebody stepped on Marino's arm as he was trying to get up, and he jumped up, wondering who.

"He was saying some words we can't talk about," linebacker Cornelius Bennett said.

Said Marino: "I don't want to talk about the last couple of minutes. The game was over."

And the end hurt -- physically, emotionally, you name it.

"I'm disappointed like any other player on this team," Marino said. "You can magnify it all you want, but when you're playing all year and it comes down to the playoffs, you can't lose."

Marino was intercepted twice, one was tipped and grabbed by Hansen and the other was caught by cornerback Clifford Hicks early in the fourth quarter.

But there were also numerous Marino passes that hit receivers' hands and were not caught.

"You can't get down on them for that," Marino said.

"I'm sure they feel bad about that. I feel bad about some of the things I did, too."

At the end of the game, Marino met up with Buffalo quarterback Jim Kelly on the field.

"Please go out and win this thing," Marino told Kelly, and Kelly hugged Marino.

"I'll do the best I can," Kelly said, and then Marino was gone, leaving Kelly to be smothered by teammates, photographers and fans.

In the Bills' locker room, Kelly said: "I can definitely feel for Dan Marino. He is one of the classiest guys I know, and he's done everything you can in the NFL except win the Super Bowl."

After Marino had showered and dressed, he dug in his black duffel bag and pulled out a bundle of cigars. He took them back to the equipment room and left them on the table for trainer Bob Monica.

Monica said he often gets cigars from Marino, who has a friend who makes them. You wonder, though, if Marino would have found better use for those cigars under different circumstances.

Before he left, Marino gave more reporters a few more minutes.

Of course, someone asked how much the loss hurt. Marino shrugged, then pitched out Huizenga's advice.

"What else can you do besides hold your head up and hope for the future?"

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