Marino exit adds to NFL's starless sky

On The NFL

March 19, 2000|By Vito Stellino | Vito Stellino,SUN STAFF

It was obviously tempting for Dan Marino.

The idea of throwing to Cris Carter and Randy Moss and handing off to Robert Smith intrigued him. So did the idea of making one more run for the Super Bowl.

In the end, though, Marino made the logical move when he declined the Minnesota Vikings' offer and decided to retire after 17 years.

Marino simply didn't appear to have enough left in the tank to last another season.

And the reality of playing for the Vikings probably wasn't as good as it looked on paper. The team appears to be in turmoil, with coach Dennis Green shaking up the coaching staff and the defense so weak.

It's still unfortunate for the fans that Marino, who was Picasso with a brush in his hand when he picked up a football, has thrown his last pass. In the last year, the NFL has lost John Elway, Barry Sanders -- assuming he doesn't return -- and now Marino.

The NFL has a shortage of stars and now the Dolphins don't have one. For three decades, since Don Shula left Baltimore for Miami, the Dolphins were an attraction. Now they're just another team.

Just like a lot of other teams. The lack of marquee attractions is a problem for the league now that only one of the 12 division champions in 1997 and 1998 -- Jacksonville -- repeated last season.

The ABC-TV executives sacked Boomer Esiason and two executives a week ago, presumably in an attempt to recapture the buzz of the 1970s when what happened on "Monday Night Football" was water cooler conversation in offices around the country Tuesday morning.

Bringing back the '70s, though, seems impossible in the free-agency era. Howard Cosell and Don Meredith helped make it must-see TV in the pre-cable era, but it helped that it was an era of dynasties. Chuck Noll's Pittsburgh Steelers won four Super Bowls, Shula's Dolphins and Tom Landry's Dallas Cowboys won two, and John Madden's Oakland Raiders were a contender every year and won one. So were Bud Grant's Vikings, even though they lost four Super Bowls.

They don't make teams like that anymore.

A Fort Lauderdale columnist lamented Marino's departure when he said the Dolphins now had "No star running back. No star free-agent signing thus far. No national stars on the roster, period. Get the team picture? It looks an awful lot like the Baltimore Ravens, doesn't it? Only now even the Ravens have Shannon Sharpe to draw a spotlight."

Of course, there is one upside to the demise of dynasties. Virtually every team now figures it has a shot for the playoffs. After all, two teams got in at 8-8 last year.

But the NFL no longer has the aura it once had when MNF was an event instead of just another football game.

Dolphins rift

It wasn't a secret that Marino and coach Jimmy Johnson didn't exactly have a good rapport.

That was made even more obvious when Johnson was a no-show at Marino's farewell news conference.

Johnson, though, didn't snub Marino. He wanted to come, but Marino sent the word that he didn't want him there.

This leaves former Johnson aide, Dave Wannstedt, in one of the toughest coaching situations in the league this year.

A lot of Marino fans in Miami are still annoyed that Wannstedt didn't invite Marino back, so Wannstedt isn't exactly getting a honeymoon from the fans. If the Dolphins don't make the playoffs, they'll blame Wannstedt.

Second chance

The top players in the draft usually want to hold their own workouts on their college campuses instead of working out in Indianapolis at the scouting combine.

That backfired on Florida State's Peter Warrick on Thursday when his workout in Tallahassee, Fla., was forced indoors because of bad weather.

Warrick's times of 4.55 and 4.56 seconds in the 40-yard dash were not only bested by former teammate Laveranues Coles, but also by the two Penn State defensive stars, LaVar Arrington and Courtney Brown, in their workout the same day in State College, Pa.

The scouts are going to give Warrick a second chance Friday, but he now appears likely to slide to the fourth spot in the draft.

Warrick tried to put his best spin on it, saying, "I was disappointed in my time, but it's not like somebody was chasing me. I'm not the fastest person, but when my number is called, I try to make something happen every time."

At Penn State, Brown outran a disappointed Arrington. The two had similar times even though Brown is a defensive lineman who weighs 267 pounds and Arrington is a 251-pound linebacker. Arrington was hoping to dazzle the scouts with a 4.4 time, but was in the 4.55 range.

"I was trying way too hard. I ran a 4.37 and 4.38 in Florida, but it didn't work out today. I didn't let it come naturally. I wish I could do it all over again," Arrington said.

Brown simply said, "I think I did OK."

Now the question is whether the Browns will make Brown or Arrington the top pick. They may be leaning toward Brown, but they'll talk up Arrington because they'd like to persuade the Washington Redskins to trade up from their second spot to get Arrington. The 'Skins say they're not budging.

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